Local arts group loses state funding

For the first time in several years, the Derby-based Valley Arts Council won’t be receiving state funding to help promote the arts in the area.

“It’s disappointing,” said Rich DiCarlo, VAC president. “We got lost in the shuffle. Somebody is asleep at the wheel.”

The group applies for about $6,500 each year to the state Office of the Arts to help fund special events, art shows at Gallery@37 and promotional mailings.

This year, the Office of the Arts is under the auspices of the Department of Economic and Community Development, DiCarlo said, and the emphasis of the grants has shifted to arts for developing areas and community-based projects.

The project that VAC hoped to secure funding for appeared to fit the bill.

DiCarlo, VAC artists and local students planned to create a series of murals to brighten up the flood wall that runs along the Naugatuck River in downtown Ansonia.

The project would have been part of Ansonia’s downtown revitalization that city officials have set in motion, and VAC would have worked in partnership with the city.

“I’m very disappointed,” said Vinnie Scarlata, chairman of Ansonia’s Economic Development Commission. “It was a little disheartening. None of the Valley received funding.”

The murals would fit into the flood wall’s 20-foot sections, Scarlata said, and could be representations of historical period pieces and contemporary scenes.

The EDC will have to explore other options to fund the artwork.

“We will do something with the flood wall, because it’s an eyesore for the city,” he said.

DiCarlo is at a loss as to why he didn’t win the DECD grant.

“Everyone around is getting funding for similar activities,” he said, including New Haven, Waterbury, Norwalk and Hamden. “Not one penny went to the Valley. We got overlooked. We don’t have the clout of New Haven or Fairfield County.”

The state responds

“We had $1 million in requests in that category, and we could only fund $440,000 of them,” Kip Bergstrom, DECD deputy commissioner, told Hersam Acorn Newspapers on Jan. 8. The Office of the Arts reports to Bergstrom.

“It’s not to say it wasn’t a good project, but there were more projects than we could allocate,” he said.

DiCarlo said he found out at the end of December that VAC wouldn’t receive the grant money.

The DECD determines how the money will be allocated, he said, and the application has to meet certain criteria. It’s a matching grant, with the money contingent on volunteer hours.

The funds are granted competitively, said state Rep. Linda Gentile (D-104th District). Gentile said she hasn’t seen the VAC application, but is not sure whether it met the criteria.

VAC is a self-sustaining entity, and relies on rental fees from art studios at the Caroline Street headquarters and from funding from the Valley Community Foundation.