Florence Griswold Museum Receives $1M Grant

Old Lyme, CT – The Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, Connecticut, was recently awarded a $1 million grant from the Robert F. Schumann Foundation. The grant will allow the Museum to implement a transformative landscape master plan designed to completely re-envision how the historic landscape is interpreted by providing visitors with a more authentic sense of the Lyme Art Colony painters’ interaction with the land and the site’s agrarian past. Robert Schumann was a devoted trustee and patron of the Museum for nearly two decades. Museum staff seeks to honor Schumann's legacy as an avid naturalist and philanthropist by dedicating a major component of the project in his honor.
At the turn of the last century, Impressionist painters gathered at Florence Griswold's boardinghouse along the Lieutenant River in Old Lyme to capture the landscape on canvas, forging an art colony that would become the nation's center of American Impressionism. Today, the Florence Griswold Museum celebrates that rich tradition as a nationally accredited museum fostering the understanding of American art, emphasizing the art, history and landscape of Connecticut. The Museum stands at a pivotal moment in its history. Concurrent with years of visitation growth has been the enlargement of the historic site’s footprint, which culminated in 2016 with the Museum’s acquisition of the last remaining private parcel of Miss Florence's original estate. It was a long-held goal to fully reunite the historic property that had been sold prior to her death in 1937 and then subsequently subdivided. The land acquisition and Schumann’s gift provide the Museum opportunity to restore the cultural authenticity of Miss Florence’s estate.
The Museum engaged two of the country’s leading design firms—Centerbrook Architects & Planners of Centerbrook, CT and Stephen Stimson Landscape Architects of Cambridge, MA—to create a fully integrated master plan that weds architecture and landscape in inspiring new ways and recaptures the estate's original DNA by merging art, history, and ecology. With a goal of providing visitors a more authentic sense of why artists were drawn to the site and how they interacted with the land, Stephen and Lauren Stimson and their team developed a Landscape Master Plan that re-envisions the entire 13-acre site by reclaiming its agrarian past of hedgerows, cart paths, riverfront meadows, and woodland thickets, which were lost over years of subdivision and development. After studying archival photographs, the Stimsons found that the Lyme Art Colony painters often worked within the estate's edges, riverfront, brambles, and forgotten corners. This plan activates these edges to tell the artists' story and provide ecological improvements, while directing a cohesive exploration of the grounds. Through the creation of a half-mile long Artists’ Trail around the edges of the Museum, visitors will be immersed in a culturally interpretive exploration of the grounds, learning about the site’s history and its restored and enriched ecology at various interpretive stations. This kind of culturally-rich, active experience beyond the walls of the Museum galleries is especially appealing to today’s young visitors and family audiences. Destined to become a highlight of the future visitors’ experience, the fully accessible Artists’ Trail will be named in honor of Robert Schumann. In addition to a new pedestrian trail system, the plan includes the reestablishment of meadowlands on the site of the most recently acquired parcel, the creation of outdoor learning spaces and a naturalistic parking lot with “walls” of thicket plants, the restoration of a historic hedgerow, a new boardwalk and wetland garden, and the relocation of two small buildings to more suitable sites, as well as the purposeful enhancement of a thriving ecosystem for bird, plant, and animal life.
To ensure that the plan has only positive environmental consequences, an Ecological Impact Assessment was prepared by the firm Great Ecology of New York. They concluded that the plan, “strives for balance between cultural and ecological interpretation of the Museum landscape while enhancing, diversifying, and restoring the native landscape.” The Museum has worked closely with Audubon Connecticut Executive Director Stewart J. Hudson, whose organization reviewed the project in detail. “Our overall conclusion is that this is a great project and will provide significant ecological benefits to this critical site,” stated Hudson. “We believe this project will benefit migratory birds and serve as a great demonstration area for techniques that visitors can take home with them to inspire conservation action in their own yards.”    
With the completion of the Master Plan and recent grant from the Schumann Foundation, the project will now undergo a series of design phases beginning in August of 2017 to study the implementation of the Landscape Master Plan components. Plans generated from the design process will be subject to town and state regulatory approvals before construction commences, possibly as early as the fall of 2018. Upon completion of this multi-year effort, Museum Director Jeffrey Andersen stated “the Florence Griswold Museum will provide a visitor experience that interweaves art, history, and landscape in ways rarely found in the museum world.”
The Robert F. Schumann Foundation was created by Robert F. Schumann, a Madison resident who died in 2011. His sons, Ford Schumann and David Schumann, are the Foundation advisors. Wells Fargo Bank and Attorney Tim Crowley are co-Trustees of the Foundation. The Foundation supports environmental, artistic, social, and educational causes.

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Florence Griswold Museum
The recipient of a Trip Advisor 2016 Certificate of Excellence, the Florence Griswold Museum has been called a “Giverny in Connecticut” by the Wall Street Journal, and a “must-see” by the Boston Globe. In addition to the restored Florence Griswold House, the Museum features a gallery for changing art exhibitions, education and landscape centers, a restored artist’s studio, thirteen acres along the Lieutenant River, and extensive gardens. Its seasonal Café Flo was recognized as “best hidden gem” and “best outdoor dining” by Connecticut Magazine. The Museum is located at 96 Lyme Street, Old Lyme, CT. Visit FlorenceGriswoldMuseum.org for more information.