State of Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development/CT Office of the Arts

Funding Received: 2013
Multiple, CT
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
April 3, 2014

Hello, ArtPlacemakers,

You’ll understand why any March blog posting simply has to begin with hats off and a hearty round of applause (applause here) for Jamie, Lyz, Lee Ann, and Sarah for staging such a fantastic, stimulating, and thought provoking conference like the 2014 ArtPlace America Grantee Summit in LA. We thoroughly enjoyed to opportunity to network, meet, and converse with so many of our movement colleagues. Thanks to you all for creating such a stimulating environment for this purpose. Kudos!

We wanted to take this time to post a progress report on CreateHereNow developments around the State of Connecticut.

CreateHereNow allies, Bridgeport’s popular and progressive Community Radio Station WPKN 98.5 and Community Builder Billy Fischer from Bethany CT launched their new project, IMPACT (Imagine Mixing Percussive Artforms CT), at the historic Arcade in Bridgeport at 993 Main Street on Saturday, February 22nd.

WPKN General Manager, Steve di Costanzo, said, “Both Billy and WPKN have been involved with CreateHereNow in the past and been inspired by their statewide events, and the idea of IMPACT developed between Billy and me over lunch in Bridgeport one day.

“The purpose of IMPACT is to showcase the wealth of ethnic drum styles that we have around our state. It’s only logical to launch the project in WPKN’s backyard, given the station's history of programming a wide range of ethnic music.

“Billy and I have a vision of taking IMPACT performances to communities like New Britain, Middletown, and New London to engage and draw upon their ethnic drumming groups. These local events will herald a culminating event, a mega drum circle/percussive symphony in Hartford’s Bushnell Park in September. This is just the sort of project that WPKN nurtures in our own community. We can program live performance coverage of each event to help raise awareness of what can become an authentic Connecticut event.”

In Torrington, Connecticut, Desultory Theater Club founder and director Keith Paul continued his work of bringing the greater, surrounding region to experience the rural town of Torrington as a new cultural destination. Desultory Theater Club is the ground floor, anchor tenant of the historic Morrison’s Hardware Store project there, and Keith recently met with Mayor Elinor Carbone to co-apply for one of the State’s Arts Catalyze Placemaking grants to help further establish Torrington as the placemaking center in that region.

The financial operations of six businesses is wrangled by a community volunteer, Dana Mohlenhoff, who has worked to oversee and manage the rents and utilities of all the various tenants.

Michael Yurgeles, Executive Director of Artwell Gallery and Community Arts Center, Torrington’s oldest arts organization said, “CreateHereNow has been instrumental in helping Artwell’s evolution and has significantly increased out ability to serve the community. Dana Mohlenhoff is an Artwell Volunteer and Board member and she brings her expertise as a manger from another non-profits to Artwell and CreateHereNow. The ongoing process of repurposing an existing historic building has been an adventure that has inspired and challenged us all as artists, entrepreneurs, and tenants. As Artwell’s Executive Director, I speak for the membership in thanking ArtPlace America for supporting this twenty-year-old arts organization to continue its grass roots involvement in the arts, cultural and economic development of Torrington. Artwell is Litchfield County’s most established and inclusive arts organization."

In New London, an historic waterfront community and transportation hub with a need to fill its empty storefronts is buzzing with the new partnership between New London Main Streets, and the City of New London and CreateHereNow for the creation of a downtown storefront program. Community info sessions and pre-applications have garnered over forty applicants who will be coached on the next steps to activate a storefront and start their businesses. These range from co-working spaces; a skate shop with customers and staff that wish to serve as the tourism ambassadors and way finders; an optician; a bakery, and a dog grooming service. This month begins the process of negotiating with the property owners and starting a community of entrepreneurs who are uniquely engaged with the community.

Read more in "Artscope Magazine" and The Day."

In McLevy Hall, an historic building located in downtown Bridgeport and mentioned in previous blog postings, a similar vetting is taking place for the McLevy Hall Space Exchange program. Building these alternative retail communities and insuring their success revolves around dedication and an interest in becoming a long-term partner with the place where one lives and does business.

CHNs program Uarts is creating a network of creative centers to offer access to the arts for populations that could potentially become cultural contributors in under utilized building spaces. CHN continues its work of creating networks that enable everyone to become involved in placemaking.