Grantee Spotlights
February 21, 2024 • CTH Funded, Features & News, Grants

Connecticut Humanities is proud to offer a variety of grant lines that support strong humanities projects and the institutions that offer them. Read on to learn more about some of our most recent grantees and their programs.

La Grua Center, Stonington: On Our Minds/Good Stories Well Told Lecture Series

La Grua Center is a small nonprofit cultural arts center in Stonington offering a wide variety of lectures, concerts, and art exhibitions. La Grua Center’s mission is to engage the community through arts and culture. Their vision is an enriched cultural life for all. They present 12-15 speakers annually in several different humanities-based lecture series open to the public with a Q&A session immediately following. With these talks, it is their hope to explore other topics and different issues relevant in our region.

Thanks to grant funding from CT Humanities last year, they changed up their format to present lectures including Dayne Rugh (Slater Museum), Antoinette Brim-Bell (Poet Laureate), Bob Florence (Moromi/Fermentation), and David Eichelberg (Mohegan Tribe/Tantaquideon Museum). They are focused on elevating programming and making it more accessible to a wider and more diverse audience.

The format of the series will consist of a 60-minute presentation, often with accompanying slides. Two of the presentations have a performance aspect. All talks will be immediately followed by a Q&A session where audience members will engage with the speakers. This year’s series includes:

  • “Power of Words” – Kolton Harris, Yexandra Diaz, Roodley Merillo, Mercuri Lam, Tarishi Midnight Shuler, Joshua Brown, and Nadia Sims
  • “Kandie Carle, Victorian Lady” – Kandie Karle, Actor
  • “The Thirteen Moons” – Nakai Northrup, Mashantucket Pequot Museum
  • “Watch Hill Flying Horse Carousel” – Gary Anderson, CT Artist and Sculptor

ARTFARM, Middletown: Black Presencing: Reading Plays in the Community

ARTFARM‘s next reading, The Amen Corner by James Baldwin, as part of the Black Presencing: Reading Plays in the Community series, will be March 3 at 5 p.m. at Cross Street AME Zion Church in Middletown.

ARTFARM has been presenting “Black Presencing” events for the past three years, showcasing the work of Connecticut-based African-American performing artists. This year, they are expanding this into a community discussion exploring modern plays written by Black writers and the social and cultural issues that are unpacked in these works. For this project, they are partnering with Middletown-based Oddfellows Playhouse and Hartford’s HartBeat Ensemble.

This collaborative project intends to make three powerful plays — each addressing a significant cultural/social issue — accessible to a broad audience of young people and adults in central Connecticut by offering free Reader’s Theater presentations of the pieces and spurring conversations about the content of the works, guided by Black scholarship. The proposed season features one play that would be considered a modern classic (The Amen Corner, by James Baldwin, written in 1954) and two contemporary plays that elevate poignant social issues (Pipeline, a 2017 play by Dominique Morriseau which looks at the School to Prison pipeline, and Baltimore, a 2014 play by Kirsten Greenidge that centers around a racially-charged incident on a college campus.)

Additional partners are Wesleyan University Theater and African-American Studies departments, the Minority Student Coalition at Middletown High, and Cross Street AME Zion Church (where The Amen Corner will be performed). The Amen Corner will also be presented in Hartford as part of HartBeat’s Baldwin Centennial season, a series of productions and events celebrating the impact of 100 years of James Baldwin’s art and activism on the U.S. landscape.

Yellow Farmhouse Education Center, Stonington: Exploring the Past, Present, and Future of Oysters in American Coastal Cuisine

The Yellow Farmhouse believes that food is a natural and engaging entrypoint to learning about history and culture. In their 2024 Dandelion Series, the Yellow Farmhouse dives into the rich history of oysters in New York City and coastal New England and considers the role that shellfish might play in a sustainable food future, including:

  • A reading of High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America by Jessica B. Harris, where we learn about the culinary traditions and contributions of African Americans including Thomas Downing, “the Oyster King of New York” and the son of freed slaves. Culinary teachers receive free copies of the book to deepen understanding of African American culinary history, knowledge that they can incorporate into their teaching and share with their culinary students in area high schools.
  • A virtual presentation from Ben “Moody” Harney, whose black-owned mobile oyster cart and catering business The Real Mothershuckers (based in NYC) was inspired by Thomas Downing. Mr. Harney explains how overfishing and water pollution affected oyster beds in New York Harbor in the 19th century and led to the shift of oysters from streetfood to luxury food in the 20th century. He also shares information about the Billion Oyster Project, which is working to restore oyster reefs in New York Harbor.
  • An in-person oyster shucking class with Beth Simonds of Stonington Farms Shellfish at the New London Community Meal Center. Oysters are much more affordable when purchased directly from an oysterman or seafood purveyor and prepared at home. Ms. Simonds shares how she got started in aquaculture, her experience as a small-scale female farmer, and her perspective on the future of oyster farming in Connecticut.

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