Many of Hartford’s key arts organizations have been present in the community for years, maintaining a presence in the region that upholds a commitment to providing exposure to the arts for all residents. Many other organizations, however, are just starting out or reinventing themselves with new innovations and imaginative goals. Fundamental for these institutions is the funding that can make all this possible, which is the concept of the Greater Hartford Arts Council’s Ignition Grant program.
The program, one of the Arts Council’s six categories of funding, is designed to support revolutionary new ideas, cutting edge programs and new strategic plans for arts organizations within Hartford County. This open-ended goal allows organizations to be creative and dream big. As a result, Ignition Grants have a variety of uses and impacts that are personalized for each organization.
Sonia Plumb, Founder and Executive Director of Sonia Plumb Dance Company, has received multiple Ignition Grants and emphasizes the outcomes they have yielded. “Two and a half years ago we got a sizeable Ignition Grant to create a website,” she said. “It’s beautiful, it’s well-done, and it’s a real source that people can access.” More recently, the company received an Ignition Grant to expand their apprenticeship program and help secure funding to ensure its success. “I’ve had people as far away as Cuba and China want to come be a part of this program, but we weren’t ready to take that on,” Ms. Plumb said. “Now that we know what the apprenticeship program needs to look like in terms of guidance, teachers, and classes, we have much more of a plan in place to be able to take these students on. We’ve been able to develop our vision and clear goals”
Development and Marketing Director at ActUp Theater Priestley Johnson said that their Ignition Grant has helped the organization grow through planning and support. “We believe meaningful organizational growth begins with the proper planning,” she said. “Our Ignition Grant provides support on the development of a 3-5 year strategic plan, and we’re looking forward to working with an external consultant to help bring together the Board of Directors, ActUp company members, and ActUp team members to discuss the social justice advocacy ActUp will be focusing on, development of the North End Community Arts Center, and capacity development.”
For both organizations, exciting programming designed to further their goals is on tap for the coming months. For Sonia Plumb Dance Company, one such event is a series of small free mini performances and dance classes in Hartford parks later this month. “There will be one at Elizabeth Park, one at Goodwin, maybe one at Bushnell Park,” said Ms. Plumb. “Everyone can bring their kids and take a 45 minute dance class!”
ActUp Theater is celebrating the success of some of their recent productions while looking forward to the upcoming season. “This past spring we performed to sold out shows at the Lyceum Center, where we performed a musical adaptation to Lorraine Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun with talkback sessions on relevant social justice topics with noted guest speakers,” said Ms. Johnson. “We also had four sold out shows at Classical Magnet School’s black box theater where a dynamic all-minority cast of 65 hit the stage for Hairspray!” In addition, two new shows will be introduced for winter and spring.
Besides past and future programming, however, both organizations are passionate about expanding the arts within Hartford and its neighboring towns. “Hartford is our home,” said Ms. Johnson. “We are building on a mission to cultivate a creative edge where imagination thrives in the lives of our community members. It has the ability to surpass all probabilities, create goals, and fulfill dreams.”