Friday, November 28, 2014

MIDDLETOWN ARTS... at First Church?

"The Sanctuary" at First Church of Christ, Congregational on
Court Street has a legal capacity of 895 persons. (click photos to enlarge)

Could the Sanctuary at one of Middletown's historic churches soon be hosting major arts and music events on a regular basis? 

That's the idea proposed by Trevor Davis, a member of the board of trustees of First Church of Christ, Congregational, at 190 Court Street. (Across from Klekolo coffee shop, next to Young's Printing.) Davis is also a local dealer in commercial real estate and long time musician.

Trevor Davis and Rev. Julia Burkey
On November 18th, he and church minister Rev. Julia Burkey presented the idea for "The MIDDLETOWN ARTS CENTER at First Church" to invited members of the city's arts community. 

Davis has taken the first steps to create a non-profit to organize and promote events in the historic space, with three stated goals: to bring more people and income to the church, to bring more people to downtown Middletown, and to assist local arts organizations by helping to coordinate events and then promoting them to the "downtown dining customers and arts audiences of Connecticut."

It wouldn't be the first time the church's main space, called the sanctuary, has been used as an arts venue. Davis produced a sold-out show by the famed Paul Winter Consort there in the 1980's. More recently, singer-songwriter (and '89 Wesleyan grad) Dar Williams, and The Slambovian Circus of Dreams performed there during the Middnight On Main celebrations. 

Davis told the audience that "too things many seemed perfect" once he conceived the idea. Built in 1872, the church sits just off Main Street, directly across from the city's largest parking garage. The seating capacity is listed at 895. (Hartford's new Infinity Hall seats 500.)

Guitarist Stephen Nystrup of New Haven showed off the hall's famed acoustics with a performance. Davis then opened up the floor to questions and comments. 

There were many. Most of the attendees were supportive, agreeing that such a venue would create a downtown attraction beyond Main Street's well-known restaurants, and one that could be symbiotic with them. 

Questions abounded: Should the organization and location try to develop a niche, maybe folk music? Would there be alcohol at performances? Sold or BYOB? Could an updated PA system be installed? How 'edgy' could performances be? Would there be pushback from the church about the content of the art? "Maybe not 'Oh! Calcutta!'" said Carolyn Kirsch of the Vintage Players troupe. "But what if we wanted to produce 'Agnes of God'?  Davis said he saw little chance of any conflict. "We're UCC - pretty much the most liberal denomination around." Rev. Burkey said "The fullness of being Human is welcome in this space."

How soon before the group could host its first event remains an open question. Davis said a small preliminary board has been created. "This will be a long range project to build a sustainable, vibrant organization to enhance the Middletown arts community, and contribute to the economic development of our great small city on the Connecticut River."


Anonymous said...

"Oh! Calcutta!" would be perfect for the space.

Anonymous said...

Take a look at what Bruce John (former owner of The Shaboo Inn in Willimantic) has done with The Bread Box.
A beautiful music venue, held in a church, that supports the needy in the community.