Keeping the Arts Center open

Windows in the Arts Center
Windows at the Arts Center

I’ll admit I have a soft spot in my heart for the building that houses the Southborough Arts Center — it’s where I went to kindergarten after all. Come to find out, I’m not the only one.

“I view it as part of the town’s DNA,” Selectman Sal Giorlandino told a crowd of Arts Center supporters at Tuesday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting.

“There are feelings from some people that we should close the building and even sell it,” Chairman Bill Boland said. “We’ve put a lot of money in that building and I’d like to see it stay.”

But while the selectmen were unanimous in wanting to keep the building open, they acknowleged how expensive it is to maintain and operate. “One of the big areas that’s costly for the town is that building,” Boland told Arts Council representatives. “We have to find a way you can contribute to its upkeep.”

Selectwoman Bonnie Phaneuf asked the Arts Council to think about “creative ways” to help offset costs, whether it’s renting out the exhibit space or lowering the thermostats.

Facilities Manager Phil Rinehart said $14,000 was budgeted to heat the building this year, but the town has already depleted the funds.

Arts Council Directory Emily Van Nort said the center’s long-broken elevator made fundraising difficult over the past few years. Now that the elevator is fixed, she said they are getting “bombarded” with requests from artists who want to use the exhibit space. “We’re bringing people and artists back into the Arts Center.”

The Arts Council agreed to look for ways to contribute financially to the cost of the facility.

In related news, the Arts Center building will get new windows this spring, which architect and project manager David Hart estimates could save 15-20% in heating bills next year. At Tuesday’s meeting, the Selectmen approved a bid of $71,614 for the work. The money to replace the windows comes from Community Preservation Committee funds set aside by voters at last year’s Town Meeting.

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