Mitchell's Red Barn gets $1.1 million funding boost

Workers install siding on the Red Barn building at Mitchell College on Tuesday, May 22, 2018. The new building, which will house a theatre space and student activities, replaces a historic structure that used to house Michael's Dairy. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Workers install siding on the Red Barn building at Mitchell College on Tuesday, May 22, 2018. The new building, which will house a theatre space and student activities, replaces a historic structure that used to house Michael's Dairy. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

New London — A $1.1 million grant is providing a major boost to the Mitchell College Red Barn reconstruction project.

The money is being provided by the Aramont Foundation and believed to be the largest single gift to the college in its history. The college released information about the grant Monday on its website. The Aramont Foundation's trustee is Luci Arango, a parent of 2014 Mitchell graduate Paul Graham.

"We are proud to continue our support of Mitchell College and the educational experience they create through their ability-based approach," Arango said in a statement. "It is important to us to make resources like the Red Barn available for students to explore, create and build on their strengths while at Mitchell."

A replica of the iconic former dairy barn, familiar to anyone who has ever visited the adjacent Michael's Dairy, is under construction on the college's campus off Montauk Avenue.

The new 4,800-square-foot structure is expected to be completed by the end of June, when it will become a theater and flexible gathering space for students and the community, including the Mitchell College Select Chorus and Drama Society.

Flock Theatre announced earlier this year it was moving its operations onto the campus to become the college's first resident theater company and plans to use the barn for its productions.

College President Janet Steinmayer said the $1.1 million gift would be used toward the barn reconstruction and interior amenities that include integrated theater lighting, mezzanine storage, air-conditioning and state-of-the-art technology to support events and productions.

"We are so very grateful to the Aramont Foundation and the Arango family for their exceptional generosity and support of Mitchell College," Steinmayer said in a statement. "This gift will expand the usability of this beautiful space and make it a hub of social and cultural activity that also enhances experiential learning opportunities here on campus."

The college had purchased the barn with Michael's Dairy in 2006 from the Buscetto family and initially planned a $1 million restoration project as part of the Red Barn Reimagined Initiative that kicked off in 2017.

The barn, built in 1889 and mostly used for storage in its final years, was found to be structurally beyond repair. It was torn down late last year and plans for a new structure completed.

The Red Barn Reimagined initiative is just one phase of an overall master plan for the campus that Steinmayer said will "re-align the physical campus with the College's mission and vision."

The college is raising funds toward a $2.8 million GameChanger Athletics Initiative to reconfigure the athletic fields and renovate facilities.

The plan is to have a turf field, improve facilities in Yarnall Athletic Center and reposition and improve the baseball and softball fields. Gifts so far have funded a new locker room and improvements to the gym, bathroom and workout room in Yarnall.

The campus master plan was created in conjunction with Centerbrook Architects and influenced by alumni, parent, faculty and staff and community member feedback.

The master plan includes building a science and sailing center on the Thames River, establishing the Umbrella House as a central icon building and creating a campus oval surrounded by small classroom buildings in the style of New England shingled cottages, the college said in a statement.

g.smith@theday.com

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