On Tuesday evening, New Haven Department of Arts, Culture and Tourism Outreach Commissioner Kim Futrell met with an audience of one as she sat in the Fair Haven Branch Library ready to present Mayor Toni Harp’s new initiative, the Neighborhood Cultural Vitality Grant program.
The Neighborhood Cultural Vitality Grant program aims to connect culture and community service in projects benefitting New Haven’s underserved populations. The program is an extension of a previous initiative known as the Mayor’s Community Art Grant, which provided $25,000 annually to established Elm City nonprofits to develop art programs, said Bob Parker, chair of the Commission on Arts, Culture and Tourism and former director at ACES Educational Center for the Arts. The Neighborhood Cultural Vitality Grant program offers a total of $75,000 to an undetermined number of artists in the New Haven community to run projects from February to June. The grant application is open to all artists and art-based nonprofit organizations in New Haven wishing to work with mental health programs, youth or senior centers, homeless shelters, hospitals or lower-income housing.
“We are definitely hoping that this program — this funding — helps to expand opportunities for the arts in the community service arena and supports New Haven programs that have arts in their curricula and deal with quality-of-life issues,” said Futrell.
The additional funds for the program are from a donation from Martha Okafor, New Haven’s community services administrator. She donated $50,000 of her personal budget to increase access to the arts in underserved communities, Parker said.
According to grant guidelines created by Harp, the grant aims to foster the creation of arts, specifically visual arts, music, dance and theater, within underserved communities. This would strengthen relationships between generations, provide high-quality arts training for youth and contribute to the development of collaborative projects across the community.
“To support arts programs financially is consistent with the role arts and culture play in New Haven as an economic engine,” City Hall spokesman Laurence Grotheer said.
Futrell added that the panel seeks thoroughly developed projects run through an artist-neighborhood partner collaboration. Any community group or business partner working with the artist would qualify as a neighborhood partner.
Parker said the program aims to establish relationships between artists and existing community service programs to advance their goals for their clients.
“It is a short turnaround, but hopefully we will get that money to their programs and allow them to realize their projects they have been dreaming of but have not had the resources for,” he said.
The Neighborhood Cultural Vitality Grant is currently a one-time project, though the city hopes to revive it in the future, Parker said. He added that his experience as an arts educator has made him particularly interested in community organizations using the arts to further their goals.
Applications for the Neighborhood Cultural Vitality Grant are available to community members until Jan. 29.