By Rob Glidden
Southington Community Cultural Arts (SCCA) made the case for the planned arts center at the Gura Building at the Governor’s Mansion, during a reception that updated guests about the project and showed off local talent.
Mary DeCroce, the chairperson of SCCA, recalled a meeting with Cathy Malloy, head of the Greater Hartford Arts Council and wife of Governor Dannel Malloy. DeCroce learned that the mansion offers its space to nonprofits on a weekly basis.
“It’s just so nice that they could do this,” DeCroce said. “Imagine having all these strangers in your home every week. [Malloy] told me they thought of this space as belonging to the people of Connecticut.”
During a brief presentation, DeCroce summarized the history of the idea while accompanied by renderings of what the new arts center could look like. When the news came that the Gura Building, once the home of several town offices, would be vacated, the group made its proposal to turn it into an arts center. After numerous and sometimes contentious Town Council meetings, SCCA was allowed to lease the building (for one dollar a year) and begin an 18-month fundraising period.
The group was confident from the start that an arts proposal would attract a number of grants and private donations. This was bolstered by the news that the Gura Building is seen as historically valuable by agencies like the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, which funded a feasibility study on the project.
State Representative Joe Aresimowicz (D-30) told the crowd that some state funding had already been secured for the project.
“This is a project we feel very strongly about,” he said. “It’s about ties to the community and giving opportunities to kids whose interests are not on the football field.”
In addition to hosting events and exhibiting artwork, the facility would offer a number of paid services to the community, including an art supplies store and studio space rental.
“We’ve learned that Arts Centers don’t survive on just exhibits and classrooms,” DeCroce said. “We have to make sure the building can also generate revenue.”
The presentation also stressed that an arts center would have a positive economic impact on downtown Southington as a whole. Aresimowicz said that guests who came to visit could also eat and shop around the area.
The roughly 100 guests who attended the event wandered the rooms of the mansion looking at paintings and listening to songs from local performers. Guests were also offered hand-painted drinking glasses, a reminder that “the future of the arts is in your hands.”
“We’ve had a long road and a lot of bureaucracy to deal with, but this is the payoff,” said Town Councilor Dawn Miceli, who has been at the forefront of the effort. “This has gone from just an idea to celebrating arts at the Governor’s mansion.”