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New coalition to promote culture, economy of SE Connecticut

The Southeastern Connecticut Cultural Coalition is a new, independent nonprofit organization with a mission to improve economic growth in New London County by improving cultural and heritage activities and creating new opportunities.

The coalition is not a state agency but it was formed with the assistance of the Office of the Arts of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development. The New London-Groton-Norwich region was formed this year and is the last in the state to have such an organization; the state is now fully covered by nine such regions.

“There have been a lot of thoughtful conversations,” said John Cusano, community development coordinator for the Office of the Arts.

“It’s more about the entire culture than just about the arts,” he said, but he noted that the coalition would be tied to economic development.

“Without agencies like this there is no coordination or cooperation between the cultural aspects of the community,” he maintained. The Mystic area is better off than most, he said, because organizations like the Mystic Area Chamber of Commerce have helped coordinate events like the Mystic Outdoor Art Festival.

The Southeastern Connecticut Cultural Coalition will serve an area bordered by Old Lyme, Colchester, Voluntown and Stonington. The new organization is considered by the state to be a “Designated Regional Service Organization,” the voice of the cultural and heritage sector, and the liaison between it and other groups devoted to regional revitalization. It includes all sectors, including municipal, community, business, education, tribal, military, and tourism concerns.

The coalition, which has not been formally launched, will provide services to connect, strengthen and advocate for the creative community. It will also help to build partnerships among agencies in order to attract and retain businesses, residents and visitors. Assistance could vary but the nonprofit is there to aid those as small as a single artist to a large organization like the Mystic Seaport.

In December 2012, two simultaneous cultural assessments were undertaken in New London and greater Norwich. Overall, a group of about 40 business, arts, tourism, government and education leaders were consulted. In the end, the creation of a transition team to launch a combined organization serving both areas was decided to be the wisest option. The team is composed of 17 professionals who work in the area.

They are now searching for an executive director who will report to a board of directors and be responsible for the leadership, strategic direction and day-to-day management of the coalition. The director will also develop the coalition’s programs and must later name a board of directors.

“It’s all still very new,” said Lori Robishaw, a consultant to the transition team. “So far there has been a lot of interest but it will probably get larger later in the fall.”

The board will set policy and oversee key operations.

The nonprofit will act as an intermediary, helping artists to make connections with other artists, or to make contact with several entities to create large events. It will also seek to acquire federal and state grants. “We intend to be an economic driver, to advocate for state funding and to seek better artistic opportunities,” Robishaw said.

Those looking to volunteer or who are interested in the program should visit or contact them at

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