The Darien Foundation awards $100K grant to the Darien Arts Center

Shining a brighter light on local talent: The Darien Foundation awards the Darien Arts Center a grant totaling up to $100,000, in addition to $21,000 funded by DAC donors, to install a state-of-the art lighting system for the DAC Weatherstone Studio

The Darien Arts Center (DAC), dedicated to artistic expression through dance, music, visual arts and theatre, is a vital community resource that draws a considerable number of talented performers, dancers and artists to its stages and studios each year. 

Tucked behind the main entrance to Town Hall, the DAC Weatherstone Studio is the most highly utilized space at the arts center, housing classes, rehearsals, special performances, and fundraising events throughout the year. The studio welcomes 600 dance students annually—as well as numerous theatre, visual arts, and music students—who attend classes and also use the space to perform and show their art work. 

Soon, the DAC will be equipped with a new, state-of-the-art lighting system, thanks to a $100,000 grant from The Darien Foundation. This initiative will help propel the center to new levels in terms of being able to offer more sophisticated performances, said DAC Executive Director, Amy Allen.

“The new system will allow the DAC to undertake more complicated stage lighting to amplify and expand our schedule of live performances, as well as to expand our community collaborations.” Allen added that the new system will be much easier to use. The current lighting equipment can only be operated by a professional working with a trained assistant. However, the new lighting solution will be easy to program, allowing volunteers and interns to operate it. This will create more opportunities for the DAC to partner with Darien High School’s ‘Theater 308’ group to offer internships and allow theatre students to learn about the technical side of the performing arts. Likewise, this new lighting technology will open partnership opportunities with outside arts groups, including East Coast Contemporary Ballet, Falcon Repertory Company, The British Group Theatre, and JIB Productions: Play with Your Food.

The Board of Directors of The Darien Foundation (which provides grants for technology and capital initiatives in Darien), felt that the new system was crucial in helping the DAC to expand its vital role as a creative and cultural resource in town. Said The Darien Foundation Executive Director, Sarah Woodberry, “The new lighting system will use the same state-of-the art technology used in many professional theatres. This will enhance the DAC’s offerings as a cultural community destination, while attracting many more members of the community to participate, spectate, and enjoy the arts.” 

As part of the grant review process a committee of The Darien Foundation board members, Courtney Galligan, Kerrie Kelley, Frank Knapp, and Byrne Pozzi were appointed to partner with the DAC Theatre Lighting Committee to help oversee the project. The DAC representatives on the joint committee include Board President Andrea Jackson, Board Secretary Carolyn Cavolo, Board Member Virginia Hyde, and Board Member Donna Wyant.

Said Pozzi, “Our joint committee meets regularly to review key milestones, progress made, and to anticipate and plan for any challenges that may arise during this process. We are all very excited for the new system to be installed this summer – and to ultimately see all of the talented performers be ‘given the spotlight’ they deserve!”

Professional lighting designer Stuart Duke (originally from Darien), who has extensive experience with regional theatre, opera, dance, architectural lighting, and corporate events, is advising the DAC on the project. Thanks to the generous grant, Duke and the DAC were able to enlist Theatre Projects in South Norwalk, which is renowned internationally as designers of gathering and storytelling spaces for arts, to implement the project.

The improvements, set to begin in June, will include a new forward-compatible control console, an improved dimmer system, and a new lighting solution with LED luminaires/lighting units and dimmable LED houselights, which will be brighter, more energy efficient, and will cost less to operate.

Bonnie Gombos, DAC Dance Director, who has been with the DAC for 25 years explained that the LED houselights will also improve the light in the general studio space where she teaches dance classes, brightening up the dark corners.

Summed up Kelley, “Knowing that this grant will help the DAC attract and retain talent has been important to all of us, and we feel that this improvement is very meaningful to our community. We have all missed the ability to see and appreciate the performing arts. Now more than ever, people are seeking cultural enrichment as we return to being able to do so!” 

Added Allen, “We are incredibly grateful to The Darien Foundation, as well as to our lead donors, for this amazing gift to the DAC and to the arts community in Darien. This reinforces that our community values a culture rich in opportunities in our own backyard to learn and elevate artistic skills. We look forward to even greater community engagement with the DAC.”