Lyme Art Association Addresses Major Repairs as Fundraising Continues


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OLD LYME — New skylights, a new roof and attic insulation are top priorities at the Lyme Art Association where water leakage and energy loss have become critical issues in the century-old building. 

“We have 100 years of electrical up there, and we worry about safety and code issues. This would be a great opportunity while work is already being done up there to really take care of some long standing maintenance issues,” said Elsbeth Dowd, executive director of Lyme Art Association, about the “Save our Skylights” project that will begin July 17.

Dowd climbed a tall, narrow ladder to show CT Examiner the attic where light streamed through the 100-year-old, original skylights and filtered through the laylights – translucent panels in the ceilings of the galleries – designed so that artworks could be viewed in natural light. 

But water leaking from the skylights had left stains on a number of laylights and along the attic’s wooden walkways and walls. In places water was dripping into the galleries.

There are many issues to address, but leaks have not affected the structure of the building, Dowd said. 

“An engineer determined that all of the wooden beams and everything are structurally sound. We do need to address things  like code issues, but in terms of structure, we feel really good,” she said. 

The building was originally designed by architect Charles Platt for summer use only, Dowd said, but now it’s used year round and needs to become energy efficient. 

“In the winter, the hot air from heating just goes up and out, and in the summer we’re trying to keep it cool for our visitors and artists and to protect the artwork,” she said. “In the 21st century, we feel like we have a responsibility to try to address sustainability, both environmental and financial.”

She said the goal of the $1 million Phase One campaign is to prevent water damage and increase energy efficiency by replacing the skylights and the roof, and insulating the attic.

So far about $550,000 has been raised toward that goal, a number that increased because project costs doubled during the pandemic, Dowd said.

“It turns out the estimate was badly impacted by inflation,” she said. 

The association, which has about 700 members, including about 600 artists, has been very supportive, Dowd said, and some funding has come from grants, including the Kitchings Family Foundation, and several state grants. 

“If we reach our million dollar goal, then we can get the laylights replaced with insulated models. But we figured that it’s most important to get the skylights done and the roof,” she said. “The next most important thing is to get the attic insulated and the various code issues addressed.” 

Dowd said the funding is sufficient to get the project started and she hopes to reach the goal by June so that all of the work can be planned for and completed. 

The work will begin on July 17 in the back galleries. The two front galleries will be open until August 10. The building will be closed from August 11 through most of September. 

To donate to the Lyme Art Association’s “Save Our Skylights” campaign, click here

Lyme Art Association is located at 90 Lyme St., Old Lyme, Conn. The gallery is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.