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The Day – Plan for use of COVID-19 recovery grants for Norwich arts programs unveiled

Norwich – A program to distribute the $500,000 the city allocated from the US bailout to local arts organizations, programs and projects has taken longer than expected, but Norwich now has its own arts coordinator and culture and grant applications will be deployed next week.

Sarbani Hazra, Norwich’s new arts and culture coordinator, and Wendy Bury, executive director of the Culture Coalition of Southeast Connecticut, made a presentation Monday to city council on the status of the grant and how the Funding will be allocated over the next two years.

Hazra, appointed to her two-year part-time position in December, met with representatives of local arts organizations and artists to help formulate the grant program. The coalition also hosted a recent online session attended by 47 participants who discussed arts and culture funding needs. An online survey has been launched with responses expected by next Monday.

In September, the city council allocated $500,000 of its first year of $14.4 million US bailout grant to the coalition to support arts and cultural organizations and programs. Hazra’s position is funded with $75,000 from the stipend.

Bury said he’s heard criticism and questions about why the funding hasn’t been allocated yet. But she argued that time invested in learning about community needs will benefit the goal of having lasting impacts with the limited funding.

The plan presented on Monday calls for two rounds of grants over the next two years. In the first year, grants of up to $10,000 will be available for nonprofit organizations, for-profit “creative businesses,” and individual artists. The money could be used for programs and activities or projects; purchase equipment or technology; capital improvements; marketing; professional development; or staffing.

The goal of this round, Bury said, is to “prepare for 2023,” when larger grants for lasting impacts will be offered. In these grant applications, she said applicants will need to collaborate with each other to improve the arts for the whole community.

A tentative schedule calls for the first round to open next Monday with ‘intent to apply’ forms going online. Formal grant applications will open April 25 and close May 16. Grants could be awarded on June 1.

In the second round, grants will be up to $25,000, with applications beginning this fall. Bury said second-year grant applications will be posted online for everyone to see. She explained that making nominations public will encourage more collaborations. She hopes organizations will check each other’s plans and reach out to partners on some proposals.

All applications to the two rounds will be reviewed under READI guidelines, Bury said, referring to the “relevant, fair, accessible, diverse, inclusive” criteria.

To help fledgling organizations or those without professional staff, the coalition will provide an additional grant for professional development. The program will provide an additional grant of $1,000 to $1,500 to those who engage in a one-year professional development educational program. Participants must attend workshops and classes and one-on-one counseling, with separate tracks for nonprofits, individuals, and for-profit businesses.

The coalition will work with the Women’s Business Development Council, a program of the US Small Business Administration; Assets for Artists, a marketing and professional development program for artists; the Connecticut Bureau of the Arts; and possibly with Global City Norwich, which offers business training programs for entrepreneurs in Norwich.

“We want to give them every chance of success,” Bury said.

The link to the survey is https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/N7TW3ML.

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