Newest Literary Landmarks: Mark Twain House, Harriet Beecher Stowe Center

Newest Literary Landmarks:  Mark Twain House, Harriet Beecher Stowe Center

The nation’s two newest Literary Landmarks, both in Connecticut, will be announced at ceremonies on October 16. The Mark Twain House & Museum and the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center have been selected to be designees for recognition.  The announcement will be made by the Connecticut Center for the Book, CT Humanities and Hartford Public Library.

Read More

Will Legislature Act to Re-open Highway Rest Stops? Maybe, Maybe Not

Will Legislature Act to Re-open Highway Rest Stops?  Maybe, Maybe Not

Legislative testimony says highway “rest areas are more than a public convenience” - they also “provide a public safety benefit.” Whether the state’s closed rest facilities will re-open is uncertain, as the fate, timing and impact of legislative proposals suggest change may not be imminent.

Read More

Deju Vu As Advocates for More Vibrant Tweed Descend on Capitol

A public hearing this month on a proposal to “eliminate the restriction on the length of Runway 2-20 at Tweed-New Haven Airport, was, in some ways, deju vu all over again, as advocates for ramping up flights in and out of Tweed came to the State Capitol to urge action. A decade ago, in 2009, supporters of the regional airport came to the Capitol seeking state funds to fuel growth.  This year, the focus is on runway expansion to do the same.  The common thread: economic development.

“To realize the region’s full potential as a destination, the airport must improve its infrastructure to support an expanded schedule of flights to additional destinations,” said Ginny Kozlowsi, then president and CEO of the Greater New Haven Convention & visitors Bureau, in 2009.

This month, she was back at the Capitol, as executive director of REX Development:  “The retention and recruitment of businesses are essential for the economic success of Connecticut.  With the limited flights currently available at Tweed new Haven Regional Airport, it is difficult for companies in Southern Connecticut to access current clients, attract talent and secure more business.”

In testimony this month, Garrett Sheehan, the president and CEO of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce, pointed out that “The ability to bring people to New Haven and efficiently travel to other locations would greatly improve if Tweed New Haven Airport had additional flights and destinations. It is our expectation that expanding the runway from 5600 feet to 6600 feet, within the airport’s existing footprint, will open the door for new commercial service at Tweed.”

Sheehan noted that today “business is conducted on a global scale. The New Haven region is home to thriving manufacturers, biotech companies, tech startups, and other important businesses. These companies have employees that travel regularly and customers and suppliers who need to visit.”

He named the local organizations and businesses supporting what he described as “a better Tweed”: Avangrid, Alexion, Arts Council of Greater New Haven, Arvinas, ASSA ABLOY, Biorez, CA White, CT Bio, CT Tourism Coalition, DISTRICT New Haven, Ferguson & McGuire Insurance, Fitstyle by Shana, Marcum, My Language Link, New Haven Manufacturing Association, Prometheus Research, Radiall USA, Inc., Regional Water Authority, Technolutions, The Outtrim Group, Ulbrich Stainless Steels and Special Metals, and Yale New Haven Health.

One of them, ASSA ABLOY, testified ten years ago, when vice president Jack Dwyer stated:  “A clear function of business travel efficiency is proximity to an airport…and having Tweed as a viable alternative is viewed by our management team and owners as being a factor in our ongoing and future success.”

In its testimony this month, Yale New Haven Health senior vice president Vin Petrini, chief policy and communications officer, pointed out that “Yale New Haven Health is currently the largest private employer in Connecticut with more than 25,000 employees located in nearly every town, city and legislative district in the State. We also have the distinction of being the State’s largest taxpayer having paid more than $300 million in provider taxes last year alone.”

Petrini said “Tweed represents the second most underserved region in the nation,” stating that action on the legislation would unleash a “key linchpin in the economic future of the region and the state of Connecticut.”

Ryan Duques, chairman of Madison’s Economic Development Commission, a tech startup managing partner and the former publisher of 15 Connecticut newspapers, and told lawmakers that “Tweed is vital to the economic sustainability of south-central Connecticut,” adding that “it is our expectation that this change will open the door for new commercial service at Tweed with additional destinations and flights.”

The words of former Southern Connecticut State University president Cheryl Norton a decade ago could easily have been said this month: “a robust regional airport would provide another travel option to our crowded roadways and trains.”

Cultural and Historic Sites Receive $3 Million in Waning Weeks of Malloy Administration

Aimed at small to medium-sized cultural organizations seeking funding for “collaborative projects which demonstrate a clear vision of how individual sites and organizations can effectively tie together local, regional or statewide cultural assets,” the Good to Great grant program was created in 2014 during the administration of former Governor Dannel Malloy to “go beyond basic facilities repair or expansion to support projects that tell the stories of our cultural and historic sites in engaging, meaningful and relevant ways.” The final round of grants – unless the program is renewed by the Lamont administration – were announced less than three weeks prior to the change in gubernatorial leadership.   The Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) announced $3,051,971 in grants to 12 nonprofit organizations through the program in late December.

The grants may be used for capital projects that address the rehabilitation and/or adaptive re-use of existing facilities that will transform the visitor experience, site work associated with rehabilitation projects or additions, rehabilitation of historic landscapes, or protection and/or interpretation of archaeological sites.  Other appropriate uses include artists’ fees, conservator fees, construction costs, ADA accessibility, evaluation services and documentation and exhibit scripts, fabrication and installation to complement capital improvement.

The grants range between $50,000 and $150,000 and require a 25 percent cash match; grantees will have two years from date of grant contract to complete the funded project.  Applicants for the state grant must be a Connecticut 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(13) organization that owns, operates and/or sponsors a cultural venue or historic site in Connecticut with an average annual income of $500,000 or less.

The just under-the-wire recipients:

  • The New England Carousel Museum in Bristol was awarded $150,000 to install a new energy-efficient, air-handling system with humidity control to protect the Museum's collection and improve the visitors' experience.
  • The Connecticut Electric Railway Association (aka The Connecticut Trolley Museum) in East Windsor was awarded $50,000 to complete the on-going restoration of one of theMuseum's most historically significant trolleys - Connecticut Company Car #3001.
  • The Friends of the Pinney House, Inc. in Ellington was awarded $150,000 for the interior restoration of the Pinney House so it can be used as a cultural center, a meeting place and an education site.
  • Ebony Horsewomen Inc. in Hartford was awarded $50,000 to erect a pre-fab barn building to create a meeting & classroom space and a mini Black Cowboy Museum.
  • The Madison Historical Society was awarded $138,600 for the restoration and preservation of the interior of Lee's Academy and to create an ADA-compatible learning and community center.
  • The Denison Society, Inc. (aka Denison Homestead) in Mystic was awarded $150,000 to restore the Homestead's barn so that it may provide areas for programs, workshops and community events.
  • The Norfolk Historical Society was awarded $60,546 to redesign the welcome/reception area, reinterpret gallery space and reclaim research space.
  • The Keeler Tavern Preservation Society, Inc. (aka Keeler Tavern Museum & History Center) in Ridgefield was awarded $96,575 for facility improvements (climate controlled, fire-protected, well-designed storage) for its most fragile objects that relate directly to major moments in U.S. history.
  • The Stonington Historical Society (aka Old Lighthouse Museum) was awarded $56,250 for a comprehensive research effort and the commission of an archeological survey of a potential Venture Smith site; creation of a permanent Venture Smith and slavery exhibit at Old Lighthouse Museum.
  • The Ward Heitmann House Museum Foundation, Inc. (aka Ward Heitmann House Museum) in West Haven was awarded $150,000 to repair the foundation and exterior along with period appropriate landscaping so the House can reopen its doors to the public.
  • The Eastern Connecticut Center for History, Art and Performance (aka EC-CHAP) in Willington was awarded $1,000,000 to preserve and rehabilitate two secondary buildings for use again as an in-residence artist and a café and conduct a water mitigation plan for the main structure.
  • The Mary & Eliza Freeman Center for History and Community in Bridgeport was awarded $1,000,000 for the exterior restoration of both structures, as well as the interior restoration of the Eliza Freeman House.

The grant award recipients constituted the final announcement of 2018 by the state Department of Economic and Community Development.  Nineteen days later, Gov. Lamont took the oath of office.  He is expected to announce the department's new leadership and management structure in the coming days.

UConn Adds Major in Arabic and Islamic Civilizations; Southern Expands Drone Applications to Academic Minor

If you’re wondering about the degree to which Connecticut universities are keeping up with world trends, the University of Connecticut and Southern Connecticut State University seem to indicate the answer is yes. UConn has approved a new major in Arabic and Islamic civilizations, developed to equip students with a working knowledge of the Arabic language, and allow them to explore classical Islamic civilizations, as well as the literature, culture, heritage, and intellectual life of the modern Arab world.

The program, housed in the Department of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, stresses the many different aspects of the Arab world, and the different linguistic, cultural, and religious traditions that shaped it.

At Southern, a new interdisciplinary minor in Drone Applications has a decidedly journalistic flavor, but extends to provide a basis for careers utilizing the rapidly unfolding drone technology.

Approved by the UConn Board of Trustees this summer, the Arabic and Islamic civilizations major appeals to students who are studying in many other areas, including the sciences. Some students are native speakers of Arabic or have a Muslim background; others are not sure what it means to be “Arab” or to be “Muslim,” and so come to learn, according to program director and assistant professor of literatures, cultures, and languages Nicola Carpentieri, who spoke recently with UConn Today.

UConn is unusual in offering such a robust program in the language.  “The program is unique in the U.S. in that we delve so much into Arabic literature, poetics, and other cultural aspects such as music, science, art, and architecture,” Carpentieri noted. “That’s what sets it apart.”

“Students in our classes come from all majors, but they are curious and motivated students,” Carpentieri said. “They may have seen bad press about the Arab world. But they’re open-minded, and aware that simplistic divisions are fabrications. We want to shatter the binaries of East and West.”

Students in the program take courses in both classical Arabic, or the formal version of the language used in education and literature, and other dialects, like Media Arabic and Levantine Arabic. It’s especially useful to learn these types of “street language,” Carpentieri points out.

Unlike most other languages, Arabic gives its speakers access to many different nations and cultures, including Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and others. In addition, students in the major will learn about the many influences that Muslim conquests had on the Europe we know today.

The Journalism Department at Southern now offers an interdisciplinary minor with the Geography Department in Drone Applications. Students study how drones (small unmanned aerial systems) are employed for geography, environmental sciences, journalism and other industries. This interdisciplinary minor prepares students with the fundamental knowledge, skills and experience in the technological, legal and ethical considerations and applications of drones in various fields.

The minor is aimed at students who are interested in learning about emerging drone technologies and how they can be applied to professional settings. It complements environmental sciences, geography, journalism and communication programs.

The 18-credit minor requires courses such as Basic Drone Technology, Drone Journalism, Introduction to GIS and Remote Sensing or Advanced Drone Journalism.

The coursework focuses on flying drones for the purposes of news gathering in both image and data applications and includes the legal, ethical, and safety requirements for flying drones and reviewing necessary requirements for getting licensed by the FAA.

The drone courses are taught by Assistant Professor of Journalism Vern Williams, who has more than two decades in news photography and served as photo director of the New Haven Register for 15 years, where he supervised the photographic and video coverage of the news. His teaching experience includes work at Southeastern Associated Press Managing Editors Association, University of South Carolina, and Cornell University.

2017 Was A No-Growth Year for CT Hotel Industry; 2018 Brings Lower Rates

The Connecticut Lodging Association reports that the state’s hotel and lodging occupancy numbers were flat in 2017, with “little to no growth.”  The state’s occupancy numbers have “considerable room to grow” this year, in comparison to the New England Market.  The membership association also notes that one of the traditionally strongest regions of the state, the Stamford market, declined in 2017, while the neighboring New York market remained stable. “The Stamford market historically has the highest occupancy numbers in Connecticut,” officials point out, noting that “with business travel, leisure and New York City overflow, this market is generally stable and measure equal occupancy to New England’s numbers.  That wasn’t true in 2017, and they warn that “Stamford’s declining trend may be a forecast for other Connecticut markets.”

Overall, data for Connecticut compiled by the American Hotel & Lodging Association indicate that the state’s 400 properties in the hotel industry generate 55,000 hospitality jobs and 27,00 hotel hobs, which result in $4.4 billion guest spending at hotels, local businesses and on transportation.  The industry contributes $5.1 billion to GDP.

Connecticut has the highest combined lodging and sales tax in the nation at 15 percent, according to HVS Convention, Sports & Entertainment’s most recent state-by-state study in 2017, one of just five states in double digits along with Maine, Hawaii, Rhode Island and New Jersey.

Adding in local lodgings taxes in many cities nationally — Connecticut law does not allow it — 34 cities have higher combined rates than in Connecticut, HVS determined, none in the Northeast. St. Louis led the nation in 2017 at nearly 18 percent, with New York City highest in the Northeast with a 14.75 percent rate that is only a fraction below that of Connecticut, Hearst newspapers recently reported.

Earlier this month, a survey by found that Hartford and Stamford hotels offer the lowest rates for travelers in New England, with hotel stays averaging $107 per night in the Capitol City and $126 in Stamford. Among the other New England cities with low hotel rates are in North Conway, N.H. ($117), Groton ($119), and Lincoln, N.H. ($124).

The survey reviewed hotel rates at 30 popular destinations in New England during August. Hotels in New Haven ranked 19th (most expensive in Connecticut) with rooms averaging $174 a day and Mystic at 21st with rooms costing $168.

The most expensive in New England?  Martha's Vineyard, Mass. ($362), Kennebunkport, Maine ($347), Chatham, Mass. ($324), Portland, Maine ($294) and Provincetown, Mass. ($284). Boston ranked 9th, at $224.



Town Centers Gain Recognition, Walkability Highlighted

Connecticut’s official state tourism site is touting the virtues of visiting six “walkable town centers” in the state, noting that the state “has many town centers where a nice ramble takes you to shops, restaurants, galleries, museums and even a park bench or two.” The number 1 location in the state, according to the website, is West Hartford Center.  Also highlighted are New Canaan, New Haven’s Chapel Street, Chester, Greenwich Avenue in Greenwich, and Litchfield.

Each of the six locations is highlighted on the site with information on attractions, events, restaurants, accommodations and shopping.

Of West Hartford Center, the state website says “the intersection of Farmington Avenue and South Main Street in West Hartford can lead you to many shopping or dining pleasures, and eventually to the adjacent Blue Back Square.”

New Canaan is described as “this classic commuter town,” which “has an appealing downtown and many restaurants, especially in the triangle formed by Main, Locust and Forest Streets.  Lots of places to shop, too.”

Describing Chapel Street in New Haven, the website suggests “you can truly spend an entire day (and night) without getting off Chapel Street.”  Chester, the website notes, has “small-town charm you’re looking for,” including “tasteful little shops and an interesting variety of restaurants.”

When the website Redfin compiled their latest list of most walkable cities, Hartford made the list.  With a walk score of 71, transit score of 54 and bike score of 53, the site noted the state’s Capital City as having an average walk score, good public transportation and “somewhat bikable.”  The most walkable neighborhoods named were Downtown, South Green and Frog Hollow, and the review of the city indicated that “most errands can be accomplished on foot in Hartford.”

New Haven received a walk score of 68 and a bike score of 66.  Both New Haven and Hartford (more recently) have launched bike exchange programs within the past year.  Bridgeport also received a walk score of 68, along with a bike score of 50.  Stamford earned a walk score of 54, bike score of 39 and transit score of 38.  Waterbury’s walk score was 49; bike score was 25.  Danbury’s walk score was 38.

The walk scores for cities across the country were grouped from 90-100 (walker’s paradise), 70-89 (very walkable), 50-69 (somewhat walkable), 25-49 (car dependent), to 0-24 (very car dependent).

The top bike friendly cities are Minneapolis, Portland, Chicago, Denver and San Francisco.  The most transit friendly are New York, San Francisco, Boston, Washington, DC, and Philadelphia.  The most walkable are New York, San Francisco, Boston, Miami and Philadelphia.

After 100 Year Absence, National Association of the Deaf to Meet in Hartford This Summer

For the first time in a century, the biennial conference of the National Association of the Deaf returns to Hartford this summer. The conference was first held in the United States since 1880, and has been held every two years for the past 50 years.  The 1917 conference was the only appearance in Hartford.

The 2018 edition, July 3-7, 2018, will feature multiple education tracks, seminars and workshops, including specific training sessions in racial justice and “the real way to be normal a round deafblind people.” The conference will begin with “an inspiring Opening Ceremony” honoring 200 years of “deaf education and contributions made in our community,” conference organizers indicate.

NAD President Melissa S. Draganac-Hawk said “The location and timing of the conference has a special significance, the 200th Anniversary of the founding of American School for the Deaf in Hartford.  This momentous event also served as the basis for the conference theme.  The serialized signs memorialize the main effects of the partnership between Thomas Gallaudet and Laurent Clerc in laying the groundwork for Deaf Education in America.”

Sessions include Best Practices for Communication Accessibility at Professional Sports Venues, Navigating the Gray Areas of Hearing-Deaf Dynamics, Achieving Legal Recognition of Sign Languages, and Entrepreneurship for All, among nearly 50 choices available to conference attendees. Workshop papers presented at the conference will include career and professional development topics as well as personal development, among the tracks offered. For instance, typical workshops include those on workplace interpersonal dynamics, career advancement, leadership and communication abilities, networking skills, and more.

The 54th NAD Conference will be held at the Connecticut Convention Center.  The NAD will partner with three other organizations during this conference — the National Deaf Education Conference (NDEC) will be hosting their conference and will handle and take charge of the Education track; Deaf In Government will handle and take charge of Government Employment Training (GET); and the Registry of Interpreters (RID) Region I will handle and take charge of the Interpreting track. The remaining education tracks are the responsibility of the NAD.

Delegates to the  Biennial Conference are members of State Associations and Affiliated Non Profit Organizations (NPOs) who are attending from throughout the country, and participating in the organization’s Council of Representatives.  Biennial NAD Conferences are specifically tailored for deaf, deaf-blind, late-deaf, hard of hearing and hearing consumers, educators, professionals, and business owners and managers.

The conference will also feature an exhibit hall that will be open to the public.  Organizers predict that more than 2,000 people are expected to come and browse through the products and services that will be featured.

The NAD was established in 1880 by deaf leaders who believed in the right of the American deaf community to use sign language, to congregate on issues important to them, and to have its interests represented at the national level. The NAD today ensures that the needs and concerns of the nation’s deaf and hard of hearing community are well represented on the federal level through collaborative and cross disability efforts with consumer based and professional organizations.

In recent years, Atlanta was the 2014 host and Phoenix was the location in 2016.  Two years from now, the conference will be conducted in Chicago. The NAD mission is “to preserve the civil, human, and linguistic rights of deaf and hard of hearing people.”

CT Arts Organizations to Participate in Make Music Day on June 21, Joining 800 Communities in 120 Countries

A year ago, over 800 cities around the world threw citywide music celebrations on June 21. Three decades after the concept was born in France, the Make Music celebrations has spread throughout the world and is now marked in more than 120 countries.  Later this spring, it arrives in Connecticut for the first time.

Make Music Connecticut will feature an eclectic mix of over 250 free outdoor musical events, and is part of Make Music Day, a global music celebration that takes place on the summer solstice each year and brings people of all ages and skill levels together to make music.

In addition to Connecticut, more than 70 U.S. cities will collectively host thousands of Make Music performances. The event is not a concert, or series of concerts, organizers point out.  Any musician, amateur or professional, young or old, is invited to take part by signing up at Registration closes on May 21, 2018.

In addition, Connecticut businesses, buildings, schools, churches, and other institutions can visit the website to offer their outdoor spaces as concert locations.  It is the world’s largest annual music event.

The event was held for the first time in North America 11 years ago.  The numbers continue to grow.  On June 21, 2017, 53 North American cities organized 4,138 free concerts at 1,179 locations.

Each Make Music city is independently organized. Often it’s a local community group, media outlet, arts presenter, government agency, or civic leader who champions the musical holiday in their hometown.

Make Music Day Connecticut is being administered in partnership with the Connecticut Office of the Arts and the following organizations: Greater Hartford Arts Council, Southeastern Connecticut Cultural Coalition, The Arts Council of Greater New Haven, Windham Arts, Stamford Downtown, Middletown Commission on the Arts, Northwest Connecticut Arts Council, Fairfield Theatre Company, Waterbury Symphony Orchestra, the City of Waterbury and City Lights Gallery in Bridgeport.

The plan at the  Greater Hartford Arts Council is for “sidewalks, parks, front porches, and public spaces throughout the city” to become “stages for local musicians to perform and for all to enjoy.” Registration has opened, with  matchmaking software in place for musicians to register, create profiles and find a match for their Make Music Hartford performance.  Similar initiatives are being launched by the other participating Connecticut organizations.  Circle June 21 on the calendar!  Wherever you are in Connecticut, music won't be too far away.

Eversource Hartford Marathon Brought $14.5 Million in Economic Benefit to Region in 2017

Just four years ago, in 2014, there was a title sponsor changing-of-the-guard at Connecticut’s premier spectator sporting events, as Eversource took over sponsorship of the Hartford Marathon, Travelers stepped in to save the state’s PGA Tour event (now the Travelers Championship), and United Technologies took the lead sponsorship that same year of what had been the Pilot Pen tennis tournament, now renamed as the Connecticut Open. Aside from a source of pride in maintaining marquee sporting events, the economic impact of the events continue to underscore the significance of local corporations coming through to sustain the events.

The latest evidence comes with news that the Hartford Marathon Foundation’s 2017 Eversource Hartford Marathon, Half Marathon, Team 26.2 Relay and Charity 5K brought an estimated $14.5 million of economic value to the area over the course of race weekend.  That figure is up from an estimated $13.6 million in 2015.  Eversource is signed on as title sponsor through 2019.

Official indicated that the Hartford Marathon Foundation (HMF) spent approximately $1 million to produce the Saturday, October 14th race in 2017, primarily working with local vendors and service providers.

In addition to a local economic boost to the city of Hartford and surrounding communities, the marathon drew 71,780 spectators, participants and volunteers to the area. Officials point out that runners, friends and families stayed in Hartford lodging, shopped in the area and dined in local restaurants. Significantly, 87 percent of participants visited Hartford primarily for the event. Of those traveling from out of state, 44 percent were visiting the city for the first time, officials specified.

Thousands of runners are motivated to use the race to raise funds on behalf of various charities and causes. Through these efforts more than $288,000 was raised and reported by the event’s 20 official charities and other groups, although charity fundraising is not required to be reported, so the true numbers may be higher.

The annual Travelers Championship has an annual economic impact on the state of $68.2 million, according to a recent study by Connecticut Economic Resource Center, Inc. (CERC). An economic impact study conducted a decade ago, in 2008, found that the tennis tournament predecessor to the Connecticut Open contributed approximately $26 million to the regional economy, including $10 million in local economic impact.

The Hartford Marathon will mark its 25th running on October 13, 2018.  The 2018 Travelers Championship, will be held June 18-24 at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell.  The Connecticut Open, at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale, will be held August 17-25 in 2018.

“We’re proud to host people from across the country to achieve personal goals and celebrate their accomplishments,” said Beth Shluger, CEO of the Hartford Marathon Foundation and Race Director of the Eversource Hartford Marathon and Half Marathon. “We are able to highlight the best of what the capitol region has to offer in a positive and truly inspiring event that allows tens of thousands to run, walk, volunteer or spectate. We are excited to be celebrating our 25th running in October 2018 and hope to create an even bigger positive impact through this milestone event.”

The Hartford Marathon Foundation also produces more than 30 events through the year, many that contribute to other organizations’ community fundraising goals.  The 2017 Mystic Half Marathon and 10K in May 2017 generated $28,000 to benefit the charitable works of the Mystic Rotary Club.  Additional fundraising events HMF was contracted to produce races for in 2017 include the Mahoney Sabol 5K to benefit Hospital for Special Care, CT Race in the Park to benefit CT Breast Health Initiative, Zero Prostate 5K to benefit ZERO - The End of Prostate Cancer, Achilles CT Hope & Possibility 5K & 10K to benefit Achilles International – CT Chapter, Pumpkin Run/Walk to benefit Youth & Family Services of Haddam-Killingworth, Inc. and the Norwich Winterfest 5K to benefit Reliance Health, Inc.