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November 7, 2012

Historic village lands operational grant from Kresge Foundation

By Terry Oparka
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
Historic interpreter Matthew Hackett leads the effort to harvest the Pioneer Garden at the Troy Historic Village.

A recent windfall will help the Troy Historical Society meet day-to-day operating expenses at the Troy Historic Village as the nonprofit looks at ways to stay sustainable going forward.

The Kresge Foundation recently awarded the Troy Historical Society a Detroit Arts Support grant of $30,000 throughout two years. The Troy Historic Village took over operation of the city-owned Troy Historic Village in July of 2011 after city leaders said they could not fund operations or programs at the site, due to budget constraints.

Loraine Campbell, director of the Troy Historic Village, explained that most grants provide funding for special projects at arts and cultural venues, rather than operating expenses. However, funds from the Kresge grant may be used for operational expenses, such as salaries, marketing and supplies.

“This is a significant grant,” she said. According to Campbell, the Kresge Foundation awarded the historic village the maximum allowed under their formula —  about 10 percent of the venue’s yearly budget of $300,000 — although it’s distributed over two years.

“The entire cultural and arts community applauds Kresge for this extraordinary opportunity,” Campbell said.

The foundation awarded the grants to 66 arts and cultural organizations in metro Detroit. George Jacobsen, Kresge associate program officer, said in a prepared statement that the Detroit Arts Support grants weren’t created specifically to help arts organizations during the economic downturn. “But it’s clear that they’ve provided some stability in a difficult period,” he said.

The Troy Historical Society also received $1,871 this past September from the Brooksie Way Mini-Grant program, which is funded by the proceeds of the annual Brooksie Way Half Marathon that takes place each fall in Rochester. The mini-grants support projects that promote healthy and active lifestyles in Oakland County. The historical society plans to purchase old-fashioned traditional outdoor toys and games like jump ropes, hula-hoops, jacks, marbles and other lawn games with that funding. The outdoor games will be used for the Games on the Green program for children next summer.

“We’re in better shape than we were a year and a half ago,” Campbell said. “We’re still not back to the hours of operation, as in the past.”

The budget for the historic village was $500,000 a year when the city funded it, and the venue was open for regular hours Monday through Saturday and also Sundays during the summer. It now operates regular hours of 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday.

Campbell said the historical society was very serious about building on those programs that were successful and pushing where they excel.

Campbell said a $75,000 stipend from the city budget this past July for operations and programs at the historic village has allowed the historical society to hire two recent Oakland University graduates to work as paid interns to market the venue and its programs.

“We know that people love our programs, once they are involved.” Campbell said. “We need to do a better job of making the community at large in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne County, aware of who we are and what we’re doing. That’s a big thrust for us this year.”

John Lavender, Troy Historical Society treasurer, praised the staff at the historic village for keeping the lid on costs.

He noted that the Troy Historical Society has been around since 1966, and having an organizational structure in place when the city defunded the venue was a major advantage.

That said, Lavender said that it’s been a learning experience for the Troy Historical Society Board of Trustees to oversee management of the historic village.

“It’s like running a small business, and most of us had no experience,” he said. “I think we’ve done very well for our first year of operation.”

He said he’s still amazed when people tell him they’ve lived in Troy for (more than) 10 years and they’ve driven by the Troy Historic Village but never knew what it was.

“We plan to work on marketing,” he said. The board will also work to improve the quality of current programs and offer more programs with the aim to boost participation, Lavender said.

Upcoming events at the Troy Historic Village include the Thursdays Tea at Two program, Tea with the Tudors at 2 p.m. Nov. 29, evening lecture series on the War of 1812 at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 14 and the popular Old-Fashioned Christmas from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 1.

The Troy Historic Village is located at 60 W. Wattles. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for seniors and children 6-12. Children under 6 are free. Information programs are available online at www.troyhistoricvillage.org. For information, call (248) 524-3570.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Terry Oparka at toparka@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1054.