Northampton Community Arts Trust begins fundraising drive to complete main performance space

  • The unfinished 3,800-square-foot The Workroom space at the Northampton Community Arts Trust building. A fundraising campaign has begun to make the space fully accessible for varied artistic events. Photo by Stephen Petegorsky/courtesy A.P.E.@Hawley

  • An inflatable, life-size plastic model of a Finn whale, pictured last year at the Workroom space at the Northampton Community Arts Trust building, gives some scope to the scale of the space. Photo by Jeff Bliss/courtesy A.P.E.@Hawley

Staff Writer
Published: 10/11/2020 7:22:49 PM
Modified: 10/11/2020 7:22:39 PM

Arts groups and other supporters of Northampton Community Arts Trust’s building have geared up to begin a new round of fundraising that aims to finish the last — and largest — performance space in the Hawley Street center.

What’s known as The Workroom@33Hawley is a 3,800-square-foot area designed to host theater, dance, film and other performances, with a flexible design that will allow seating for about 200. Fundraising organizers say $400,000 is needed to cover heating, ventilation and air conditioning, acoustic walls, electrical work and subfloor construction to allow performers to have full access to the area.

In addition, the arts center is seeking an additional $100,000 to construct a sprung floor for the space to make it more resilient and suitable for dancing. That part of the project is designed to honor the late Nancy Stark Smith of Northampton, an acclaimed dance artist and teacher who was a leader in Contact Improvisation, a form of contemporary dance. Stark Smith died in May at age 68.

All told, organizers are hoping to raise a grand total of $600,000 for the Workroom space

The Arts Trust building, where renovation work on what had been a fitness center began in 2013, has since then opened a range of rooms and spaces, including a dance studio, a smaller “flex” performance and event space, workrooms, and galleries for visual art. Completion of The Workroom@33Hawley “will be the last piece of the puzzle,” said Lisa Thompson, director of Northampton’s A.P.E. Gallery and A.P.E.@Hawley.

A.P.E.@Hawley will in fact handle programming and management of the Workroom space in the future, and the organization is also overseeing the fundraising campaign. A.P.E. has already produced a number of dance shows at the Arts Trust building in the smaller Flex space in recent years in conjunction with Northampton’s School for Contemporary Dance & Thought.

A.P.E. is one of three “partner” art organizations in the 33 Hawley St. building, along with the Northampton Center for the Arts and Northampton Open Media.

The Arts Trust recently was awarded its fourth matching grant (for $100,000) from the Mass Cultural Council Cultural Facilities Fund, which has spurred the new fundraising drive for The Workroom space. The total cost of completing the Arts Trust building has been pegged at about $6.4 million.

“We really want to have full access to that space,” said Thompson, who noted that with the pandemic’s duration uncertain, the Workroom will allow for events with safe social distancing for audience members and performers alike. “It’s essential for current and next-generation artists and for the range of events we’d like to present there.”

Arts Trust officials note that the unfinished area has been made available during the pandemic for artists’ residencies, with garage doors along one side kept open for ventilation.

Meantime, dance teacher and choreographer Andrea Olsen, who’s involved with the fundraising effort for the sprung floor, says the surface is needed for safety and longevity — a floor “that’s warm, that’s clean, that helps you avoid hip replacements, knee injuries, spine injuries, short careers ... Let’s build a floor that’s good for dancing!”

On another note, Thompson says she’s encouraged by the state’s recent decision to allow concert halls and other performance spaces to reopen with up to 50% capacity or 250 people, whichever figure is lower. “That should give us a little more flexibility in planning events,” she said.

One such event A.P.E.@Hawley is presenting is a one-person play, “The Fever,” by Wallace Shawn, on Oct. 31-Nov. 1. The play, in which the unnamed narrator visits a poverty-stricken country and witnesses violence and political persecution from his hotel window, will be performed by Peter B. Schmitz; it’s directed by John Hellweg.

A.P.E. says more details about this “in-person, limited capacity, socially distant performance” are pending.

To make a donation to the Northampton Community Arts Trust to help complete construction of the Workroom space, visit—projects.html and click on the appropriate links.


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