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Mystic Museum of Art going beyond art, into community

Mystic — A rain garden, smart sponge, a job fair, school outreach.

They are all part of an effort by the Mystic Museum of Art to go beyond being known for being “a dusty building with beautiful pictures on the walls,” according to Director of External Affairs Bill Furgueson.

Since being hired in March to oversee membership, marketing, communications, development and outreach, Furgueson said one of his priorities has been to show people “we’re more than that.”

“We’re part of the community and we want to be involved in the community,” he added.

Upon starting his job after 24 years teaching at the Williams School in New London, Furgueson said he began looking at “what things we do well and what things can we do better.” He said improvements have been as simple as beginning online registration for its programs.

He said many people do not know the museum is more than an art museum. For example it sponsors outreach programs in schools in Groton and New London, participates in the Mystic Aquarium's Festival Oceanus and Mystic Cleanup Day. The museum has hosted a job fair this past spring and bimonthly meetings of the Mystic Business Network International group.

“We’re not just sitting in this building doing nothing,” he said.

The latest effort involves constructing a large rain garden that filters pollutants from one of its parking lots before the water flows into the adjacent Mystic River. It was designed by the Eastern Connecticut Conservation District.

“It’s something beautiful for the community, because it cleans the river,” Furgueson said.

The museum also has installed a smart sponge in its larger parking lot which turns oil in runoff into a solid that can be removed, allowing cleaner water to flow into the river.

Furgueson said the museum hopes the sponge can serve as a pilot project for downtown merchants. He said the museum will hold a community forum to explain how the sponges work.

“Hopefully, it’s something that can catch on in the downtown," he said.

Furgueson said the museum will also be providing its facility to a local autism group.

“We want to change people’s perception of the museum. I want this to be a community center open to all,” he said.



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