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Dedham Selectmen Accept Avery Arts Center Report

Supporters will now try to form a non-profit group and sign a lease for the building with the town.

 

As expected, the Dedham Board of Selectmen unanimously accepted a plan to turn the current into a , paving way for a non-profit organization to form to step up to the task of readying the school for its new use.

The Avery Re-Use Committee spent nearly a year debating a proper use for the 1920s school, and recommended that it be used as studio, gallery and meeting space for artists and community groups.

"It was a lot of work - a labor of work," said Avery Re-Use Committee chairman Joe Heisler. "Many [other ideas], while great, were not feasible."

Heisler told selectmen Thursday that the project is "value added" and something that Dedham has not offered before, making it a unique challenge for the town to tackle in the coming months.

"There are a lot of artists. There is a lot of interest. This is an area that the town and an organization can tap into to provide a wonderful new resource," he said. "We believe it will be a great economic anchor for the East Dedham neighborhood."

A major selling point on the transformation of the school lies in the "little to no cost" of the project, Heisler said. The town would be only responsible for utility bills and routine maintence of the building between the time the school is vacated in April and when a non-profit group can sign a lease agreement with the town.

"We believe that would be minimal," Heisler said.

Fundraising for the new endeavor has begun as selectman Paul Reynolds has helped spearhead an initiative to get to display around town. Organizers are selling sponsorships of the bunnies and will auction off the artwork later to help bankroll a non-profit entity.

The group announced major donations of $20,000 and $3,000 to help the project.

Selectman Jim MacDonald stressed that the vote to approve is just the beginning of the process.

"This isn't going to happen by itself. It is going to happen with a lot of work," MacDonald said to a round of applause from about two dozen supporters of the arts center.

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