In early March, the Board of Trustees announced that they would consider eliminating Green Street Art Center (GSAC) if the University’s endowment continues to plummet. Since then, University and Green Street administrators have made efforts to cut expenses at the center and stress that they will avoid scaling down its various afterschool and arts programs for children and adults in the Middletown community.
“In spite of the economic downturn, Wesleyan remains committed to Green Street Arts Center and other community programs such as the Center for Community Partnerships and Upward Bound to name a few,” wrote Sonia Mañjon, Vice President for Diversity and Strategic Partnerships, in an e-mail to the Argus.
Green Street’s budget for 2009-2010 includes a $50,000 reduction in expenses as a result of some organizational restructuring. The center eliminated the positions of Afterschool Counselor and Afterschool Coordinator, whose responsibilities overlapped to some extent with those of other employees.
In a typical year, Green Street aims to raise about $310,000 in funding from donors, foundations, corporations and banks, explained Mañjon. Expenses not covered by donations and earned revenue are financed by subsidies from Wesleyan, which can run up to $250,000.
“We’ve trimmed the fat and are becoming much more efficient through partnerships and collaborations with other community art organizations including Oddfellows [Playhouse] and the Buttonwood Tree/NEAR [North End Arts Rising],” wrote Mañjon, who also suggested that an increase in Wesleyan student volunteers has contributed to Green Street’s ability to avoid cutting back programs and services. There are about 30 Wesleyan students involved at Green Street, according to Emily Troll ’10, a member of the Green Street Advisory Committee.
The center’s selection as one of ten organizations to receive a $75,000 grant from the Connecticut Health and Educational Facilities Authority in February, 2008 has provided additional financial support and has allowed Green Street to employ new workers, including a licensed social worker, on a contractual basis according to Mañjon.
The arts center was originally established in 2005 through a partnership between the University and Middletown community members, including the North End Action Team (NEAT).
“It started with a tragic shooting that galvanized the community to stand up to do something to reclaim the neighborhood,” Green Street Artistic Director Janis Astor del Valle said.
Wesleyan was able to raise $1.6 million in local, state and federal funding and private donations to renovate the building at 51 Green St., a former elementary school, and transform it into a state-of-the-art community arts center, according to Astor del Valle.
Currently, GSAC offers a K-12 after-school program, which includes art activities led by volunteers, classes taught by professional teaching artists, homework help and opportunities for
Middletown students to interact with each other and with Wesleyan student volunteers. More flexible programs for teens allow them to design activities of their own. Green Street’s facilities include a dance studio, recording studio, music rooms where private lessons are held, computer labs, visual arts rooms, performing spaces and meeting space for the after-school program which is also rented out to other groups, including NEAT.
About 70 Middletown students are enrolled in the program, while the center’s target is 80, said Mañjon. Green Street subsidizes the enrollment of about 95 percent of its student attendees and also provides free transportation from local schools. Volunteers stress that the center remains important to University-Middletown relations.
“The program is a step towards building a bigger community that involves Wesleyan and Middletown and people of all ages,” wrote Troll in an e-mail to the Argus. Events such as community potlucks and weekly “Town Meetings” featuring performances, games and awards have promoted the development of strong relationships between Wesleyan and Green Street students, parents and staff.
Upcoming GSAC events include “Snap, Crackle, Pop,” which GSAC student interns Troll and Alex Hartley ’10 are planning as a display of Wesleyan student involvement in the Afterschool Program on May 7 at 7 pm at Crowell Concert Hall and the Green Street Arts Festival on June 13. According to Mañjon, events like these, which demonstrate the wide variety of programming Green Street offers, are what enables the center to continue to receive funding.