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Grants aim to keep history afloat

Erie Canalway grants awarded to three area organizations

Rep. Paul Tonko speaks about the importance of connecting people to the Erie Canal’s history on Friday, Jan. 18, at Proctors. Nine organizations were awarded grants for projects tied to the canal’s heritage.

Rep. Paul Tonko speaks about the importance of connecting people to the Erie Canal’s history on Friday, Jan. 18, at Proctors. Nine organizations were awarded grants for projects tied to the canal’s heritage. Photo by John Purcell.

— A series of projects aimed at connecting people to the Erie Canal through exhibits, artistic performances and by pedaling across rural countryside are closer to becoming a reality.

The Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor announced $45,800 in grants awarded to nine organizations throughout the state at Proctors on Friday, Jan. 18. Three Capital District organizations will receive a total of $17,500: the American Locomotive Company Heritage Museum, Capital Repertory Theater and the New York State Bicycling Coalition. The grants will be used for projects connecting people to the Erie Canal’s history.

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Ceremonial checks were presented to local Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor grant recipients on Friday, Jan. 18.

Beth Sciumeca, executive director of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, said grants proved successful after funds were first awarded last year to seven organizations.

“They are just doing really interesting things to share our history, educate students and showcase everything that the Heritage Corridor has to offer,” Sciumeca said. “We are really looking forward to building on that with this round of awardees.”

The ALCO Heritage museum in Schenectady is receiving $4,500 to develop a permanent exhibit exploring how the state’s early 19th century canals and railroads were connected. Museum Director Jim Cesare said the “interpretative and educational” exhibit is planned to be completed by September to welcome children as they head back to school.

Capital Repertory Theater was awarded $7,000 to support a five-week performance tour telling the story of African Americans who participated in Upstate New York’s Underground Railroad, which led thousands of slaves to freedom. Producing Artistic Director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill said its educational programs reach children throughout 14 counties and it has three programs focusing on Upstate waterways.

“These are stories we believe are important and we love telling them,” Mancinelli-Cahill said. “Because of this grant we can go to schools that could not otherwise afford it and we can go to community centers and offer our program, sometimes at no cost, so that we can reach people with this very powerful message.”

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