BRATTLEBORO -- Two local non-profit arts groups have been included in the latest round of U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development grants announced Friday.
New England Center for Circus Arts will get $44,100 to help purchase new equipment for the group’s youth programs and Latchis Arts was awarded $32,600 to go towards its $550,000 renovation of the main theater at the historic Latchis building.
The almost $77,000 that was handed out to the Brattleboro groups was part of about $158,000 in USDA Rural Development Community Facility grants that were given to only seven groups statewide this year.
"USDA is pleased to support the Brattleboro arts community and creative economy that is serving as an economic engine to inspire innovation, create jobs and re-energize the community Acting State Director of USDA Rural Development David Robinson said.
Latchis Arts, Inc. is renovating the main theater at the Latchis theater, which includes installing all new seats and refurbishing the zodiac murals on the ceiling.
The main theater is closed until October while workers finish the work.
Managing Director Gail Nunziata said the group received a $17,400 USDA grant early on in the project and was encouraged to apply for this new round of funding.
The application was sent in when federal sequestration was going into effect and Nunziata said there was no guarantee that the Latchis would be awarded a second grant.
"This is wonderful news," Nunziata said. "There was no way we would have been able to count on this money and it comes at a great time for us. We are really hoping for a big push to help us finish."
With the USDA money accounted for, Latchis Arts is about $59,000 away from reaching its goal of raising $550,000 for the theater renovations.
"We are really close," she said. "We are a hair away from reaching 90 percent of our goal so this grant is fabulous."
Nunziata said the work has been progressing in the theater.
The fabric on the ceiling was scheduled to come down Friday and Monday brings a new round of work on the plaster and historic decorations around the theater.
New England Center for Circus Arts established its youth programs to provide skills in team building, self confidence, determination, hard work, and artistic and athletic skills.
The group will use the USDA grant to purchase new equipment and fixtures to improve and expand the youth programs.
"The USDA Rural Development program seems to recognize that the cultural treasures of small town America are very tied into their economic vitality," New England Center for Circus Arts Executive Director Serenity Smith Forchion said. "In Brattleboro we can clearly see that investing in arts has helped commerce by bringing visitors as well as investors to the area."
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