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New Canaan Arts Group Seeks More Income

The New Canaan Society for the Arts hopes that a change in rental rules for the Carriage Barn Arts Center would spur a renaissance for the building and its programs. The group wants to amend rental guidelines for the building, located in Waveny Park next to the Power House Theater.

Under current rules, it can rent the facility only to nonprofit organizations. But group members approached the Parks and Recreation Commission this week about changing that agreement.

Judy Higby, president of the society's Board of Trustees, said a new pool of Carriage Barn users would bring in more money and allow it to offer new programs. This year, the Society for the Arts is operating at a $7,200 loss. Most of its money comes from donor support, membership dues, commissions on art sales, and rentals of the Carriage Barn.

"We need to reach out to different venues in order to sustain ourselves financially," Higby said. "We do get inquiries on a regular basis from local businesses, local corporations and even private individuals who may want to rent this space for an office party or a performance of their own."

Higby said a policy change might attract new arts society members. It has 300 members, down from 1,200 members years ago. "We want to launch more workshops and community-based programs," Higby said. "We have been restricted, by virtue of income, to really just several exhibits a year and an occasional lecture and an occasional concert."

Town officials were receptive to the idea in informal discussions, she said. Should the town agree to the idea, it may change amend its lease terms with the group. It now pays a dollar a year to use the building. "Whatever we are able to do with the town, we'd be more than happy to maintain Waveny," said Nancy Raushcer, an arts society board member and its publicity chairperson. The group is also looking into other sources of revenue, including grants and requests for funding from local foundations.

Should New Canaan allow more groups to use the Carriage Barn Arts Center? Start the conversation by leaving a comment below.

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