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Lyme Academy to ask Old Lyme for additional $8,750

Old Lyme — After receiving $6,250 from the town to help develop a three-year “strategic plan,” Lyme Academy of Fine Arts officials will go before residents at Monday's annual town meeting to ask for another $8,750.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. at Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School.

Lyme Academy officials went before the Board of Finance last fall asking the town whether it would release the $15,000 it said was allocated to the school but never awarded in the previous year’s budget. The board agreed to give $6,250 to the school, but said the academy would need to request the rest of the money at the annual town meeting. 

School officials said the money is needed to help fund a “strategic plan”  that lays out where the school is going and how its will get there, according to Executive Director Frank Burns.

He said the plan is another necessary step as the school works to reinvent itself after it ended its affiliation with the University of New Haven in 2019.

Since then, the school has been without a student base or a steady source of income and has been forced to find solutions to stay open throughout the current academic year.

At a presentation school officials made at a Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau-sponsored luncheon last Wednesday, Burns described the many efforts the school has pursued to find partnerships and a potential affiliation that would maintain the spirit and mission of the school — “a rigorous studio curriculum rooted in figurative and representational art."

Academy board member Sue Grey said that mission could be "modified or replaced" depending "on the direction we ultimately go in with the board’s approval."

“I think you are going to find that we are going to remain loyal to aspects to the legacy of Lyme Academy and the things it is best known for, even if the way we breathe life into them over the next generation makes them look a little different,” Grey said. “History is worth something. The brand is worth something and the way we fit into Old Lyme and its arts corridor means something, and we want to be respectful of that.”

A strategic planning committee has been meeting monthly to explore potential short- and long-term partnerships with organizations and businesses. One such collaboration has recently come in the form of a lease with the France Foundation for a 6,000-square-foot portion of the campus' Chandler Academic Center.

The lease will help cover the approximate $900,000 worth of operating costs Burns had previously estimated would be needed to keep the school open through the academic year. To lease the building, academy officials needed to get permission from the Zoning Commission last fall.

In previous reports to the Board of Finance, Burns said the $900,000 in operating costs would be offset by a predicted by $155,000 in contributions by academy trustees, $421,000 in unrestricted endowment funds and $186,900 in predicted revenue, which includes gifts and donations. He said the lease with the France Foundation will help with those costs.

“We will consider anything,” Grey continued. “We will favor those things that are supportive of the history, legacy, history mission and vision of the organization. There’s a value system embedded in that campus and the way we operate. … We will give more time and attention to a concept that resonates with those factors.”

Burns also said Wednesday the school is again seeking re-accredidation, has planned a spring class lineup, including several workshops and lectures after hosting summer and fall courses over the past six months, and will launch a new website. The school has been working specifically with Miranda Creative, a Norwich-based marketing and design agency, to oversee its marketing and outreach strategies.

The academy has also put part of its unused property — approximately 26 acres — up for sale for $5 million. The land is located across the street from the academy's main campus. The academy has approached the Lyme-Old Lyme Board of Education to see if it may want to purchase some of the property.

m.biekert@theday.com

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