$100,000 grant awarded to Darien Arts Center from Foundation

The Darien Foundation has awarded the Darien Arts Center with a $100,000 grant.

The money is in addition to $21,000 that is funded by the Arts Center, to install a lighting system for the center’s Weatherstrone Studio.

The new system will offer greater creativity, and flexibility for artists, performers, and teachers who use the venue, while enhancing the experience for the patrons at the center.

The center is dedicated to artistic expression through dance, music, visual arts and theatre, and is a community resource that draws talented performers, dancers and artists to its stages, and studios each year.

Tucked behind the main entrance to Town Hall, The center’s Weatherstone Studio is the most highly utilized space at the arts center.

The studio also houses classes, rehearsals, special performances, and fundraising events throughout each year. The studio welcomes 600 dance students annually as well as numerous theatre, visual arts, and music students who attend classes, and also use the space to perform and show their art work.

The center will be equipped with the new system in the future. The grant money will the center with its initiative of helping to propel the center to new levels in terms of being able to offer more sophisticated performances.

“The new system will allow the DAC to undertake more complicated stage lighting to amplify and expand our schedule of live performances, as well as to expand our community collaborations,” Amy Allen, the center’s executive director, said.

The system will also be much easier to use. The current lighting equipment can only be operated by a professional working with a trained assistant. However, the new lighting solution will be easy to program, allowing volunteers and interns to operate it.

This will create more opportunities for the center to partner with Darien High School’s ‘Theater 308’ group to offer internships, and allow theatre students to learn about the technical side of the performing arts.

The new lighting technology will also open partnership opportunities with outside arts groups, including East Coast Contemporary Ballet, Falcon Repertory Company, The British Group Theatre, and JIB Productions: Play with Your Food.

The Board of Directors of The Darien Foundation, which provides grants for technology, and capital initiatives in Darien, felt that the new system was crucial in helping the center expand its role as a creative, and cultural resource in the town.

“The new lighting system will use the same state-of-the art technology used in many professional theatres. This will enhance the DAC’s offerings as a cultural community destination, while attracting many more members of the community to participate, spectate, and enjoy the arts,” the Foundation’s Executive Director, Sarah Woodberry said.

As part of the grant review process a committee of the foundation’s board members, Courtney Galligan, Kerrie Kelley, Frank Knapp, and Byrne Pozzi were recently appointed to partner with the center’s Theatre Lighting Committee to help oversee the project. The center’s representatives on the joint committee include :Board President Andrea Jackson, Board Secretary Carolyn Cavolo, Board Member Virginia Hyde, and Board Member Donna Wyant.

“Our joint committee meets regularly to review key milestones, progress made, and to anticipate and plan for any challenges that may arise during this process. We are all very excited for the new system to be installed this summer - and to ultimately see all of the talented performers be ‘given the spotlight’ they deserve!” Pozzi said.

Professional lighting designer Stuart Duke, who is originally from Darien, and who has extensive experience with regional theatre, opera, dance, architectural lighting, and corporate events, is advising the center about the project. Thanks to the generous grant, Duke, and the the center were previously able to enlist Theatre Projects in South Norwalk, which is renowned internationally as designers of gathering, and storytelling spaces for arts, to implement the project.

The improvements, set to begin in June, will include a new forward compatible control console, an improved dimmer system, and a new lighting solution with LED luminaires/lighting units and dimmable LED houselights, which will be brighter, more energy efficient, and will cost less to operate.

Bonnie Gombos, the center’s Dance Director, who has been with the center for 25 years explained that the LED houselights will also improve the light in the general studio space where she teaches dance classes, brightening up the dark corners.

“Knowing that this grant will help the DAC attract and retain talent has been important to all of us, and we feel that this improvement is very meaningful to our community. We have all missed the ability to see and appreciate the performing arts. Now more than ever, people are seeking cultural enrichment as we return to being able to do so!” Kelley said.

“We are incredibly grateful to The Darien Foundation, as well as to our lead donors, for this amazing gift to the DAC and to the arts community in Darien. This reinforces that our community values a culture rich in opportunities in our own backyard to learn and elevate artistic skills. We look forward to even greater community engagement with the DAC,” Allen said.