The Connecticut College community came together Monday, March 30, for an important campuswide conversation
Two New London-based youth arts organizations – Writers Block Ink and Hygienic Art Center’s Do the Write Thing – each celebrated the New Year by receiving $6,000 grants from the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut.
The $12,000 was raised by Connecticut College last fall when it turned a concert by Irish music ensemble Cherish the Ladies into a fundraiser dubbed “Cherish New London” with all ticket proceeds to benefit arts organizations in New London. The $12,000 total was used to establish a fund at the Community Foundation which subsequently chose Writers Block and Do the Write Thing to receive the grants.
Connecticut College President Leo I. Higdon Jr. and Foundation President Alice Fitzpatrick agree that these two unique, grassroots programs demonstrate the vibrant nature of the arts in New London by supporting and developing the many and varied creative talents among local youth. They also show the commitment of numerous professional artists and volunteers to improve creative self-expression among local students. Importantly, both organizations also link the arts to the literacy goals of the New London schools.
“The Connecticut College community is proud of its strong partnership with New London, and we are delighted that the Community Foundation chose to direct our donation to two organizations that are so closely tied with the College’s educational mission,” said Higdon.
Do the Write Thing is a creative writing and photography after-school program for middle school students from New London. The program is run by Hygienic Art, a non-profit arts organization dedicated to creating an enriching cultural experience in the city.
Writers Block Ink was established in 2003 by Clarissa Bayer-Jones, a Pfizer employee who believes in getting urban kids to make their mark “on the page and on the stage.” In Writers Block, middle school and high school students learn leadership and teamwork skills, while exploring social and personal issues through the collective creation of writing, dance, poetry, music and theater.
Fitzpatrick said the grants will go a long way for the two winning organizations.
“We appreciate Connecticut College’s continued commitment to supporting the local region,” said Fitzpatrick. “Both Hygienic Art and Writers Block Ink are grassroots, modestly staffed organizations with high energy and great popularity. These grants will have a positive impact on the youth associated with them and with the greater local community.”
A. Vincent Scarano, president of Hygienic Art, said the grant will be used to help pay program instructors and support the annual “Picture My World” exhibit, which features photographs taken by the students to represent their own lives.
“A lot of these kids don’t want to go home after school – they want a safe space,” Scarano said. “This is a really creative place, and the kids really create a sense of community here.”
Theresa Broach, general manager of Writers Block Ink, said the children benefit from the sense of fulfillment they get from expressing their creativity.
“We’ve had a lot of kids who are introverted and shy come out of their shells,” she said. “It is extraordinary to see.”
Broach said her organization will use the grant to help cover general operating costs.
“We were ecstatic when we learned it was unrestricted,” Broach said. “We sometimes struggle to keep the doors open.”
Fitzpatrick said she is impressed with the organizations’ longevity despite the grassroots nature of both.
“They’ve proven to be magnetic and magical,” she said.
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