MONTGOMERY — Like so many other arts organizations across the state, the Montgomery Center for the Arts shut down last year.
“We’ve all been feeling like this emptiness around here,” says Melissa Haberman, acting director of the center.
But they’re taking that emptiness and turning it around.
“Since we closed our doors and we didn’t open up for the winter, our focus was like ... let’s start really concentrating on finding ways to fix this building. We’ve been so busy with programming for the last six years we said, ‘Let’s really put our energy toward that,’” says Haberman.
In early March, the center was one of nine recipients to receive the Bruhn Historic Revitalization Grant Award. The grant — named for Preservation Trust of Vermont’s founding president, Paul Bruhn — was created in partnership with Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and the National Park Service, to help rural communities throughout the country.
“The projects that have been funded through the Paul Bruhn Historic Revitalization Grants Program represent an incredible opportunity for our village centers, and the Preservation Trust has the expertise to support these groups as they move forward. The funded projects will enhance the vibrancy of rural Vermont by bringing people together, increasing economic activity, and helping communities to be more resilient,” says Leahy.
Since 2016, the Center for the Arts has been housed inside Kelton Hall, a Greek revival-style structure that previously served as the town’s Baptist church.
The $50,000 grant will address exterior repairs, stripping and repainting, and the construction of a handicapped accessible ramp and entrance on the rear of the building.
“Having the exterior of the building rejuvenated will not only stimulate the organization itself, but will also revive this architectural monument that is so emblematic of our Main Street,” says Suzanne Dollois, who serves as treasurer of the MCA.
In addition to the Paul Bruhn grant, the Center for the Arts has also received $3,000 from the Upper Missisquoi and Trout Rivers — Wild & Scenic Committee to help with programming.
That funding is highlighted by a pop-up art show called “Take me to the River” on Sunday at 10 a.m. at the Riverwalk Park in Montgomery.
“We did a plein air painting workshop on Saturday. There were 10 people. Sunday is going to be showing off their work. We had artists from Fairfield, some from Richford and some from Montgomery,” says Haberman.
The center has plans for another show on June 5. The shows are limited to approximately 10 people, first come first serve.
“We used to do a lot of programming there over the years. We also did classes there … an instructor would rent the space and do a yoga class or a Thai Chi class and we had a children’s ballet class twice a week. They all want to come back but we’re not really feeling comfortable yet with the way … until most people are vaccinated.” says Haberman.
With changes to the building and funding, Haberman is optimistic that this year will be the best yet.
“We’ve got some ideas. We’re looking at doing some front porch shows. We did one in August of last year. It’s been a real tough year and we’re trying to reinvent ourselves right now,” she says.