The Windham Area Arts Collaborative, Inc. is comprised of member arts organizations and several individual artists who have come together to foster and promote the arts and cultural life of the Windham region.
Our goal is to maintain a multicultural, multidisciplinary, and multifaceted arts center where artists and artisans can interact with the public by sharing their creative endeavors. Our objectives are to bring together the arts and culture of the community; maintain exhibition, studio and office space; promote and support emerging and established artists; cultivate and promote participation in and support for the visual and performing arts through exhibitions, workshops and lectures; and to become a resource center which provides exposure to and participation in arts and cultural experiences.
We have taken many steps to accomplish our mission and objectives since our first meetings in 1998. The following are the indications and highlights of the progress and accomplishments our member organizations and individuals have taken together to contribute to the cultural life of our community.
Initially, we initially organized two outdoor Arts events in downtown Willimantic. The festive, 2-day weekend "Celebrations" was partnered with the Quiet Corner Artists annual outdoor juried art show. There were concurrent live performances in dance, music, puppetry, theatre, poetry, storytelling, exhibits of crafts and photography, and woodturning demonstrations. These events were important first steps in our goal to raise the profile of the arts community in Windham.
We received initial and vital Technical Assistance from the Connecticut Commission on the Arts working with fellow organization members as lead applicants. This funding enabled us to create a database of arts related organizations and individuals in the 10-town Greater Windham region ‹ a resource directory of over 200 artists and culturally oriented organizations.
We formed a Board of Directors, established bylaws, and incorporated with the State of Connecticut in January 2000. We are presently working with mentor John Cusano to restructure the organization and update bylaws and member responsibilities for an organization that has easily tripled in size.
On November 1, 2000, WAAC signed a lease for 3,000 square feet at 866 Main Street in downtown Willimantic to house the Windham Arts Center & Gallery, which formally opened May 4, 2001.
We were granted our 501(c)(3) Non-profit status in January 2001.
We are a member of the Willimantic Chamber of Commerce and are now beginning to work with a regional community development organization whose intent is to improve our hometown.
We publish a bi-monthly membership newsletter and provide regular WAAC "E News" communications for our members and other interested members of the community
On the street level a gallery space was cleaned, repaired, and painted and is presently managed by a Gallery Advisory Committee. Beginning in September 2001 we sponsored an art exhibit entitled "Interpreting The Simple Truth" which featured art work inspired by the work of Puerto Rican feminist and poet Julia de Burgos, and coinciding with the dedication of the Julio de Burgos Park. This exhibit and event was the initiating seed for a new, Hispanic member arts organization that became Colectivo Mestizal. Our gallery exhibits subsequently have included an annual Youth Art Show with area high school art students, exhibits showcasing the artwork of our member organizations, emerging, established and invited individual artists, and themed exhibits. The exhibit schedule rotates approximately every 3 weeks, averaging 10 or 11 shows a year.
The second floor of the new Arts Center was renovated into six artists studios that are fully rented to individual artists: presently 2 print-makers, a fabric artist, a jewelry artist, 2 painters, and a stained glass artist. This second floor also provides the Collaborative with its own meeting and additional reception area, an administrative office, and potential for small classes and performances. For example, beginning in January 2005, the Cadenza Café an open mic coffeehouse style venue will regularly provide an outlet for performance based artists in the community to showcase their talent and abilities.
Beginning in August 2001 WAAC sponsored a Sidewalk Chalk Arts Festival in Downtown Willimantic. Hundreds of youths participate in the daylong event, which was supported by the Town of Windham Recreation Department and Eastern Connecticut State University. Concurrent activities included initial, 2 dimensional displays of Frogfest creations.
We are now completing our third year as participants in the Urban Arts Initiative, a 3-year program that is helping us to align with artists in Norwich and New London. The Institute sponsored funding for this professional development program for Community Research and the CT. Commission on Culture and Tourism, which also fosters our relations with a broader arts community. For example, the Gallery Advisory Committee recently voted to extend the call for artists interested in exhibiting to areas east of the Connecticut River.
In order to encourage and inform emerging area artists about what steps they need to take to exhibit, a panel presentation was arranged and held at the Center this past January. MaryAnn Ott from the Commission on Culture & Tourism was invited to moderate a panel discussion which included Sal Scalora, Director of UConn¹s Benton Museum; Marion Callis, Director of ECSU¹s Akus Gallery; and Ellen Traut of Hartford¹s ETC Collection.
We co-sponsor Tellebration a storytelling event at the Windham Public Library.
The Windham Art Center was selected as one of 5 locations in the state where organizations could receive information from Wallace Foundation¹s Values Study, presented by Bitsie Clark, and in 2005 was selected as one of five Local Arts Agencies by the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism.
We recently completed a partnership with the United Way of Greater Windham to produce FrogFest¹05! this past summer. This outdoor community art display brought fifteen creatively decorated 6-foot high frog-on-spool sculptures to public spaces in Willimantic. The United Way¹s contributed to fundraising and publicity; WAAC¹s managed the creative aspects and production