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  • Writer's pictureIthaca Heritage

Tompkins Center for History and Culture Awarded $1.365 Million by NYS

The New York State Regional Economic Development Council’s (REDC) Southern Tier region awarded two grants totaling $1.365 million to The Tompkins Center for History and Culture (TCHC) during award ceremonies in Albany on December 13, 2017.

$1,060,000 is from the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) Arts and Cultural Facilities Improvement Program and will be used to develop buildings owned by Tompkins Trust Company on the Ithaca Commons’ bank alley into the Tompkins Center for History and Culture.

The second grant, for $305,000, is from Empire State Development’s (ESD) Market New York Program and will be used for tourism promotion by way of some construction costs and promotion of the TCHC, which includes the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) downtown visitors’ center, thereby creating a destination spot to “engage the public in a vibrant exploration of our unique community through history, heritage and cultural lenses. Further, it will act as a hub for visitors to be oriented to local and regional tourism opportunities. (REDC announcement)”

The Tompkins Center for History and Culture will house the CVB’s Downtown Visitors Center (a division of the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce) and The History Center on the first floor. The Wharton Studio Museum, the Dorothy Cotton Institute, and the Community Arts Partnership will also be integral components of the project. Historic Ithaca and the Discovery Trail will also be affiliated with the Center, and the newly rebuilt “Tommy” bi-plane will be on permanent loan in the exhibit area. Most project partners will also have office space on the second and third floors.

Rod Howe, Executive Director, The History Center in Tompkins County, said “Our trustees were looking for a bold and innovative move to better connect people with our local history and culture and with each other to enhance a sense of community and place.” The desire to relocate The History Center spurred this project and won support from the County Legislature. Tompkins County is purchasing the buildings from Tompkins Trust as the Trust Company will be moving to its new building on the 100 block of East Seneca Street.

County Legislator Chair Mike Lane said “I am delighted that the REDC awarded this grant to support our community’s new cultural center. The Legislature is certain that this investment will benefit the citizens and businesses of Tompkins County as well as visitors to our community.”

“The Tompkins Center for History and Culture will be a project that serves to educate our community about our heritage, while offering visitors to the area another cultural asset to explore,” said Jennifer Tavares, Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce President. “Our organization is excited at the potential of this partnership, grateful to Tompkins County and Tompkins Trust Company for their support, and looking forward to creating a first class visitor center and gift shop in the new space.”

“TCHC is an exciting addition to the Commons and a place where anyone – visitor or resident – can delve deep into the County’s unique history, or use it as a spring board to venture out and about and explore Tompkins County. Wharton Studio Museum is thrilled to be a partner,” said Diana Riesman, Executive Director of the Wharton Studio Museum.

Tompkins Trust Company is expected to move to its new headquarters in early spring and code work and reconstruction on the new Center will then begin. STREAM Collaborative is doing the design work, Tessellate Studios is designing the new exhibit area and Iron Design has developed the logo, website and marketing collateral. The Tompkins Center for History and Culture is expected to open in early 2019.

Press Release, December 28, 2017


Rod Howe: 607-273-8284 ext. 5

Jennifer Tavares: 607-273-8070

Originally written for the blog.

Published January 3, 2018.


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