Four years ago, Frank Carrano and his late wife went to Clinton to see a juried art exhibit at Town Hall. He enjoyed it so much that he was inspired to later wonder on Facebook about what it would take to form an arts organization that could host similar events in Branford, his hometown of 50 years.
There was enough interest that Frank booked a room at police headquarters for a meeting that drew more than 20 people. The group originally tried to form a Branford Arts Commission to operate as a town board or commission, but it was voted down by the RTM.
“We were very disappointed because we’d put a lot of effort into setting up the potential arts commission, so we were kind of distraught over the failure to get it approved,” says Frank. “We decided there was another way to do this and formed a Branford Arts and Cultural Alliance [BACA] corporation, to organize events through that entity.”
In the time since then, BACA and its group of dedicated volunteers have hosted a variety of events, concerts, architectural tours of churches on the Green, and art exhibits, including four in specific Branford neighborhoods that highlighted artists in the area.
“We try to look at how to present not just art in the form most people expect it to be in, but other forms of artistic expression as well, as art should be incorporated into your life in as many ways as possible,” says Frank. “Our mission as an organization is to provide residents of Branford as many opportunities as we can to enjoy and appreciate art in all of its manifestations.”
BACA will offer residents two events to enjoy this December. On Saturday, Dec. 9 at 2 p.m., the group is co-sponsoring “Christmas with Tiffanies” at Trinity Church. Architect Tony Terry and Debora Coombs, artist of The Hanna Window, will share information about stained glass windows in the church, several of which are from the Tiffany collection, as well as discussion about the design and installation of the church’s newest stained glass windows. The Trinity choir will also perform.
“Trinity has glorious stained glass windows—it’s a wonderful thing to invite people in to look those windows,” says Frank. “There are very few stained glass windows being installed today and another part of our mission is to reintroduce residents of Branford to some of the beautiful things that are in plain sight that we don’t always pay attention to, the hidden treasures.”
The BACA Holiday Market & Open House will be held on Saturday, Dec. 9 and Sunday, Dec. 10 from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Allen family’s house, 265 Pine Orchard Road. There will be more than 20 vendors and music with the Branford High School Music Makers performing at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday and on Sunday, Cathyann Roding will direct a new choral group at 2:30 p.m.
“We’re really excited about this because it will give visitors an opportunity to see this beautiful, one-of-a-kind craft home with carved wood and a music room with a pipe organ,” says Frank. “To those who have never seen it, it’s a wonderful experience and vendors will be selling wares from art to jewelry to baked goods.”
BACA works closely with other town organizations and buildings to bring art to the community, having installed a sculpture outside of the library and working with local students to create a design that will be installed outside of the Community House once construction is complete.
The town has shown its support of the organization by allowing use of the Academy Building, the small white building on the back corner of the Green, for various BACA art shows. In January, the Academy Building will be home to a Summer in Winter exhibit.
“We will be inviting artists to show works with beautiful flowers and landscapes you’re not seeing in town at this moment as a diversion from the winter humdrum,” says Frank. “It’s wonderful that the town has given us use of the building for many exhibits and people come as much to see the building, which is actually one of Branford’s first schools and one of the town’s treasures, as much as to see what’s on display.”
It hasn’t always been art for Frank. He worked in education for his entire career, in New Haven public schools, at Southern Connecticut State University for a few years, and serving on the Board of Education for 10 years. After retiring from the BOE three years ago, he has been able to put more time into his volunteer work with BACA.
Frank is pleased with the many volunteers the group has drawn as well as the support it has received from the community. While there are many dedicated volunteers, BACA is always looking to engage more community members and local artists.
“With artists working together as a group, you can accomplish much more than as an individual by supporting each other,” says Frank. “We welcome new people with new ideas and more energy. Our goal is growing a generation of citizens in town who are committed to the arts and helping the community find new ways to present and appreciate art.”
While Frank himself is not an artist, he has always had an appreciation for art. Over the past few years, he started collecting vintage art. He searches thrift shops for original pieces, brings them home, and fixes them up. Frank’s collection of vintage art is growing, but “I still have room on my walls so I’ll keep looking.”
BACA also hosts a creative writing group that meets weekly and presented a reading of its work last winter. This spring, Frank plans to display his collection of antique clocks during the daylight saving time weekend. He also hopes to expand the relationship with schools, the library, and even the Green Committee with the hopes of installing art on the Green near the churches.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with the progress we’ve made since the original Facebook post to turning into an organization that has real legitimacy now in fulfilling our mission,” says Frank. “I really believe, as do the people working with the organization, that art enhances the quality of life and when you have the opportunity to appreciate art, your level of pleasure is elevated and it just makes you feel better. Having art available for people to see and appreciate is a real advantage for Branford as a community, to be able to enjoy your environment through the beauty of art.”
For information on BACA and upcoming events, like Branford Arts and Cultural Alliance on Facebook or email email@example.com.