Arts and revitalization funding approved

At a Wednesday evening meeting, Ward 1 Alderman Sarah Eidelson ’12, left, discusses the grant awarded to the Winchester Revitalization Art Project
At a Wednesday evening meeting, Ward 1 Alderman Sarah Eidelson ’12, left, discusses the grant awarded to the Winchester Revitalization Art Project Photo by Sebastian Medina-Tayac.

The Winchester Revitalization Art Project, which holds open art and cultural community events throughout the year, received a $75,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to expand its programs and events.

WRAP received the grant in January, but the Board of Aldermen Human Services Committee first discussed the funds at a Wednesday evening meeting, passing a measure to accept the funding unanimously after a brief deliberation. The committee also considered a state grant given to Project Storefronts, which provides funding for artists to open their own businesses.

The public portion of the meeting consisted mostly of a testimony and Q-and-A session with Vivian Nabeta, the city’s director of arts, culture and tourism. In her testimony in support of WRAP, which was initiated by Nabeta’s department, she said the project aims to use investment in the arts as a method of community development and neighborhood revitalization.

In his testimony, Ward 6 Alderman Frank Douglass Jr. urged the committee to accept the WRAP funding.

“They’re doing a wonderful thing there in Winchester, and it’ll be wonderful if they expand it to [other neighborhoods],” Douglass said. “I really want to see this pass.”

WRAP has operated in the previously abandoned Winchester lot by Science Hill for a year and a half, attracting a total of 500 people over that period, said Nabeta. The organization held outdoor “arts on the avenue” events three times a week in warmer months, featuring live music, spoken-word poetry and art classes. In colder months, WRAP has hosted 15 smaller, more infrequent coffeehouse-style open mic events.

“Everything I’ve heard about the funding so far has been great. I know people who have really enjoyed WRAP’s coffeehouses,” said Human Services Committee member Ward 1 Alderman Sarah Eidelson ’12.

In her testimony, Nabeta stated that the funds would be used in part to fund a project manager, professional artists and catering. The organization plans to expand its programs to the Hill and, as suggested by Ward 11 Alderman Barbara Constantinople, the Bella Vista senior living community.

During the hearing, the committee also questioned Nabeta about a similar, even larger  grant that New Haven’s Project Storefronts received from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development. Artists who apply and receive funding through Project Storefronts are given a storefront to run their business, and the city pays for the first three months’ rent as the artists establish themselves.

“Many artists want to be entrepreneurs, but it’s a large investment upfront,” Nabeta said.

After that time, some choose to keep running the business independently, and others leave their storefront. Either way, said Nabeta, the goal of Project Storefronts is that participants gain business experience. Nabeta said The Grove, an Orange Street social enterprise initiative, is an example of a successful business started by the program.

The $100,000 DECD grant runs until the end of December.

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