Concord Community Arts Center open for business, seeking tenants
Brandi Nylen Reed paints in the new Eastern Ballet Institute at the Rumford Arts Center on Thorndike Street in Concord. Reed hopes to be open on Tuesday for the summer session.
(GEOFF FORESTER Monitor staff)
The outside of the old Rumford School, now called the Rumford Arts Center
(GEOFF FORESTER Monitor staff)
As Dustin Rose surveyed his new private fitness studio inside the former Rumford School on Monday, he noted the new space had something his old one didn’t: windows.
Rose, a South End resident who owns Dustin’s Fitness Solutions, opened for business this week in a 1,400-square-foot space on the first floor of the building on Thorndike Street. He is one of the first to call the Concord Community Arts Center home.
“It’s still a work in progress,” he said. “It’s just great, though. It’s awesome.”
Six tenants have signed or agreed to sign leases, including a sewing studio, a yoga studio, a ballet studio, Rose’s fitness studio and a day care. The next step is connecting with the city’s arts community to fill the remaining six classrooms at the for-profit arts center. Developer Brian Thibeault said he hopes the smaller spaces on the second floor
can also be used as an artist workshop or incubator space.
Thibeault, of Manchester, bought the 29,000-square-foot brick building from the Concord School District in June. Soon after, he announced plans to repurpose it as a place to bring the city’s artistic community together. But need will drive who moves into the building, he said last week, and while that may slightly shift the focus to include nontraditional arts endeavors, potential anchor tenants can work collaboratively with others who rent space.
“It’s not just about art. It’s about community and the arts. It’s about bringing people together,” Thibeault said. “People want to do artsy stuff, but they also want to have yoga and pilates and wellness. We’re doing what we can do to be in tune with the arts and theater community in Concord.”
One converted first-floor classroom is the new home of the Eastern Ballet Institute, which has painted the room and installed dance mirrors along the wall and flooring, in addition to ceiling fans.
The school, run by Artistic Director Brandi Nylen Reed, welcomes students ages 3 and up from Greater Concord. Nylen Reed spent the last couple of years looking at different spaces in the Concord area, she said. “Either the ceilings were too low or there were support columns in the middle of the space, or the setup wasn’t conducive to our needs,” she said. Then Thibeault called out of the blue several months ago and said he might have a space for her, she said.
“This space has everything we need for growth, with a really nice sense of community; plenty of opportunity to collaborate with other artists in the building as well,” she said. “There have already been discussions about this with the folks that I have met over the last few days here.”
Tenants are given creative control of the rooms, Thibeault said. “The people are basically taking a blank canvas and doing their rooms up like they want to,” he said. A few doors down from the ballet studio, a sign hangs on a classroom door announcing the Sew Sister Sewing Studio.
“There is all kinds of stuff we can do. We’re not going to have things like lawyers and doctors, obviously,” he said. “We’re looking at tutoring, writing skills, film, photography, dance and theater. Community and art coming together.”
He plans to hire a site manager to handle day-to-day work and act as a liaison to the arts community.
Thibeault said he wants to spread the word that the building is open for business, and he is interested in talking with artists. Available spaces range from about 200 to 1,200 square feet, and most feature lots of natural light, carpeted floors and views of the city’s South End.
Connecting with artists like Krystin Watts could help fill the remaining spaces. Watts, of Warner, is a watercolor and illustration teacher who works privately but is mulling the need for teaching space.
“I would be interested in classroom space I could rent. It’s definitely something that would be good to have,” she said. The location within a building that has other creative people is a plus, she said. “You get so much more creative energy.”
Upon closing on the property, Thibeault hired a full-time cleaning crew, painted the hallways, seal-coated the driveway, improved the playground and cleaned the building. There are plans to use the cafeteria kitchen as a cafe area, he said. “Maybe have a mother drop their child off for a class, and they can have a cup of coffee or something while they wait,” he said.
In a broad sense, he sees the businesses in the center feeding off each other.
“We’re trying to have everybody working off one another,” Thibeault said.
Rose, who was operating elsewhere downtown, said a Realtor told him about the new space at the Rumford School. He said he toured the space and loved the natural light and price, which was about $3 cheaper per square foot that he was paying.
“People seem to like it. It’s using up space that would have rotted to the ground otherwise,” he said.
His client Monday morning was Kevin Soles of Dunbarton, who remarked, “This space is perfect. I’m psyched for him.”
For more information about the center, contact Thibeault at concordcommunityarts email@example.com.
(Iain Wilson can be reached at 369-3313 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)