Looks like Northampton is shelling out some cash for a tribute to some animated hometown heroes known for their pithy catchphrases and love of pizza.
A city known for its thriving arts scene is putting $20,000 of its pandemic relief funds toward four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle manhole covers, an homage to the comic and movie franchise born in a Northampton-based studio decades ago.
Plans for the four manhole covers — which will presumably depict the four martial-arts trained turtles, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael — are contained in city documents itemizing how officials will spend funds from the federal American Rescue Plan Act. States and municipalities have come under criticism for using ARPA funds on projects unrelated to the COVID-19 emergency, some of which are faulted as trivial or wasteful.
One Northampton entry lists $20,000 “to invigorate downtown arts by integrating public art tribute to the Northampton born Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles into Main St redesign with 4 custom manhole covers.”
As many know well, the series depicts the four crime-fighting turtles as they emerge from underground recesses to battle nefarious actors in our world.
The original cult comics were produced in the 1980s by Northampton-bred artist Peter Laird and former collaborator Kevin Eastman, doing business as Mirage Studios. The franchise later expanded to television shows, movies, and merchandise.
Laird bought out Eastman in 2000. The franchise was sold to Viacom/Nickelodeon in 2009, according to the Mirage Group website.
The city paperwork didn’t specify when the Ninja Turtles will grace the manhole covers in Northampton. Alan Wolf, chief of staff to Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra, said by e-mail Friday that the applicant who received the grant money must complete the project within the time frame required to spend the federal relief funds.
All ARPA-funded projects must be completed or self-sustaining by June2026, according to city officials.
City officials “can’t wait to see what they come up with!” Wolf said.
Sciarra called the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle project “a huge win” for her city.
“It continues our tradition of supporting local artists, taps into a multi-billion dollar industry to help attract visitors to the city and promote economic development, and fosters a sense of community locally by connecting our residents to a fun part of Northampton history,” she said in a statement.
The Northampton Vibrancy Committee, a campaign to revive downtown and commercial areas, received the $20,000 for the project, according to city documents. Members of the committee couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
The federal funds will also be used for an array of cultural projects, including $40,000 for the Queer Voices healing arts program, $5,000 for seasonal community dance events, and $20,000 for a Northampton Public Schools poetry, music, and art program, city documents said.
Additional grants include $6,100 to support a writer’s conference dubbed WriteAngles, $80,000 for an outdoor performance space on the lawn of the Forbes Library, and $10,000 to the city’s New England Visionary Arts Museum, which will use the funding for “expanded operations for [the] museum for Anchor House of Artists work by artists living with neurodiverse states,” city records show.
In a statement announcing $4 million in ARPA funding for 61 projects last month, including the TMNT manholes, city officials said the plans were made after conducting a community survey in 2021 to gauge the impacts of the pandemic and hear about municipal needs.
In February 2022, Sciarra designated $4 million of Northampton’s ARPA funds for projects to help the city recover from the pandemic. The goals of the program, officials said, include “supporting recovery, building resilience, and reconnecting the community.”
In all, the city of approximately 29,000 has received $21.7 million from the federal government to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, city officials said last month.
In a statement at the time, Sciarra said she was “truly proud of these grant awards for community recovery and confident that the mix of projects selected will serve Northampton well using these one-time resources.”
Sciarra had formed an advisory committee to create an application process for the funds and make recommendations for awards. The panel conducted several listening sessions before applications were due in October.
“The COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted the Northampton arts community, dramatically reduced local receipts tax revenue, and frayed our community bonds due to countless cancellations dictated by the shutdown and the need to socially distance to save lives,” Sciarra said in a statement Friday.
Travis Andersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.