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July 16, 2020
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Clinton Eyeing Downtown Arts District Distinction

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Creative types in Clinton may be pleased to hear that the town is considering creating a designated area of the downtown to be considered an arts district, which supporters believe will provide greater attention not just to the arts but the entire downtown business district.

The creation of an arts district is an action item on the Sustainable CT municipal certification program in which the town’s Sustainability Committee has been participating since April. Sustainable CT is a voluntary certification program that provides environmental best practices and grant opportunities to help communities promote economic well-being and enhance equity. Participating towns select which initiatives they would like to pursue.

Sustainability Committee Chairman Paul Gebauer said the creation of the district “is an opportunity to support the local artists.” Gebauer said the arts district will cover much of the downtown from the area by the new CVS to Route 145. Gebauer said the area will be marked by signs that announce to visitors that they are entering the arts district.

“There’s a lot of stuff in town people don’t know about,” Gebauer said of the artistic endeavors in town.

Earlier in 2018, Liz Egan created an Arts Directory that highlights the different artistic endeavors in the town. More than a dozen organizations are listed, including galleries like Cindy Stevens Fine Art and the Clinton Art Gallery, three different theater groups (Clinton Family Theater, Kidz Konnection, and Opera Theater of CT), Dance Hutch, and the Clinton Academy of Music, all on East Main Street. Arts organizations like the Clinton Art Society and George Flynn Classical Concert Series that offer events in town were included as well.

Gebauer said this directory helped increase awareness of just how many arts-related opportunities there are in town.

First Selectman Christine Goupil expanded on the scope of the district.

“An arts district is a way to stimulate and promote local artists from visual to music, poetry, dance, and performing. Visual art such as sculpture will enhance Clinton’s character and beautify the gateway of our community from High Street to the downtown,” she said. “It will support local artists, merchants and restaurants and stimulate investment.”

Goupil said that the Board of Selectmen is in the early stages of drafting a resolution and formal map for the arts district.

“An arts district and arts council could combine elements of branding and marketing, revisions to municipal regulations concerning uses, circulation, and building design. There are potential financial incentives for public investment,” Goupil said. “The Sustainability Committee and town are eager to get citizen and stakeholder feedback to bring this project into sharper focus.”

In addition to support for the artists, Gebauer said a secondary hope is that the arts district will help attract curious visitors to Clinton’s downtown. Gebauer noted the potential for redevelopment at sites such as the old Morgan School and the Unilever property, but added “the downtown is really important.”

Gebauer said he is hopeful that if visitors investigate downtown Clinton, they will be inspired to spend time and money in some of the shops downtown. Goupil believes the potential is significant.

“Over four million people visit Clinton Crossing alone” each year, Goupil said. “Marketing of the arts district and signage will be a way to lure people to downtown Clinton and through the our Historic and Village District with its remarkable number of 17th-, 18th- and 19th-century structures, many of them on the National Register of Historical Places.”

The next steps for the project to move forward would be the creation of an arts district and an arts council.

“The Sustainability Committee, Economic Development Commission, and Liz Egan of the Clinton Art Society are teaming up with Placemakers and interested parties on both initiatives of the arts district and council,” Goupil said. “The art council could be involved with funding artists, awards programs, and event programming. The sky’s the limit.”

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