Gathering to discuss the restoration and reuse of historic buildings for community purposes

BERLIN — A group of leaders from six nonprofit organizations in the region gathered on Saturday, April 23 for a workshop organized by XIX Carter, a new kind of community gathering place in Berlin.

Local arts organizations located in Medfield, Wendell, Harvard, Boylston, Hudson and Gilbertville were brought together by Evelyn Dueck, Executive Director of XIX Carter, to share their shared experiences in restoring and reusing historic buildings for community use as spaces gathering and art. .

Each organization had previously contacted Dueck for advice on how XIX Carter successfully renovated a historic 1887 church and transformed it into a vibrant community space welcoming people of all ages for unique interactions between neighbors, artists and musicians.

“This workshop gave each group a chance to showcase their good work and inspire each other,” Dueck said. “It’s easy to think that you’re the only one working on this type of project. Most of these groups are run by volunteers, and the enormity of the many building restoration, fundraising, and marketing tasks can seem overwhelming and isolating.

The six organizations are all working to create spaces for the community to gather and connect with the arts in restored historic buildings. Some are in the renovation phase and others are actively offering programs for their communities. The six organizations have been working on their projects for five to 22 years.

Mary and Phil Warbasse, of the Stone Church Cultural Center in Gilbertville, have been working on the restoration of the 1874 stone church for seven years and want to facilitate the use of the building and serve the community. They opened to the public for a variety of events, including concerts on the prized organ and community dinners.

Nel Lazour, from the Hillside Restoration Project and its Board of Directors have worked for over 20 years with the Town of Boylston to raise historic restoration funds to stabilize and carefully restore the 1848 Gough House National Historic Landmark and its surrounding 12 acres. Their goal is to serve the whole community as a place of arts, culture and learning.

Tom Desmond, of Hudson Cultural Alliance, spoke about their plans to renovate the 1910 National Guard Armory as a center for the performing arts, including spaces for concerts and theater; spaces for creative artists; art, music and movement classes; and art exhibition space.

Christopher Queen and Don Stone attended the Wendell Meeting House. Their historic 1846 church is being restored to provide a community center featuring multi-generational gathering space, live entertainment, designer learning classes, and space for spiritual gatherings and events.

Mark Mikitarian, of five sparks at Harvard, with its Board of Trustees, has created a space to inspire and support community arts, culture, and education. Renting the old Harvard Public Library in 2017, they now offer a wide range of exhibits, concerts, music festivals, and arts and crafts classes.

Jean Mineo joined the group since Bellforge Arts Center (formerly Medfield Cultural Alliance). They have a long-term lease with Medfield to use two buildings at the center of the 1896 Medfield State Hospital with the goal of expanding cultural opportunities and nurturing the creative community.

Dueck said she hopes to facilitate future meetings to continue supporting communities as they strive to reinvent and rehabilitate historic buildings.

“Our success at XIX Carter can serve as a model for others to renovate and reuse community spaces that benefit all ages. I am happy to advise others and delighted that our project experience has inspired other projects,” Dueck said.

For more information on XIX Carter’s programs, visit www.19Carter.org or email [email protected]

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