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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Museum Seeking Funds For Floods

New London - After a flood last March that left the Lyman Allyn Art Museum without an auditorium, museum officials are hoping for some monetary help to re-open the space.

"We are viewing this as a new naming opportunity,'' said Nancy Stula, museum director. "We're looking for an individual or corporation to endow our auditorium."

Stula said the auditorium is called the Lehman Auditorium, but she said the family is not interested in maintaining the name.

During the early spring storm that turned streams into raging torrents, flooded homes and washed out roads, many basements were flooded, including the basement-level auditorium at the Lyman Allyn.

"We're sitting on bedrock,'' Stula said. "There was nowhere for the water to go."

Nine months later, the museum is still unable to use the auditorium, where most of its programs were held. It does not have the $80,000 needed to renovate the space.

Because the museum kept no art in the space, it wasn't eligible for funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to rebuild.

"It wasn't considered flooding,'' Stula said. "It was called rising groundwater. No insurance covered it."

During the storm, which dumped 8 inches of rain in a few hours, water began seeping, and then bubbling up, through the cement floor, which was covered with a raised wooden floor. The staff started bailing, and when more water poured in, the fire department arrived.

"Everyone did a great job,'' Stula said. "And we tore everything out right away so there's no mold."

Educational programs were moved to a gallery on the first floor, and movies are shown in the library. No programs have stopped since the flood, Stula said.

FEMA representatives inspected the damage, and museum officials filed a claim. But FEMA denied the claim in June.

"The auditorium is not eligible for repairs because it is not used for preservation or exhibition of the museum's art,'' wrote Shakira De Thomas, the Connecticut FEMA representative.

"I think it's incredible FEMA couldn't lend us any support,'' said Stula.

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