By Kelly Callaghan
Simsbury, Connecticut
June 7, 2007

A Colorful Way To Promote Town

Main Street Partnership Begins Heritage Tourism Campaign

The Drake Hill Flower Bridge, the Pinchot Sycamore tree and other popular sites will come to life under the paint brush and pen of local artist Carol Wallace. She has been commissioned by the Simsbury Main Street Partnership to help promote its Preserve America Campaign while also raising a few dollars in the process.

The campaign will be used by the partnership to help celebrate Simsbury's 337th birthday and mark its designation by the U.S. government as an official Preserve America community.

The campaign kicked off June 1 at the Simsbury Inn, when the Partnership held a Preserve America Gala hosted by NBC-30 meteorologist Bob Maxon. The organization was presented with the Preserve America national award and White House recognition from U.S. Rep. Christopher Murphy. Having such an award bestowed upon the town spurred the Main Street Partnership to come up with a creative way to market the community.

Through word of mouth, the organization came across Mrs. Wallace, a Pennsylvania native and Barkhamsted resident with her own connection to Simsbury. Her husband, Richard Wallace, grew up here and graduated from Simsbury High School. Her father-in-law, Anthony Wallace, was a member of the state House of Representatives representing Simsbury, and the couple were married in town as well. "Many of our lifelong friends who will be at the birthday celebration also grew up in Simsbury. Some have lived there their entire lives," Ms. Wallace said.

Major fund-raising plans

The heritage tourism campaign will be used to market the town, said Partnership Exective Director Sarah Floroski. The Partnership, a non-profit organization devoted to the continued success of downtown Simsbury, has commissioned eight original paintings in watercolor/acrylics, 12 original pen and ink drawings, and 12 photographs.

Paintings include the Drake Hill Bridge, First Church of Christ, Hop Brook Tavern, the Memorial Day parade in front of Eno Memorial Hall, the Pinchot Sycamore tree, a river scene with Talcott Mountain and the Heublein Tower, tobacco barns on Route 10 and Tulmeadow Farm. Pen and ink drawings include Ensign Bickford, the Farmington River, Flamig Farm, Folly Farm, the grounds of the Simsbury Historical Society, McLean Game Refuge, Memorial/American Legion ball field, Simsbury United Methodist Church, Rosedale Farm, Simsbury Cemetery and the Talcott Mountain Music Festival. The photographs include Ethel Walker School, Fiddler's Green, Hall Farm at pumpkin time, the inside of Eno Memorial Hall, the Prudential Building, Simsbury 1820 House, Simsbury crew team on the Farmington River, Simsbury Town Shops and two other photos to be determined later.

Having such a variety was important. The eight original paintings will be sold, but not before high-quality reproductions are made, which will also be for sale. "We wanted a big body of work we could use to promote Simsbury," said Ms. Floroski. Even though the artwork will help promote the Partnership, the group wanted to focus on the town. The Partnership works on forward-thinking economic development within the context of historic preservation, so that Simsbury's assets and legacy can be passed on to future generations, hence the choice of Ms. Wallace and her Preserve America style.

Experienced Artist

Ms. Wallace is a gallery and commission artist with more than 27 years of experience. Her paintings include national and international landscapes, street scenes, coastal vistas, gardens and wildlife. Her resume includes artwork of the '21' Club, Antoine's and the Union Oyster House, as well as paintings of historic hotels, illustrations and a painting of Ellis Island commissioned by the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation. She was also executive producer of Connecticut's first major television ad campaign for tourism and received the 1982 Connecticut Tourism Award from then Governor William O'Neill.

Influenced by growing up in a small town with only a handful of buildings and a country store, Ms. Wallace developed Preserve America to make others aware of the need to preserve historic properties, culture, towns and cities by combining fine art, writing, public service, education and commerce. Over the years, she has traveled throughout the United States, developing a network of people to help her achieve her goals.

While the federal Preserve America and Ms. Wallace's Preserve America may share the same name and the same basic goal, they are different. In 2000, Ms. Wallace acquired the federal registered trademark for Preserve America. Three years later, her venture was recognized by First Lady Laura Bush and she was invited to the White House. Also in 2003, Mrs. Bush announced the formation of Preserve America, developed in cooperation with a number of federal agency partners to encourage and support community efforts for the preservation and enjoyment of the nation's cultural and national heritage.

Only five

Today, Simsbury is one of five Connecticut communities named a Preserve America community, joining Colchester, Wethersfield, Bridgeport and Norwich. Benefits of the designation include White House recognition, eligibility to apply for Preserve America grants, a certificate of recognition, a Preserve America community road sign, authorization to use the Preserve America logo on signs, flags, banners and promotional materials, and a listing in a web-based Preserve America community directory.

With her own Preserve America designation well underway, Ms. Wallace was contacted by a White House attorney and asked, "if I would have a problem with both of us using the name I had already trademarked," she said. After being assured by the attorney that there would be no infringement on my plans and that their effort would compliment my goals, I told him I would have no objection," she added. "The two Preserve Americas are different entities, but we share an important assist those wanting to preserve their communities, historic institutions and culture in America," Ms. Wallace said.

The soft colors and feminine paint strokes were exactly what the Partnership wanted in an artist. "That's what we were looking for," Ms. Floroski said. The Partnership began working with Ms. Wallace late last year, but this isn't the first time she's worked in town. In the past, Ms. Wallace was also commissioned to paint for Classic Hotels, which owns the Simsbury 1820 House.

Positive partners

Her work with the Simsbury Main Street Partnership has been an enjoyable experience. "The people I have met in the Partnership have been remarkable. I have traveled across America for my venture and have met few people with such vision and vehement determination to preserve the historic qualities of their towns like those in this group," Ms. Wallace said. "It is my pleasure to document Simsbury through my paintings and drawings, as I have personal ties to the town."

Having the Preserve America designation and the artwork by the Preserve America artist will work well for the tourism campaign, Ms. Floroski believes. "The Heritage Tourism Campaign will work to promote and market Simsbury through a web site, brochures and flyers, things that residents and visitors would want and take home and enjoy," she said. The campaign will also provide visual images and major retail items. The eight original paintings will be sold and high-tech reproductions or Gicleés will be made from those originals.

When Partnership members first applied for the Preserve America designation last summer, they also applied for the Preserve America historic preservation fund grant. The grant, if won, would be used to help promote heritage marketing of the town. It would also help support a public/private initiative to market retail and event activities coupled with building awareness of the town's historic sites. According to the Partnership Board of Directors member Anita Mielert, there is still no word on the status of the Preserve America grant. But she is pleased about the campaign as a whole. "It gives a vision of our town that is idealized, romanticized...kind of a pastoral look for the town, which is how we like to see ourselves," she said. Having an artist who has worked all over America is impressive, Ms. Mielert said. "But the fact that she lives locally is much more exciting."

The paintings and photographs will show potential visitors the most scenic vistas the town has to offer. "When they come to Simsbury they come to the town," said Ms. Mielert. "There are so many different visions and parts of Simsbury that are represented," added Ms. Floroski.