33 Hawley Street: From lumberyard to arts facility

  • 33 Hawley Street

  • MOVERS MOVING IN: Two evenings of Dancing/Making at 33 Hawley Street © Jonathan Hsu

  • MOVERS MOVING IN: Two evenings of Dancing/Making at 33 Hawley Street

  • MOVERS MOVING IN: Two evenings of Dancing/Making at 33 Hawley Street

For the Gazette
Published: 10/19/2017 8:37:37 AM

33 Hawley Street, a new arts facility transformed from a 25,000-square-foot former lumberyard, is opening for partial occupancy and arts programming this month. The venue aims to provide local artists with flexible and affordable space for creating and presenting original work, while also offering the Northampton community informal shows, talks, classes and performances.

The building, which belongs to the Northampton Community Arts Trust, currently houses three art partners that are part of this first project: Available Potential Enterprises (A.P.E.), the Northampton Center for the Arts, and Northampton Community Television.

The building has opened its doors after three years of property hunting and four years of building renovation. It is a major move of the Northampton Community Arts Trust, a 2010-founded nonprofit, to fulfill its mission of preserving downtown arts vitality and converting the abandoned workplace into galleries, theaters, studios and classrooms.

The Northampton Community Arts Trust is the brainchild of A.P.E Founding Director Gordon Thorne. After the closing of A.P.E.’s 10,000-square-foot art space on the top floor of Thornes Marketplace in 2006, Thorne “began to envision an arts trust to save the space we’re losing,” said Andrea Olsen, Dance Program Director at Middlebury College and staff member of A.P.E. “This is the first arts trust in the nation which is based on the model of land trust. It’s a new image of how to conserve space in a community.” 

“All the spaces are going away, so people begin to think: ‘We’re gonna do something,’ ” Olsen said. As art venues are squeezed out of the rapidly appreciating property market, the 33 Hawley Street project is an effort to develop an artistically vibrant and economically sustainable model for art properties. It is the first step of reversing the trend of ever-increasing rents driving individual and community artists out of the downtown area.

The building is designed to house “three informal classroom/rehearsal studio spaces, visual arts exhibition spaces, a 200+ seat black-box theater and ancillary spaces, a flexible performance/event space, and a large lobby with mezzanine and concession area and box office,” according to the Trust’s website.

“Over the last four years, we’ve been working on the renovation,” A.P.E. Associate Director Lisa Thompson said in a recent phone interview. “Three studios in the building are open for use right now.” 

In addition, last week the Trust received a $500,000 fund from the state to continue its project of developing a performance and events space for the community.

The grant is a huge step in the process of raising $2.3 million for the building’s second phase of construction and accrued debt payment.

The center recently presented a lively conversation with Historic Northampton Co-Director Laurie Sanders, A.P.E. After School director Anne Woodhull and A.P.E. Founding Director Gordon Thorne.

The talk offered a retrospective look at the state of the arts in Northampton throughout the early 1970s to today, sharing the history of Thornes Marketplace on Main Street and the story of constructing the new and lasting arts space at 33 Hawley Street. The exhibit of memorabilia is up at Historic Northampton and will be on display until Nov. 2. 

The second project is called Movers Moving In, and it offers three nights of dancing by local artists. Hosted by A.P.E. resident artist Andrea Olsen, it is an “introductory tease” for a more extensive dance series to come next fall, according to press notes. The week of Oct. 19-22 will include artists Nancy Stark Smith and collaborators (Underscore +/- project/Thursday or Sunday), and Peter Schmitz, Chris Aiken and Angie Hauser, and Jen Polins (Friday), with Doug LeCours, Katie Martin, Barbie Diewald, and Andrea Olsen (Saturday).  

For information on the dance series, go to apearts.org/events-at-33-hawley.html.

For more information on the Northampton Community Arts Trust, go to northamptonartstrust.org.




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