News Column

Nashua Arts Commission seeking study on performance venues

May 7, 2014

By Jim Haddadin, The Telegraph, Nashua, N.H.



May 07--NASHUA -- A new Arts and Cultural Plan for Nashua is in its final stages, and one of the document's priorities is to study options for a new or renovated performing arts center.

Events are often staged in school auditoriums and smaller venues in the city, but members of the local arts community have long pined for an arts center to showcase Nashua's artistic activity.

The first step toward accomplishing that goal -- in the view of the Nashua Arts Commission -- is paying for new research about the city's options.

Nashua Arts Commission Chairwoman Liz Racioppi said Tuesday that the group's forthcoming Arts and Cultural Plan for the city recommends finding funds to perform an updated study of the possibilities.

Speaking with members of the aldermanic Planning and Economic Development Committee, Racioppi said although there's a strong desire for an arts center, making it a reality will be a challenge.

"The level of funding, the logistics around parking and flow of downtown -- all of these things come into play here," she said.

Setting aside the proposition of financing a new arts center, Racioppi pointed out that "nothing is simple" when it comes to the existing performing arts venues in Nashua that could be targeted for renovations.

Keefe Memorial Auditorium, located at Elm Street Middle School, would need a significant amount of work, Racioppi said. The connection to the school also complicates the proposition.

The Court Street theater is another option. It's owned by the city, but repairs and upgrades there also would be expensive, she said.

"It's been looked at before," she said. "There have been reports written, research done, and it's in the millions, even in the most minimal parts of the repairs."

Racioppi pointed out that although much is known about potential locations, the city also faces a new paradigm today. For instance, in some areas, pop-up venues gather crowds as easily as brick-and-mortar performance spaces.

"I believe that where the commission is concerned, the only way we can really do something that makes a difference is, within the arts and culture plan, to begin the work of what it will take to take this on, and it probably begins with opening up some funds for a newer study," she said.

Alderman-at-Large Brian McCarthy said he agrees there's "very little doubt" that an arts center is one of the city's needs.

"I think the study is actually the key thing to get done, because the concern I have with Keefe Auditorium is I don't know how often we need a venue that big, and I think that's an important thing to understand," he said.

Kathy Hersh, president of City Arts Nashua, said aldermen also should consider hiring paid staff to work on arts issues, because currently, Nashua's advocates are all volunteers.

"If we really believe, which I do, that arts and culture -- as the heart of our city -- really attracts people to come to live here, and to work here, and to set up their businesses here ... then it's worth the investment to figure out how we create a venue so that it's easier for these organizations," she said.

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Jim Haddadin can be reached 594-6589 or jhaddadin@nashua telegraph.com. Also, follow Haddadin on Twitter (@Telegraph_JimH).

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Source: Telegraph (Nashua, NH)