Norwich arts promotion plan coming together; New London next to get plan

Norwich — A plan to market arts events and organizations in Norwich will become final within the next several weeks, with the intent of developing arts-based beautification projects as a top priority in the city.

About 20 representatives from arts and historical groups met Wednesday to review the first draft of the strategic plan prepared by the Southeastern Connecticut Cultural Coalition. The coalition received a $2,500 grant from the Gernon Trust to develop an arts marketing plan for Norwich.

Participants quickly reworked the priorities of the plan Wednesday with straw-poll votes on the five main goals in the plan. The group moved beautification projects from the third to the top priority and elevated “manage perception of Norwich” from fourth to second priority, as participants want to address both the appearance and negative perceptions of Norwich.

“It’s interesting that the two heaviest ones are the perception and the beautification of Norwich,” Wendy Bury, executive director of the regional coalition, said after the tabulations were done. “To see the energies going toward making that (perception) change is exciting.”

Promoting arts, cultural and heritage events, creating programs with staff and volunteers and identifying an organization to be project administrator rounded out the top five priorities.

Jason Vincent, vice president of the Norwich Community Development Corp., who also is working on the plan, said the draft will be rewritten with the priorities ranked and sent to participants in about two weeks. After comments have been received, a final plan will be released in about four weeks.

Bury said because of NCDC’s administrative assistance in writing the plan, the coalition has used very little of the grant thus far, making about $2,000 available to help fund projects within the priority categories.

She said at least three public arts proposals that would fall under beautification projects are in discussion. A plan by Reliance House for a large mural of a tree on the city’s Market Street parking garage, with handprints of Norwich residents as leaves, is the farthest along.

Zack Baton, service coordinator for Reliance House, said the Leadership Community Mural Project will cost $2,000. The group has raised $500 and has an Internet fundraiser at www.gofundme.com under the title “RH Leadership Mural."

The Norwich arts plan is the first city-specific plan being coordinated by the coalition and already has served as a pilot project to attract other grants, Bury said. The coalition received a $5,000 grant from the Palmer Fund to create a similar plan in New London.

The key to the plan is local participation, she said. The coalition will start the discussion, but a local arts committee, such as the one in Norwich, must guide the process and soon take over the plan.

In Norwich, for example, the public beautification priority will include a local liaison to work with city officials to obtain proper permits and design approvals for art projects on public property, such as the parking garages.

Bury encouraged arts groups to submit their specific projects for inclusion in the plan, because coalition and Norwich arts leaders will use the documentation to apply for grants for Norwich arts and cultural programs.

“The coalition can take it on at first,” Bury said of the strategic plan, “but the plan is for the coalition to step out.”

c.bessette@theday.com

Twitter: @Bessettetheday

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