Lyme Academy: What does community want?

The last time Lyme Academy, then college, was in trouble, the savior was the University of New Haven which affiliated with the school out of an earnest desire to help strengthen an acclaimed and promising fine arts college as part of a fast-growing and entrepreneurial university. Many generous people, long-time and new friends, made significant gifts, some on top of their regular annual support, to enable the transition. 

As the college’s development officer for its last seven years, I witnessed an array of reasons for this support: belief in its mission, reputation, student and faculty needs, facility expansion. Relevance to their lives and to community interests became a priority, as it once had been, when the school made the substantial financial commitment, with university backing, to establish the ambitious Center for Arts Programming. While community studio courses, exhibitions, lectures and other quality programs were often well attended, the center, surprisingly, painfully, did not attract the sustainable philanthropy that college and university officials expected.

Which begs the question, perhaps too late to ask: What does the community want from the school, what would be meaningful enough to engage friends in its well-being? “Reputation” alone is insufficient. 

Fritz Jellinghaus

Chester 

Chairman of the Connecticut Arts Council and former vice president of Development at Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts from 2011 until 2018.

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