Newport This Week

State Grants Will Boost Local Arts, Culture


Artist John La Farge’s designs and artwork include paintings on the walls, ceiling and in details throughout the 1850s building, the former Newport Congregational Church, now a National Historic Landmark. (Photo by Aaron Usher)

Artist John La Farge’s designs and artwork include paintings on the walls, ceiling and in details throughout the 1850s building, the former Newport Congregational Church, now a National Historic Landmark. (Photo by Aaron Usher)

Seven local public and nonprof­it organizations will benefit from recently announced state grant funding approved by Rhode Is­land voters last year. The money comes from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts (RISCA) and the Rhode Island Historical Preserva­tion & Heritage Commission (RI­HPHC), and was awarded to fund capital improvement projects and facilities work at local museums, performance venues, historic sites and more.

“Rhode Island is rich in history, arts and culture, which play a signif­icant role in our economy in every city and town,” said Gov. Dan McK­ee, who announced the funding. “Through this funding, our state will continue to be a leader nation­ally in historic preservation, arts and culture … Thank you to RISCA and RIHPHC for their work to improve the quality of life in our state.”

Locally, the grants will be used to support maintenance and resto­ration of historic architecture and art, and provide ADA-compliant handicap access and facilities. The Newport Art Museum, the New­port Performing Arts Center, The Preservation Society of Newport and the La Farge Restoration Fund are among the grant recipients.

“This support will help us main­tain the integrity of our historic John N.A. Griswold House, and at the same time ensure our new artist-in-residence space is ready for visiting artists who will bring a diversity of artistic voices to our community,” said Norah Diedrich, Newport Art Museum executive director.

A total of $150,000 from RIHPHC and the Alletta Morris McBean Charitable Trust will fund the resto­ration of an Orientalist ceiling dec­oration painted by artist John La Farge in 1881 at the former New­port Congregational Church, now a National Historic Landmark. The substrate on which the decoration was painted dates to the building’s original construction in the 1850s, and has become unstable. Ceiling plaster will be reapplied to hold the piece in place.

“La Farge always wanted … to have artistic control over the entire scope of work, and this was one of the rare opportunities where he was able to do both opalescent and stained glass combined with decoration,” said La Farge Resto­ration Fund president, Paul Miller. “This project is not exactly glamor­ous, but it’s crucial infrastructure work to preserve the art.”

RISCA will receive $94,000 in funding, which will match a Cham­plin Foundation grant to install a handicap-accessible ramp along Spring Street to the north tow­er of the former church, and the addition of an ADA-compliant re­stroom in the lobby.

The Newport Performing Arts Center will use the money toward the next phase of construction of a project to restore the former New­port Opera House on Touro Street.

“We continue to apply for and receive third party funding, which is being allocated to the construc­tion elements of the project,” said John Cratin, chair of the art center’s board of directors. “One project currently underway is the restoration of the historic compo­nents, specifically the proscenium arch. These components are crit­ical in order to ultimately receive the state and federal historic tax credits.”

Seventeen windows and doors at The Elms will be restored through a $74,250 grant funding distributed to The Preservation So­ciety of Newport County. The Elms is also a National Historic Landmark and was designed by famed Gilded Age architect Horace Trumbauer.

Other local institutions to re­ceive funding include the New­port Restoration Foundation, Fort Adams Trust and Island Moving Co. which was one of two organi­zations throughout the state to re­ceive the maximum grant award of $250,000.

Rhode Island voters approved $7 million in funding for such projects through the Cultural Arts and State Preservation Grants Programs bal­lot measure in March 2021. Of the $7 million, $2 million was appro­priated to RISCA for competitive grants, while $1 million went to RIHPHC to fund grants for capital improvements to key historic fa­cilities. Carryover funds from the $30 million ballot measure in 2014, totaling $460,930, were included in the grants being distributed. Both programs require grantees to secure matching funds for their projects.

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