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Mother Brook Center to use Grant Award for 'Major Reconstruction'

The award, totaling $22,700, will provide funds for physical upgrades to the facility at the former Avery Elementary School.

Existing entrance to the Mother Brook Arts & Community Center to be restored to historically accurate, architectural detail. Photo Credit: Alex Jones, Alex Jones Photography
Existing entrance to the Mother Brook Arts & Community Center to be restored to historically accurate, architectural detail. Photo Credit: Alex Jones, Alex Jones Photography

The Mother Brook Arts & Community Center in Dedham has received a grant award from the Blue Hills Bank Charitable Foundation that will allow the center to make physical enhancements to the former Avery Elementary School building it inhabits on High Street. 

The center will use the $22,700 award to fund major reconstruction and historical restoration of the facility's front door, a new keyless entry locking system and brand new gallery lighting for the main exhibition hall, Mother Brook officials said in an announcement this week. 

"We're giving a new life to a building that is nearly a century old, and with Blue Hills Bank support we're now well on our way to transforming it into one of the new gems in the historic Mother Brook neighborhood," MBACC Executive Director Jean Ford Webb said in a statement. 

The entry door and glass that surround the old Avery Elementary School building was in poor condition, and the doors were warped and splitting, according to the announcement. 

Webb related in her statement that an inviting and secure entrance will help make MBACC a welcoming and safe place and provide a dramatic upgrade to the aesthetic appearance of the building. Three estimates for the replacement project averaged in the range of $35,000, but Jim ray, owner of Mystic Scenic Studios in Norwood, which has been a major donor and supporter of the MBACC, offered a project quote at nearly half the original estimate, according to the announcement. 

Blue Hills Bank officials, meanwhile, are hoping the donation will inspire others to supper the center and boost arts in Dedham.

"We are excited about the vision of using the arts to accelerate the continued revitalization of East Dedham," Blue Hills Bank Senior Vice President Karen Marryat said in a statement. "We hope this early advocacy and support of the Mother Brook Arts & Community Center will inspire a lot more giving and volunteer work to keep building this amazing community resource." 

But it's not the first show of support for the center, or for arts in Dedham. The town received a $20,000 Artist Link Challenge Grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council in 2013 to help with planning and permitting for the new center. Adding to that, Dedham also sponsored the East Dedham Community Charette last year, an effort funded by the town’s Mitigation Committee, which included the exploration of Arts Overlay Zoning option that aims to further accelerate the arts movement in Dedham. 

Dedham Economic Development Director Karen O'Connell has also worked with with Dedham Selectman Paul Reynolds and State Rep. Paul McMurtry (D-Dedham) to map out a comprehensive vision and strategy for an arts-driven revitalization of East Dedham for years, most recently resulting in the transformation of the old Avery School into the MBACC, Dedham Town Administrator Bill Keegan said in a statement. 

O'Connell also managed a winning Artist Link grant submission to the Massachusetts Cultural Council last year. 

"Creative place-making is a growing national movement, which requires bringing together multiple sectors and levels of community and regional leadership involvement," she said in a statement. "The Town of Dedham is modeling the power of cultivating cross-community partnerships required to realize this kind of creative community transformation, and that is sure to turn heads around the country."

The following details were included in the statement from MBACC:

A keyless remote entry system, installed in concert with front door construction and installation, will permit MBACC to manage access by the many short and long-term users of the building. Users include resident artists, instructors, students, event renters and attendees, as well as community groups, voters and other visitors. The building is used throughout the week, days and evenings, so being able to manage the security of the building more efficiently will save significant personnel costs. 

Funds will also provide the installation of modern track lights for the facility’s main entry, as well as the gallery in the first floor main hall. Both the entry and first floor hall have older florescent lights with cracked and broken housing, which cast unsightly shadows on hanging artwork, and have needed regular repair. 

Kevin Scollan of Trinity Painting provided countless hours of pro bono painting for the gallery space, along with community volunteers, who spent several weeks cleaning, restoring and painting the entry and main hall. The main hall will be used for rotating art exhibitions, which will include openings and artist talks to which the public is invited. 

Mother Brook Arts & Community Center’s inaugural art exhibition FLIRT is being curated by award-winning visual artist Martha Wakefield, and will include works from 14 artists. It is being hung on Jan. 30-31, and will be up for six weeks. An opening reception will be held Feb. 7 from 7 to 9 p.m. and all are welcome.  

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