Know Your Town: The Arts Alliance of Stratford
by Mark Hannon
President of the Arts Alliance of Stratford
The Arts Alliance of Stratford, was conceived as a way to support and foster the growth of the arts, educational and cultural experiences in the Stratford. The Alliance creates collaborations among professional and emerging artists of all mediums, patrons of the arts, businesses, schools and community organizations, as well as by advocating for the arts.
The Alliance was born in 2007, originally as the Stratford Arts Guild, a vision of resident Debbie Gilbert, to see a unified “place” for the arts and artists. Acknowledging an abundance of talent in the performing, writing, music, and visual arts, she envisioned that all could participate as artists, audience and supporters, creating economic benefit for the community. “We need look no further than our neighbors in Bridgeport and Milford to see how partnerships among government, the business community and the arts attract people to visit and spend their money,” said founder and current VP/Treasurer, Debbie Gilbert. In 2014 the name of the organization was changed to the Coastal Arts Guild of CT to reflect its focus on regional partnerships.
Debbie took a hiatus and Mark Hannon, the current President, fulfilled Debbie’s vision for the Alliance by receiving 501c3 charitable status. He continues to work tirelessly, leading the Alliance by providing art opportunities to the community and its members. Other Board members include Secretary Anne Mulligan, Education Director Megan McCool, and members at large Vinny Faggella, Colin Healey, and Margaret Bodell.
In “normal” times, the Arts Alliance hosts monthly member meetings at Sterling House; participates in many high quality juried craft shows; produces International Make Music Day (a town-wide celebration on the summer solstice that happens around the world); makes field trips to museums and plein-air painting locations.
In addition to creative classes and workshops, they sponsor a series of business workshops for artists, in conjunction with SCORE. It also partners with Artists for World Peace, a Middletown based organization that sells donated 6”x6” canvasses from their moving Peace Wall to raise money for humanitarian causes.
Early in 2020, The Alliance officially partnered with Sterling House and renovated the exhibition room into an art gallery, where future shows, music recitals, poetry and play readings can take place. The room historically hosted art shows but in recent years had been used for many purposes, including an annual youth and adult art show in June. The Alliance proposed adding a program of community and member art shows at other times during the year. An advocate of the arts herself, Executive Director Amanda Meeson saw tremendous value in a partnership with the Alliance and it was made official just prior to Covid-19 shutdowns.
In recognition of this partnership and moving activities to Sterling House, The Alliance changed its name again from the Coastal Arts Guild of CT to Arts Alliance of Stratford.
This year, The Alliance, like so many other organizations, pivoted to offer programs online. Figure drawing on Zoom has been very successful. It created additional opportunities to bring in artists and models from all over the country. Make Music Day was presented virtually in June. It hopes to host a virtual visual art show before the end of the year. The Alliance is recruiting teaching artists to offer programming remotely and planning a journalism project with the public high schools.
As a creative partner in the Town of Stratford, Arts Alliance of Stratford, along with the other arts organizations, envisions Stratford as an arts destination. With many natural and creative assets, Stratford has an abundance of talent to share. The Alliance actively supports and advocates to make Stratford a destination for those who enjoy the arts, and to drive economic success.
The Alliance is currently continuing its monthly member meetings over Zoom, on the first Tuesday of each month from 7:00 to 9:00. Included in the meeting is a monthly art challenge to create a piece of visual, written or musical art around a theme and the opportunity to present and critique members’ current work.
For more information please visit ArtsAllianceofStratford.org.
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