State grants $1.1M to cultural groups

Connecticut’s culture is being fortified by the state government.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell announced Monday that $1.1 million in grants were awarded to organizations dedicated to enhancing Connecticut’s cultural heritage and tourism venues across the state. Forty-four groups, including three New Haven groups — the International Festival of Arts and Ideas, the Peabody Museum and The Amistad Committee — were chosen through a competitive selection process to receive grants ranging from $9,000 to $100,000.

“We want to bring together the arts, history, film and tourism to promote our cultural attractions and draw visitors to Connecticut,” Rell said in a press release Monday. “These grants will bring about new and enhanced partnerships that will help create jobs while simultaneously fostering arts and history appreciation among our young people.”

The $1.1 million for these grants originated from an additional $4 million allotted to the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism in Rell’s 2007-2008 state budget.

Karen Senich, the executive director of the Commission on Culture and Tourism, said that although the grants differ in amount, all are gifted as part of an all attempt to promote the state and “strengthen, challenge [and] further the missions.”

“We are looking to increase visiting, help [the groups] with their marketing, and help them put on programs,” Senich said.

Mary Lou Aleskie, the executive director of the International Festival of Arts and Ideas — a festival held in New Haven every summer exhibiting artists from around the world and advocating economic development, which was awarded $30,000 — said the grant will be put to use in marketing and advertising, with the main aim of attracting business from outside Connecticut and the United States.

“While we’re happy we got this grant,” Aleskie said, “we’re really happy the governor saw the arts as an opportunity for the state’s development. She deserves applause for that, in my opinion.”

Aleskie said she thinks the grant comes at an opportune time given the weakening dollar abroad — it will be cheap for tourists from other countries to visit the United States and the Festival, once the word gets out.

Yale University’s Peabody Museum received a grant for $18,000. This fund will also be used for marketing, said Melanie Brigockas, the marketing manager for the museum. The grant will mainly be used for advertising the museum’s Hall of Minerals, Earth and Space exhibit on an electronic billboard along I-95 as well as radio advertising across Connecticut and into New York, Brigockas added.

“It is not a large grant for the Peabody Museum,” said Brigockas, “but it is a large grant for marketing. We’re thrilled with it — it enables us to market much more than we thought.”

The grant that the Peabody Museum received is a challenge grant that requires the museum to match the amount given in the grant for marketing funds.

The different types of grants the CCT offered include the Underserved Youth Grant, the Special Initiative Grant and the Marketing Challenge Grant. Both the International Festival of Arts and Ideas and the Peabody Museum received the Marketing Challenge Grant, while the Amistad Committee is receiving the Special Initiative Grant.

“We have not fully tapped the arts as an engine of employment and economic development,” Rell said in the press release. “There is plenty of room for job growth in our state’s arts industry and we want to do everything we can to stimulate and expand it.”

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