News Times Article

Grant will fund Danbury Conference for artists with illness or injury

News-Times, The (Danbury, CT)

Date: April 15, 2009
Section: News Local
Article ID: 12148785

Grant will fund Danbury conference for artists with illness or injury
Author: Eileen FitzGerald Staff Writer

DANBURY -- What's it like for an artist who has a new illness or injury that affects his ability to execute the ideas he envisions? That's a question Danbury schools arts coordinator Joel Levitt first faced when he was treated for the benign spinal tumors he developed last year. The surgery to remove them permanently damaged his fine motor skills and shut the door to his retirement goal of returning to the artwork he put aside while a school administrator. It's a question Levitt will pose in a conference he will hold thanks to a $5,000 special grant from the Art Renewal for Teachers award program. "This is for those artists and musicians and dancers and filmmakers who are in-mid career and find their art forms have been challenged by new physical circumstances," Levitt said Tuesday. "It poses the question, where do we go from that place? Where do we go when our art is challenged?" Levitt, who spent 37 years in education, including his last 29 years as an arts administrator for the Danbury public schools, plans to include doctors from Danbury Hospital as well as educators and artists at the conference. He's motivated to pursue this issue because he could not find any organization that deals with people whose injury impacts their ability to do their art form. "Artistry is housed in the brain, but it is totally dependent on fine motor skills, whether for writing, playing music or fine art," he said. "We're actually dependent on our physical ability." Besides Levitt's Special ART Outreach Award, awards were given to eight teachers during a ceremony April 5 at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme. Donna Marie Benner, an art teacher at Shelter Rock School in Danbury, received a grant so she can attend an Art New England painting and drawing workshop. The Philanthropic Initiative developed and manages the grant program that provides visual artists who are teachers the opportunity to explore something that has nothing to do with students but will enrich their teaching. It's the 10th year of the program and the first year it was opened beyond Litchfield and Hartford counties to teachers across the state. Teachers were invited to submit proposals, and grants were awarded on a competitive basis, with the maximum grant $5,000. Levitt's proposal was outside the grant's parameters. "He was not eligible for a typical award, but the reviewers thought it was a great idea, since it was addressing an under-served population,'' said Liza Sutherland, program associate for the Philanthropic Initiative. "It's the first-of-its-kind arts program and it's the first time we've done this. We'll see what comes next." Jim Coutre, vice president of the Philanthropic Initiative, said Levitt's idea was the kind of opportunity the grantors thought was important to fund. "It (retirement) will be different than what I predicted. I can still create,'' Levitt said, and through the work for the grant he will begin to renew himself as an artist. "I'm very excited. I hope this leads to an active retirement.'' Those interested in the project should contact Joel Levitt at Contact Eileen FitzGerald at or at (203) 731-3333.۩

1 comment:

  1. Great Job on this blog Joel. I really believe you will help a lot of "Artist in Transition." Your creativity is already finding a voice in this new endeavor.