What a year and a half! One big loss was our ACE Awards 2021 – our biggest event of the year, in which we celebrate the artists, educators, businesses, citizens and nonprofits who make up our alliance and our community. As our 2020 ACE awards ceremony went virtual (and 5 months late) we lost our 2021 event, and can’t wait for our June 2022 event (now the Daniel E. Offut III Arts & Cultural Empowerment Awards).
Membership held tight. Though we suffered a few losses, recently, new members have been pouring in: in October and November alone we welcomed 18 new members—organizations and artists (see above).
Our website has been growing, with increasing resources (from Summer Camp listings, an Artists Studio Registry, to details on the Economic Impact of Arts & Culture, and more). Look out for a blog and other features in 2022.
Looking for ways to engage young people — we have a Kids & Teens Opportunities webpage and Facebook page, we are planning a 2022 convening for all members working with young people to see what more we can do.
Our capacity is growing. After years of shrinkage we are now adding staff and consultants. Over the summer, intern Liana Dunnell produced our Summer Camps compendium, built an online Artists Studio Registry and began the business of engaging with kids and teens. We hired Communications and Marketing Director Lorie Lewis in August, who has already made a big impact, increasing our exposure and branding online (have you seen our Facebook and Instagram pages lately?), in collaboration with the CT Office of the Arts and the CT Cultural Heritage Arts Program of the CT Historical Society, we have engaged Janet Evelyn as Coastal Fairfield County Folk & Traditional Arts Community Impact Coordinator — and we are now looking for a Development Director to help us make recent gains sustainable.
Our new, invigorated board, under the leadership of Cheryl Williams, who took over from Cindy Vaccaro this July, met for a planning retreat October 20.
New board members include Harold Bailey, cofounder of TEAM Westport (Together Effectively Achieving Multiculturalism), Bill Purcell, Executive Director of the Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce, and Patricia Rattray, Stamford business consultant and real estate agent.
During the pandemic we, like many others, shifted to online activities. Our Collective Action Against Racism and Inequity program, a series of Public Conversations and ongoing workshops created during the pandemic, continued meeting regularly online, Members undertake personal anti-racist projects, working independently, or in groups, on ideas centered on youth, collaboration, organization or community.
Historical Society Convenings continued on Zoom, with all historical societies across the region coming together to share their news and develop collaborative projects together. Arts Councils also convened, discussing public art issues and beginning work on a database of public art funding and policy-making. Most impactful: our weekly Community Calls, on Zoom, Wednesdays at noon for all members, showed us a new way of getting to know who we are and what we can do as a united front in terms of solving problems and building a united advocacy front.
We established a new grant writing program, Funding Booster, to assist member artists and nonprofits alike, engaging fundraising consultant Jessica Morozowich to run workshops, drop-in “clinics,” and one-on-one hands-on grant-writing consulting to make our members’ grant-writing more effective. Designed under our Equity umbrella to assist small, underfunded organizations and artists, the program also welcomes larger organizations.
We changed the look of our E-Buzz (see the latest), through the volunteer work of three Sacred Heart University Business School MBA students (we hope you like the new look and approach). Our 5-minute daily WPKN (wpkn.org and 89.5FM) broadcasts of members’ events continue – as did our 12 monthly hour-long interview shows, our Spotlight on Arts & Culture, on “the greatest radio station in the world” (New Yorker, Aug. 23, 2021).
On the advocacy front, we lobbied hard for HB6119 to convert the Tourism Fund to the Arts, Culture, and Tourism Fund, increase the percentage of the state’s lodging tax set aside from 10% to 25% and to allocate 40% of the fund to arts and culture. We worked closely with our legislators but, though the bill made it out of Commerce, it was never finally adopted by the Finance Committee.
We also worked with national and statewide organizations to lobby each of our municipalities to commit to spending 1% of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds coming to them on arts and culture. We contacted each town several times. This focused the attention of some municipalities, some are more aware than others of the economic impact of the arts and culture in their towns.
In 2022 we will be participating in the next Americans for the Arts’ Arts & Economic Prosperity study, measuring the economic impact of nonprofit arts and cultural organizations and their audiences at the national, state, and county levels. Data collection will begin in March, working with all of our member organizations in our region. Final reports will be delivered June, 2023. See the results of the 2015 survey reported out 2017 on our website – including for Fairfield County. Also see our own brochure on the results of our 2016 Fairfield County study (see detail below).