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2012: A Space Odyssey
by Paul Bass | Apr 16, 2012 8:25 am
Posted to: Social Services, Newhallville
They were there to celebrate a new job-training and youth-arts center. They couldn’t stop talking about “space”—as in, “This space is amazing!”
The space was the second floor of 4 Science Park, a one-time storage shed for (apparently) the old Winchester rifle factory’s private fire department.
Today that building is part of the Science Park complex. The second floor was the scene of a jam-packed party Thursday afternoon filled with hope, good vibes, and design awe.
The party celebrated the official opening of the Connecticut Center for Arts & Technology (ConnCAT). Years in the making, ConnCAT, a local affiliate of a successful national urban program, plans to train 100 local unemployed and underemployed adults a year for phlebotomy (blood-drawing) and medical coding and billing jobs; and to run an after-school digital arts and writing program for 100 kids. Heavy charitable hitters like Yale-New Haven Hospital, the Community Foundation, the Seedlings Foundation, First Niagara Bank, and William Graustein helped retired businessman Carlton Highsmith raise the money and know-how to get the project off the ground. (Read a full story on the new center here.)
The exclamations over the rebuilt space—with its high roofs and exposed pipes and bright, airy feel; all in synch with the sense of possibilities, of hope, embodied by the center—were music to the ears of Barry Svigals. His architectural firm designed and renovated the space. Svigals (at left in photo with banker and former city economic development chief Walter Esdaile) had a feeling of deja vu at the party: Twenty years earlier he had rebuilt the same space for a different customer, a successful start-up called International Biotechnologies Inc., which Kodak bought (and eventually moved out of New Haven).
Paul McCraven had deja vu, too. He used to work at Science Park as vice-president of the development corporation there. Now he’s a veep at First Niagara, and heavily involved with ConnCAT. So he was handed a palette to add his strokes to a mural-in-progress at the center’s entrance ...
... which he did, with a flourish. The mural was the guests’ first taste of a labyrinth of colorful, fun, and creative art throughout the center.
City code enforcement chief Rafael Ramos, who introduces Fair Haven kids to theater and takes them on camping trips on his off hours, found himself framed by a mobile of sorts topped with combs and mirrors.
Paintings lined some of the walls. Gripping photos of the last year of Rev. Martin Luther King’s life lined other walls, part of a show by Ben Fernandez called “Countdown to Eternity.”
Natasha Ray brought some understated artistic flair with her: Check out the match between the jacket and the shoes. (She’s at left in the photo, schmoozing with Christian Community Action’s Bonita Grubbs.)
In addition to tastes of art, movers and shakers like Congressional staffer Lou Mangini, Science Park Development Corporation chief David Silverstone, and state economic development staffer Lindy Lee Gold sampled the nouvelle hors d’ouevres making the rounds, in this case ...
... short ribs on potato pancakes topped with horseradish.
DJs Mashario Brown and Ceraldo Samuels sampled the sounds, with some feedback from funeral home director Howard K. Hill (at right in photo) ...
... while Silverstone sampled Business New Haven and New Haven magazine Publisher Mitchell Young’s take on the American jobs challenge that ConnCAT is taking on. (People with college degrees are doing fine, with just 4 percent unemployment, Young pointed out.)
Hillhouse Principal Kermit Carolina (at right in photo), who spends a lot of time helping the kind of kids who’ll be steered to ConnCAT, conferred with ConnCAT’s executive director, Erik Clemons ...
... while Clemons’ partner at ConnCAT, founder and board chair and fundraiser Carlton Highsmith, picked up encouragement from the evening’s star visitor: Bill Strickland, the founder of the National Center for Arts & Technology. A New Haven visit by Strickland in 2008 got the ball rolling on bringing such a center to New Haven. Highsmith (above left, with Strickland) eventually took that ball, and ran.
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