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Arts organizations brought in $37M to Ridgefield in one year. Now, town gives them a $665K boost

A workshop in one of the gardens at the Keeler Tavern Museum and History Center.
October 10, 2022 | FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Ridgefield arts community has earned a more than $665,000 cut of the town's federal COVID-19 relief — that's meant to enrich and develop local cultural organizations. 

The funds from the American Rescue Plan will go toward 21 art and culture nonprofits in town, which operate under the Ridgefield Arts Council and the Economic Community Development Commission. The funding will help the organizations get back on their feet after the pandemic.


In front of a packed room filled with dozens of members of the town's arts community, funds totaling $665,531 designated to the art and cultural nonprofits of Ridgefield were approved with a vote of four in support, zero opposed and one abstention from Selectman Barbara Manners, producer of CHIRP (Concert Happenings in Ridgefield Parks), one of the arts organizations receiving the funds. 


"In 2019, these 21 organizations brought in a total of $37 million to Ridgefield through direct and indirect spending," said Rudy Marconi at the recent selectmen meeting, reading from a letter that was written by the Ridgefield Arts Council and  Economic Community Development Commission. 

Additionally, the letter said in 2019, the organizations brought in aggregate attendance figures of over 600,000. 


"There is no question that the art and culture is a main pillar of economic and community development within Ridgefield," Marconi said. "We also learned that the post-COVID journey to get these organizations back up to pre-pandemic levels is an arduous one. And we know that these designated ARPA funds will be critical in supporting the journey each organization is currently undertaking."


Geoffrey Morris, commissioner and secretary of the economic development commission, said many of the arts organizations, such as ACT of CT and The Ridgefield Playhouse, managed to stay open through COVID-19. 


"They put on virtual stuff and they kept things going and they kept themselves alive and they kept entertaining us. The Playhouse had tents and stages on the lawn," he said. "This money is really for economic development. These organizations can get this money and hire more staff, promote themselves better or beautify their stages or do something to bring more people in to show the entire region what a great cultural district that we have here."


He added while $600,000 "sounds like a lot of money, if you spread it over 21 organizations, it's really not that much money," he said.


Prior to the vote, Joseph Collin, who is on the Ridgefield Arts Council, referenced that Ridgefield was designated the first cultural district in the state.


"If we want to continue to be seen as a leader in arts and culture in the state, then we need to invest in this. And I feel like this would be in the spirit of the ARPA law and providing a lot of economic development for our town," said Collin, to a round of applause from the audience.


The money going toward the arts organizations accounts for about 9 percent of the $7.4 million the town received. The organizations initially asked for $740,000


How the money will be spent


In an email, Colleen Cash, chairman of the Ridgefield Arts Council said per ARPA guidelines, the allocation of funds is intended to "sow the seeds of future economic growth and development."


She said the organizations were particularly hard hit by the impact of COVID-19 "and there is still a ways for organizations to go before they reach pre-pandemic audience figures, and even programming levels in some cases. By allocating funds to support each organization's 2022 operating budget, and to have those funds be deployed by each organization strategically in ways that their leadership deems fitting, we are empowering each organization to ensure the funds are put towards meaningful projects and initiatives that will support their growth and development."


Collin said the breakdown of the funding is equitable based on the size of the organization.  

Cash said the funds will be distributed with about a 4 percent allocation of the 2022 operating budget for organizations with budgets over $10,000. For organizations with 2022 operating budgets under $10,000, a flat rate amount of $1,200 will be designated.


"The percentage is equal across all of these organizations and ensures parity of impact for all recipients," Cash said. "The process was extremely collaborative and for the past nine months, the organizations worked in close partnership with RAC (Ridgefield Arts Council) and the ECDC (Economic Community Development Commission) to perform deep data analysis and review on the request. All organizations agreed with the allocation breakdown." 


Participating organizations that will receive ARPA funding include: 

  • ACT of CT

  • The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum

  • ArtFUL Visual Arts Initiative 

  • CHIRP

  • Compassionate Ridgefield

  • Keeler Tavern Museum + History Center

  • Lounsbury House

  • Michael Chekhov Theatre Festival

  • Prospector Theater

  • SPHERE of CT 

  • Ridgefield Chorale

  • Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance

  • Ridgefield Guild of Artists

  • Ridgefield Independent Film Festival

  • Ridgefield Library

  • Ridgefield’s Poet Laureate

  • The Ridgefield Playhouse

  • Ridgefield Theater Barn

  • Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra

  • Thrown Stone Theatre Company

  • Western Connecticut Youth Orchestra

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