State funds a boost to two New London nonprofits

New London – The state has awarded New London Maritime Society and Hygienic Art a $125,000 grant each under a state program aimed at promoting science, art, culture and the history of Connecticut.

The state Department of Economic and Community Development announced a total of $1.99 million going to 20 nonprofit organizations that sponsor cultural and historic sites through the state’s Good to Great program.

New London Maritime Society applied to the program for funds to help restore the historic dock at New London Harbor “Pequot” Light. The organization has already raised the required 25 percent in matching funds through a “Please Pledge a Plank for Pequot Light” on-line campaign.

“It’s fantastic. We couldn't be more pleased,” said society Executive Director Susan Tamulevich. “This is a real vote of confidence in a bright future for Harbor Light.”

The maritime society is embroiled in a lawsuit with an abutting neighbor and recently lost its appeal of a cease-and-desist order to the Zoning Board of Appeals over activity at the lighthouse. The order bans tours at the site.

The society, a nonprofit group that runs the Custom House Maritime Museum on Bank Street, has announced plans to pursue a lawsuit against the Zoning Board of Appeals and seek a designation as an historic site.

Hygienic Art plans to use the grant funds to help pay for the construction of improvements at the Hygienic Art Park on Bank Street, including covering part of the outdoor venue during inclement weather, said President A. Vincent Scarano.

The park features a stage and hosts events that include live music and movies. Architects are working on plans for the improvements, which could be in place as early as next summer, Scarano said.

“It was a great gesture by the state to include a couple of New London venues for funding,” Scarano said.

The Good to Great program was created in 2014 to fund improvements that will significantly enhance cultural and historic sites and the way people enjoy them. The program targets smaller and mid-sized cultural organizations that have received limited state funding in the past, according to the DECD.

“Interest in the program was very strong, as DECD received 46 applications. From those we had to choose the strongest projects that fit our criteria,” Catherine Smith, commissioner of DECD, said in a written statement.

“DECD is prioritizing funding for projects that demonstrate a clear vision of how individual sites and organizations can improve the customer experience, effectively tie together local, regional or statewide cultural assets, and promote more visitors. Our state’s commitment to assisting communities in leveraging their cultural assets is core to the new Good to Great pilot program,” she said.

Kristina Newman-Scott, director of culture for the DECD, said in a statement that “Good to Great assists thoughtful local leaders to move forward with projects that transform the experiences of their visitors and underscore the importance of arts and culture to the state's future.”

g.smith@theday.com

Twitter: @SmittyDay

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