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CREC Holds Ribbon-cutting Ceremony for new Ana Grace Academy of the Arts School Building
On Wednesday, March 30, CREC held a ribbon cutting ceremony for its newest school building in Bloomfield. The state-of-the-art facility houses the CREC Ana Grace Academy of the Arts, a pre-Kindergarten to eighth-grade school that combines two existing CREC schools – CREC Ana Grace Academy of the Arts Elementary School and CREC Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts Middle School. These schools successfully moved to the new location in mid-January 2022.
“Six years ago, I took a very muddy walk on this property and couldn’t imagine what would be here,” said CREC Executive Director Greg Florio, “but to see it today. I stand in awe and amazement, and I’m so proud of the work that we’ve done.”CREC Ana Grace Academy of the Arts Elementary School was previously in Avon for Kindergarten through fifth grade, and CREC Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts Middle School was in the Colt Building in Hartford and is grades six through eight.
“We are so happy to be here today, for all those years before we really maintained our two school communities,” said Patricia Phelan, principal of the elementary grades. “Telling our families, don’t be concerned about what the roof looks like. Just consider what is going on under the roof.”In 2014, CREC Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts Elementary School was renamed in honor of Ana Grace Márquez-Greene, daughter of CREC alumni and former staff members Nelba Márquez-Greene and Jimmy Greene, who was one of the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy.
“Ana Grace loved to express herself through music and dance. She also loved learning and never hesitated to display her affection for family and friends,” said Márquez-Greene prior to the event. “It is fitting this beautiful school that bears her name is a place where talented children from all backgrounds are nurtured in a loving, supportive environment. We are humbled and grateful her legacy serves as a reminder of how love wins.”
“Every room, every swatch of fabric, every paint color, her presence is here,” said Greene speaking at the event.
Members of the school community, the Bloomfield Board of Education and Town Council, the State Department of Education, US and Connecticut state legislators, and many other special guests were invited to attend the event. The ceremony featured performances by the students and remarks by the school’s Principals Patricia Phelan and Bo Ryan, CREC Executive Director Greg Florio, CREC Deputy Executive Director Sandy Cruz-Serrano, Superintendent of CREC Schools Tim Sullivan, Márquez-Greene, Greene, Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz, Bloomfield Mayor Danielle Wong, State Senator Doug McCrory, State Representative Bobby Gibson, and CREC Council Member and Chair of the Bloomfield Board of Education Donald F. Harris Jr. A surprise treat for the audience and students was an impromptu, a cappela performance of “Tomorrow” from the musical “Annie,” by stage and film singer and actress Anika Noni Rose. Rose is a native of Bloomfield and a close friend of the Márquez-Greene family, best known for voicing Princess Tiana in Disney’s 2009 animated feature “The Princess and the Frog.”
“You’ll never know what’s happening in a child’s home, but when they can sing it, when they can dance it, when they can draw it, that’s when something really special happens,” said Rose speaking about the arts opportunities presented to the students at the school.
“We have recognized this country when it’s at its worst, but we took something that was so negative and nasty and turned it into something that is so beautiful as the educational benefit for our children to have an opportunity at quality education,” said McCrory.
“Through the incredible courage and fortitude of her parents, Nelba and Jimmy Greene, something so dark was turned into a beacon of light and hope and symbolizes the future,” said Bysiewicz.
The new building is on a 29-acre lot, with more than 156,800 square feet of space, to accommodate over 850 students. The bus loop is lined with painted steel walkway canopies with photovoltaic panels, serving as a roof covering. The East portion of the site has a grass playfield, while the West portion has playscapes adjacent to the elementary school program.
The school also boasts middle school science labs, magnet-themed classrooms, and a combined lobby and art gallery space, which surrounds a Black Box Theater for student performances.
“We choose to fight for opportunity, we choose the opportunities from parents to make a choice, we choose for education to be the forefront of the conversation,” said Sullivan.
Guest were treated refreshments, an optional guide tour of the building after the ceremony, and a performance by the Middle School’s “Band & Beyond” group.