In an effort to support and encourage the preservation of skilled traditional arts and crafts, the Connecticut Cultural Heritage Arts Program (CCHAP) at the Connecticut Historical Society (CHS) announces its 2018-2019 grant recipients. These awards are given to mentor artists in the Southern New England Apprenticeship Program who intensively teach their expertise to student apprentices and help sustain cultural expressions that are important to their ethnic and occupational communities. Additionally, the grants allow artists’ work to be shown publicly at local and regional festivals, arts activities, and events.
Among this year’s grant winners are: Lithuanian straw art master artist Aldona Saimininkas of West Hartford, and apprentice Philitha Stemplys-Cowdrey of Granby. This team hand picks rye straw from farm fields and prepares it to form ribbons that become intricate scenes. Saimininkas has taught Lithuanian straw art workshops to scout groups, Lithuanian gatherings and cultural schools, and adult classes throughout the U.S. and Canada. She created an official gift for the 600th anniversary of Lithuanian Christianity and has a straw picture in the Vatican’s art collection (a gift to Pope John Paul II).