Garde Arts Center receives $830,000 federal boost

·2 min read

Jul. 23—NEW LONDON — Down but not out, the Garde Arts Center will raise its curtains again and welcome the public back on Aug. 4 when it presents its "Winter in the Summer" cinema series.

Garde Executive Director Steve Sigel says the fact the nonprofit was able to survive the coronavirus pandemic this long without live audiences is a testament not only to support from the community but due in no small part to help from the federal government.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal was at the Garde on Friday to announce the theater is the recipient of a $830,000 grant through the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program. The program includes $16 billion in grants to venues closed during the COVID-19 pandemic and is administered through the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The Garde, a 1,400-seat institution in New London that opened its doors as a movie theater in the 1920s, has been mostly closed to the general public since March 13, 2020, though trying to find safe ways to use its space.

Sigel said the federal funds will allow the theater to recoup expenses over the past year, pay off debt and help fund a reopening. The first live act, Melissa Etheridge, will happen on Sept. 5.

Blumenthal said Sigel has been a strong advocate for the arts not only in New London but across the state.

Sigel had traveled with Blumenthal throughout the state, mobilizing the arts community during his initial push for federal funding through what was then known as the Save Our Stages Act.

"The more I went around the more inspired and passionate I became about this cause," Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal was joined on the Garde Arts stage on Friday by Mayor Michael Passero, Rod Cornish, Councilor Curtis Goodwin and Catherine Marx, Connecticut SBA district director.

Cornish, a Garde board member and owner of Hot Rod Cafe, said downtown businesses reap the benefits of having a major draw like the Garde. Others called the Garde and similar cultural institutions and venues economic drivers or force multipliers.

Goodwin, founder of the New London Talent Show, spoke about how the Garde changed his life and was a positive influence in the lives of countless youth.

Marx said $90 million in federal pandemic funding to 122 institutions has been distributed to Connecticut institutions.

g.smith@theday.com

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