First Selectman Pat Llodra has announced that Newtown Cultural Arts Commission has received a $30,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to support HealingNewtown. Mrs Llodra made one of the first announcements about the grant on Friday, June 14, while a guest on CT Public Radio’s “The Colin McEnroe Show.”
On Tuesday, June 18, Mrs Llodra was joined by Governor Dannel P. Malloy, Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, and Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty in formally announcing the award.
“In the wake of a tragedy like Newtown, it can be difficult for us to convey our grief for those we lost and empathy for the victims and their loved ones — but art, in whatever form, gives us that voice when everyday communication falls short,” said Gov Malloy. “In the six months that have passed since that terrible day, we have mourned deeply for the victims and looked for ways to heal while honoring their memory. This grant will help sustain HealingNewtown so that it can continue to be the link between the community and the creative outpouring of love, support and compassion from artists around the world.”
“The National Endowment for the Arts is honored to support the healing power of the arts at the HealingNewtown Art Space,” NEA Acting Chairman Joan Shigekawa said. “We turn to the arts when faced with tragedy to find solace and emotional expression. The volunteer work done to date at the arts center has been remarkable. The NEA is proud to build on that work to secure the art center’s programs and services as the community and the nation continue to heal.”
HealingNewtown was developed shortly after 12/14. It was created to bring the community together to express their grief and heal in a safe and creative environment through a variety of arts events, workshops, exhibitions, performances and concerts. It was developed and has been managed by Newtown Cultural Arts Commission (NCAC), and initially operated in a former storefront at 5 Queen Street.
HealingNewtown has, to date, been run by volunteers but efforts are underway to establish a long-term, sustainable operation including the hiring of staff and locating a permanent arts space.
The NEA award was presented to Connecticut Commission on the Arts, in support of HealingNewtown Arts Space, NEA Assistant Director of Media Relations Victoria Hutter said on Tuesday.
“The NEA has a very close relationship with the arts commissions in each state, so [grants and awards] go through each of them,” she explained Tuesday afternoon. The HealingNewtown award was “a singular grant,” not part of a large number of grants, “announced very recently,” she added.
The grant has been earmarked for salary support for an executive director, said Ms Hutter.
“Given the amount of programming and other materials that have been donated, it was felt that an executive director would be needed,” she said.
NCAC is conducting a national search for an executive director to lead HealingNewtown. The Connecticut Office of the Arts (COA) requested the NEA funding to cover six months of salary expenses for the position.
“As the Newtown community continues to heal and mend, this grant will support its courage and strength,” said Sen Blumenthal. “HealingNewtown has helped enable this extraordinary community’s compassion and courage, which have inspired and uplifted the world. The arts can aid healing and recovery from tragedy and trauma – activity supported by this grant.”
“For the people of Newtown, who have been through so much, the services of HealingNewtown are critically important,” said Rep Esty. “HealingNewtown has done incredible work, through volunteer efforts, bringing the community together and cataloguing artwork that represents tangible examples of just how much the people of Newtown have touched and inspired people around the world — people who have reached out with love and compassion in this time of grief. I applaud the NEA for supporting the work of HealingNewtown to provide creative outlets for grief and to help bring about healing in this courageous and inspirational town.”
“I want to express our appreciation to NEA, Governor Malloy and our congressional delegation for their continued support to help Newtown’s CAC create a sustainable model for the future,” said First Selectman Llodra. “The HealingNewtown art space has had a positive impact on our community and continues to provide programs that support resiliency and our path forward. The COA was instrumental in helping our CAC create this art space immediately after December 14th and continues to provide guidance. We are grateful for that expertise and commitment to our local arts efforts.”
COA played a key role in acquiring the initial HealingNewtown Art Space, as well as the donated equipment, furnishings, and services to run the center. COA provided initial support for the project, including resources and planning and development advisement, and continues to assist NCAC through consultation.
NCAC had been working on the grant application “for a little while now, a little over a month,” NCAC Chair Jennifer Johnston said Tuesday afternoon. Confirming that the grant will be used to locate an executive director for HealingNewtown, Ms Johnston said the three organizations — NCAC, COA and NEA — “will be conducting a national search” to fill the new position.
“We are still in the process of formulating a process for that, as well as a job description,” Ms Johnston said.
A New Space For HealingNewtown
HealingNewtown Arts Space celebrated its grand opening on February 14. It had been offering workshops on occasion leading up to that afternoon, but the ceremonies that day kicked off weeks of steady workshops, concerts, dances, performances and other offerings, all free of charge for residents of all ages and myriad interests.
The space, donated by Brause Realty Inc, also served as an exhibition location for much of the art that had been created by artists from within Newtown, across the country and even around the world. Walls were constantly being adorned with new pieces arriving in town, supplemented by some of the creations done by attendees during classes and programs presented by HealingNewtown.
When a new tenant showed interest in the space early last month, it became apparent that HealingNewtown’s time on Queen Street was coming to an end. HealingNewtown closed its arts space doors on May 22, but volunteers promised that the project’s work would continue.
“During this transition an aggressive effort is being made to find a suitable and more permanent home for the HealingNewtown Arts Space to continue what we’ve started. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause,” HealingNewtown volunteer and NCAC member Robert Rabinowitz posted on HealingNewtown’s Facebook page on May 21.
When speaking about the news of the NEA grant on Tuesday afternoon, Jennifer Johnston made her own announcement regarding Healing Newtown.
“HealingNewtown is going to be moving into the Congregational Church on West Street. We’ll be conducting workshops and educational programming out of the former preschool location,” she said. Newtown Congregational Preschool, which operated on the ground floor of the church, closed its doors permanently on June 7.
“The church hall will be hosting events too,” said Ms Johnston. “I believe a housewarming — a Family Fun Night — will be among the first, on July 12.
“We are in transition, and in the process of moving in there,” she said.