Living

Arts center receives grant

Thursday, September 20, 2012

PETERBOROUGH – The town has received a $25,000 National Endowment for the Arts “Our Town.” In collaboration with lead partner Sharon Arts Center, and seven local arts organizations, the “Our Town” grant will be used to perform a feasibility study for a new cultural arts center.

The town is New Hampshire’s first recipient of this competitive grant since the program’s inception in 2011. The grant is appropriate given that it is widely understood that playwright Thornton Wilder based his famed play Our Town on the town of Peterborough.

The grant’s related project activities was scheduled to begin this month and includes focus groups, research, community workshops, public outreach, and a concept design to evaluate the feasibility of developing an arts center in a town-owned maintenance building on the site of a former home to the National Guard.

The property is under-utilized and uniquely situated, abutting a commercial main street, residential neighborhood and wetland.

A cultural arts center would provide a new local and regional destination for tourism and elevate the arts as a viable economic development strategy in the area.

With an emphasis on community collaboration, the grant’s activities will welcome voices from the Greater Peterborough area to share observations, ideas, and hopes for Peterborough as a vibrant cultural destination.

April Claggett, a teacher and art historian from Dublin; and Karen Fitzgerald, a landscape architect from Francestown, conceived and co-authored the grant proposal on behalf of the town and sought participation from various nonprofit art organizations. Sharon Arts, a 65-year-old arts organization that draws more than 30,000 annual visitors in Peterborough and Sharon, came on as the primary partner, with the town in an advisory capacity.

Seven other nonprofit arts groups and organizations wrote letters of support for the application including Peterborough Players, Monadnock Music, Mariposa Museum, Arts Alive!, Con-Val School District, The Cornucopia Project, and the Children and the Arts Festival.

“A vision of ‘arts for everyone’, all of the arts, in a place that has so much to offer fit perfectly with what the NEA wished to fund.” Fitzgerald said.

Rodney Bartlett, director of Peterborough Public Works, said, “This is a very exciting opportunity for the entire community. We are honored to have been selected out of the 317 applications submitted nationwide to receive this highly competitive federal funding.

“This grant and its activities play a key role in advancing the objectives of Peterborough’s current Master Plan, while providing a blueprint for the future needs of the local arts community.”

This collaboration between Peterborough, its community of artists, businesses and local arts and cultural organizations will help to advance the vibrant downtown arts community that is home to nationally-recognized artists, museums, galleries, theaters and performance companies.

“Sharon Arts is honored to take part in this important community-wide dialogue and planning effort exploring opportunities to collaborate for the betterment of the arts in Peterborough,” Keri Wiederspahn, Sharon Arts executive director, said. “We look forward to serving the town in an advisory capacity and will be working in concert with other arts non profits reaching out to various groups to ensure that all stakeholders have a voice.”

According to the NEA, the announcement of $5 million in Our Town grants to 80 communities across the U.S. represents its latest investment in “creative placemaking” – how cities and towns are using the arts to shape their social, physical, and economic characters.

“Cities and towns are transformed when you bring the arts--both literally and figuratively--into the center of them,” NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman said. “From Teller, Alaska to Miami, Florida, communities are pursuing creative placemaking, making their neighborhoods more vibrant and robust by investing in the performing, visual, and literary arts. I am proud to be partnering with these 80 communities and their respective arts, civic, and elected leaders.”

The grant requires the recipient to locate a 50/50 match, part of which has already been pledged, with half coming from in-kind support. The rest of the necessary funding needed to be raised prior to Sept. 1. An online “crowd-sourcing” platform to gain funding and spread awareness of the study is underway. For more information, contact Rodney Bartlett at rbartlett@townofpeterborough.us.

The Sharon Arts Exhibition Gallery is accessed through Depot Square and 30 Grove St. in downtown Peterborough. The Craft Gallery is in Depot Square in downtown Peterborough. Store and Exhibition Gallery hours are Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

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