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City awards $100K in arts grants

October 11, 2018

STAMFORD — In the midst of a budget crunch that killed Fourth of July fireworks and threatened fall loose leaf pickup, city officials took the unusual step Thursday of announcing spending with fanfare.

“You’re a fool if you believe you can cut your way to prosperity,” said Mayor David Martin, before handing out $100,000 in checks to city arts organizations.

The grants, which provide scholarships for low-income students in arts programs and bring free concerts to churches and parks around the city, for example, are small amounts of money that the nonprofits leverage with great success, he said.

“It’s not all about cut budgets and raising taxes,” he said to a gathering of organizations celebrated in the lobby of City Hall. “You are what makes life enjoyable, you are what makes Stamford a great place to live.”

The grants are furnished by city coffers, but administered by the Stamford Community Arts Partnership Program and the city Arts and Culture Commission.

The city received 14 applications for $127,000 in aid this year, said John Varamo, who manages arts for the Economic Development department.

Many of the grants make arts programs accessible for lower-income residents, he said.

Marti Etter, executive director of the Ballet School of Stamford, was among the grant recipients.

The school, entering its 20th year, hands out some $80,000 worth of scholarships to students and puts on a free performance for school children at the Palace Theatre each year. The $14,000 grant from the city “is a big help,” Etter said.

“It’s really a seal of approval,” she said. “When the city and state support you.”

Other recipients include the Shippan Point Association, which recently hosted its third free music in the park program where a piano is played in Czescik Marina, and the Connecticut Ballet, which will put on a ballet performance “under the stars” in Mill River Park.

The Jewish Historical Society of Fairfield County will use the grant to pursue an ambitious project seeking to bring downtown’s pre-Urban Renewal storefronts back to life. And thanks to the grant, the Highland Green Foundation will again slate free holiday musical performances at the First Presbyterian Church.

barry.lytton@stamfordadvocate.com; 203-964-2263; @bglytton

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