Much remains to do as ACA shoots to join Civic Block; Poe event draws $6,000


UPDATED, Nov. 2: Amid early voting below and cold rain outside, the Arlington Center for the Arts (ACA) officially launched its $600,000 fund-raiser to pay for its new home as an estimated 65 people crowded the festive Lyons Hearing Room at Town Hall.

In a month, Linda Shoemaker, the center's executive director, said to hearty applause Thursday, Oct. 27, that the effort had more than doubled its intake -- to $130,000 in cash and pledges. The amount raised Sept. 27 was $63,000.

While the overall goal is large, she said, "if we work together, it is not." If each of the town's 18,000 households contributed $33, she said, then reaching $600,000 was possible. If that occurred, total would be $694,000.

At the first public showing of "Buried Alive," a film about Edward Allan Poe by Arlington's Eric Stange, Shoemaker announced Tuesday, Nov. 1, that the crowded fund-raiser had attracted $6,000.

Shoemaker cited one camper who contributed $5 from an allowance just that day. She balanced her familiar enthusiasm, saying she is "cautiously optimistic" about the overall aim to raise money to support the move to the Senior Center building from the former Gibbs School.

Following the kickoff, she told YourArlington: "I'd like to invite everyone to think about the value ACA has brought to their life and to our community, and make a contribution. No amount is to small .... So I hope everyone will consider what it's worth to them to have a vibrant community arts center in their town, and support the new ACA in whatever way they can."

Seeking cultural-facilities grant

At the kickoff, Shoemaker reiterated what she had told YourArlington earlier -- that ACA will be applying for a cultural-facilities grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. If ACA can raise $300,000, then the amount may be eligible for a grant to match that, she said.

She declined to say more about the grant, except to say: "It's a 1-to-1 matching-grant program to help fund renovation and restoration of cultural facilities in Massachusetts."

Under a target established last June by the Redevelopment Board, the center must raise at least $260,000 by next June -- and at least half that by the end of January. It has already hit that target.

The kickoff went far beyond numbers. Dan Fox and the A-Town Brass Band pumped many pulsing bars of "Little Liza Jane."

Arlington Friends of the Drama board members dressed in Renaissance regalia trooped in, hands clapping. So did sun-faced people in puppet dress holding high an ACA banner. The puppets were courtesy of the Puppet Free Library, Boston, provided by the Puppeteers Cooperative

Joining them were key representatives of the business community: Kathleen Darcy, senior vice president, small-business specialist, Cambridge Savings Bank, and Beth Locke, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce.

Room where future was discussed

"In this room, the ACA's fate was up in the air" last year, Shoemaker told the gathering. She was referring to the ornate room where the School Enrollment Task Force met to deal with school issues that led to four longtime tenants, including the ACA, to vacate by next June.

"The big question was: What would happen" to the art classes, camps and galleries -- now that the School Committee had decided to take back the former Gibbs School to deal with expanding enrollment?

After Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine found two possible solutions, departing agencies made the Senior Center option viable. With less space and parking than the Gibbs, the ACA nevertheless bid for, and was awarded its new home. Now the space much be renovated, and plans for work on two floors were at one end of the Lyons Hearing Room.

"I feel blessed to live in a community that decided the ACA should stay," Shoemaker said. She called it an "honor" and praised those who helped find a way to finding a new home -- one that will be in the heart of what she hopes the state will declare as a cultural district.

Selectmen Joseph Curro Jr., long a supporter of the arts, drew laughs by calling the gathering "like a junior high school dance." Pointed to some "wallflowers here" -- the flower-faced puppets and those gathering on two sides of the room but not yet "dancing."

"We are victims of our own success," he said, as town population increases have strained resources. Then he pointed to "a real silver lining -- as the ACA will be ending up "right here in the Civic Block," the group of public buildings and grounds that represent the legacy of the Robbins family.

Praise for Shoemaker

Rep. Sean Garballey, Democrat of Arlington, said that in the past year, the ACA's crisis had his "phone was ringing off the hook." He praised Shoemaker for her work to keep the ACA alive.

He also noted that the town retained its Mass. Cultural Council funding through support from state Sen. Ken Donnelly and state Rep. Dave Rogers. "The arts are a huge foundation for Arlington," he said.

Adam Pachter, cochair of ACA board, delivered a three-pronged pitch: Capitalize on momentum by donating, support the center's effort in spring's Town Meeting and sign kids up for vacation camps.

A series of voices aided in the ribbon-cutting. They included founders Jean Flanagan, a poet; Jane Howard, a key forces behind Vision 2020 and town arts; and Dave Ardito, interim head of art for the public schools.

Joining them were Jenny Raitt, town planner; Andrew Bunnell, Redevelopment Board chair; Jeff Thielman, a School Committee member; arts supporters Stephanie Marlin-Curiel, Barbara Costa and Jeff Boudreau; as well as Chapdelaine, Curro and Garballey.

Looking ahead a year

"A year from now ... perhaps by late next winter," Shoemaker said she hopes to welcome all to a new ACA.

Following fund-raising, to continue through end of the ACA's Gibbs lease next June 30, Shoemaker said the public should expect a period of transition as the floors at the Senior Center are renovated.

Part of that transition is expected to include ACA's summer camp held public school spaces. In addition, October's Open Studios will likely be done in satellite spaces, as the new ACA offers a different footprint in town. And then there will be the reduced parking at the Senior Center to face.

That's down the road. For now, following the money-raising steps: Head over to the Regent Theatre on Tuesday to a VIP reception and a preview of "Buried Alive," a film about author Edgar Allen Poe, by ACA supporter Eric Stange, an Arlington filmmaker.

Look ahead to these events:

-- Saturday, Jan. 28: Arts gala at Town Hall; and

-- Saturday, April 15: BluesApocalypse 3.0, which performed last spring at the center, at Town Hall.

Plans for new site include:

• Two-level gallery for exhibitions of emerging and established local artists, with inviting gathering spaces;

• Three to five arts classrooms for classes, workshops and youth camp programs;

• Eight to 12 individual artist studios, plus shared or co-working studio space; and

• Flexible small performance and function space.

In the past year, the center has served more than 15,000 kids, teens, adults, seniors, students, campers, artists, musicians, performers and visitors.

Learn how to contribute here >>

Oct. 4, 2016: First full report of ACA's fund-raising

July 27, 2016: Center for Arts' capital campaign sets lofty goal -- $600,000

July 26, 2016: ACMi award goes to Shoemaker

June 20, 2016: Public sees plans for revamped Senior Center, and 'no bricks' draws applause

May 24, 2016: Town receives three proposals to lease Senior Center space

This news summary was published Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016, and updated Nov. 2, to add a fund-raising amount.