Norwalk, CT

Contact Name
Bill Kraus
Project Dates
Ongoing
Workshop Leader
Creative Communities Exchange (CCX) 2013
Tags
Real Estate, Business Planning
Purchase and adapt the historically significant and regionally famous Silvermine Tavern complex as an international, multi-disciplinary, non-profit artist residency program. The 20,000 s.f., four-acre complex will serve 12 artists per session and will also house, a small farm-to-table restaurant and bar integrated with a small demonstration farm. Disciplines served will include, a range of visual and mixed-media artists, writers, composers and culinary artists.

The site's central location in affluent Fairfield County, CT and proximity to New York City (one-hour by train), will facilitate access to local and regional cultural institutions, arts professionals, gallery owners, collectors and the general public.
Project Goals
What were the project goals?
To create an international, multi-disciplinary, non-profit artist residency program that is well-regarded in the arts world and has a significant impact on the cultural and economic landscape of the local and regional community. Our fundraising goal is approximately $4MM.
Have they changed over time?
Over time, the vision has been adapted, refined and somewhat simplified to maximize short-term feasibility
Who are the project partners and stakeholders?
Local artists, foundations, private donors, senior city and state officials, Norwalk Redevelopment Agency, Department of Economic and Community Development/CT Commission on Arts, Culture and Tourism, business groups, community and neighborhood groups.
Project Specifics
How was the project implemented? What were the steps taken?
A local artist and arts patron had the initial inspiration for this idea when the Silvermine Tavern closed and became available for sale. She approached me since she new I had experience developing creative, high-impact project with significant historic buildings often with artists. With her, other artists and arts supporters, I developed the concept, renovation, financing and business plan and engaged the support of the stakeholders described above.
Have they been refined over time?
Launching the fundraising campaign is a significant undertaking. Strategies are still being refined with the help of a professional fundraising consultant.
Obstacles
What were your major obstacles?
Building the necessary critical mass of financial and personal commitment from a diversity of stakeholders without owning or otherwise controlling the site.
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
Representatives of many stakeholder groups taking incremental steps
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
Stakeholders connect to a project for their own reasons so it is critical to understand the other person's/entity's goals, motivations, values, resources and constraints, and assess whether the project is/could be compelling to them.

Balance being creative with keeping it simple.

The right team is critical.
Project Impact
How has this project contributed to creative community building?
We are preparing to launch the formal fundraising campaign, so the project is ongoing. It has begun to knit together a diverse group of stakeholders around a great creative place making vision.

I would also reference other projects I have done that faced somewhat similar obstacles and required similar strategies to complete, which have clearly had significant community impacts. For instance, the Read's Artspace building, which has not only helped build the creative community in Bridgeport CT, but has also been the catalyst for over $200MM of development and investment in its downtown.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
Primarily by pursuing the top three suggestions above with persistence, passion and politeness.
Were there unexpected impacts?
Stronger interest than expected from the State in helping financially.
CCX Workshop Handout