The Rhode Island Foundation awarded more than $53,000 in grants to fund six neighborhood-based projects in Newport County. The work ranges from supporting community gardens in Jamestown and Newport to enhancing community spaces in Little Compton and Newport.
“Our grants will create places to gather, make friendships and launch new collaborations that will build community connections everywhere,” said Jessica David, executive vice president of strategy and community investments.
Aquidneck Community Table (ACT) received $10,000 to expand school and community gardens and programming in Newport and Middletown. ACT partners with Pell Elementary School, the Newport Housing Authority, the Newport Health Equity Zone, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, Bike Newport and other organizations to expand access to healthy food for all residents of the island.
“We teach young and old how to grow their own food using environmentally responsible and sustainable methods. Nothing compares with the excitement of young students discovering the miracle of a seed, or tasting the fresh flavors of vegetables they grew themselves,” said Bevan Linsley, ACT’s director.
“We regularly hear from teachers and parents about the benefits of gardening, both for the willingness it inspires in children to add more fresh produce to their diets, but also for the sense of peace and health that working in the earth brings to all,” she said.
The Conanicut Island Land Trust in Jamestown received $4,000 to help support the 10,000-square-foot pollinator garden at Godena Farm on North Main Road. The garden provides pollen and nectar that sustains approximately 150,000 honey bees and five hives as well as thousands of native bumble bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.
“The gardens use only native flowers and shrubs that have co-evolved over thousands of years with native insects, butterflies and birds. As a result, the pollinators are attracted to the flowers, and the flowers benefit from the pollen transfer carried from plant to plant. It is an ideal situation for both,” said Quentin Anthony, president.
“Our gardens at Godena are a perfect model and classroom for every homeowner hoping to create a more productive habitat to sustain the natural world. It is really a new way of thinking about gardening,” he said.
The Jamestown Arts Center (JAC) received $10,000 to support its Outdoor Arts Experience (OAE), an island-wide public art installation celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2020. The funding will be used to construct a permanent sculpture pad at JAC, to engage an artist to install an artwork and to promote the request for proposals to artists.
“The OAE project not only celebrates our 10th anniversary and our unique island home, it also brings art out into the community in a way that is celebratory, inclusive and accessible,” said Lisa Utman Randall, executive director. “Having the infrastructure to install sculptures on a rotating basis on our property will allow us to engage the community in public art, and will bring awareness to the larger, island-wide installation in 2020.”
The Little Compton Community Center received $10,000 to revitalize its communal theater space. The Community Center is a central gathering place for residents and organizations. Each week, the center hosts over 80 hours of community use with the theater often being a central feature of those programs and events.
“This funding, combined with a matching private donation, will bring our 20-year old lighting, sound and visual equipment into the modern era and dramatically improve the presentation of and the enjoyment of programs in the theater,” said Doug Orville, executive director.
“Replacing and upgrading the lighting, visual and sound equipment will make the programs and events more successful for the whole community,” he said.
The PLACE in Portsmouth received $9,337 to support theater, dance and music performances and workshops, including yoga dance, expressive movement and sounding circle drumming. In addition, there are plans for an afterschool chorus program for school children and a women’s choir.
“Many gifts of joy and personal healing come from exploring and experimenting with opportunities for creative expression,” said The PLACE’s Rose Escobar. “Our goal here is to offer venues for increasing the wellbeing of our citizens through the expressive creative arts serving our community and beyond.”
The Salvation Army of Newport received $10,000 to purchase a new full-sized wall-mounted projection screen and modernized audio-video system for its community center at 51 Memorial Boulevard. The updated video system is expected to strengthen the effectiveness of its programs and improve the quality of presentations made to program participants.
“We are thrilled to be awarded a Community Grant to provide much needed technological improvements to our audio-video system. The new equipment will greatly enhance our ability to reach out to more people and our technology will finally be on par with other nonprofits in the area,” said LeNissa Rivera, corps officer for Newport.
“We are excited for the opportunities that the sound system project funding will bring, most notably we already have plans to sponsor community movie nights and to run informational videos so clients see additional opportunities available to them with us and in the larger Newport community,” she said.
The recipients were selected from more than 100 applicants statewide. The maximum grant was $10,000. Most of the work is expected to be underway before the end of the year.
“We’re excited about these ideas for making community happen in more and better ways at the local level. Supporting community-building will improve shared places and quality of life, promote collaboration and increase community engagement,” said the Foundation’s David.