The need for a performing arts center at ConVal High School
For nearly fifty years, since ConVal High School opened its doors in 1970 without a performance venue, student musicians have had to perform in the school’s gym. Seating options for the audience are bleachers or metal folding chairs on a flat floor. It is a space that is acoustically and technically unsuitable for musical performance. ‘Making do’ in the gym “limits the possibilities and achievements of our students,” says Krystal Morin, Choral Music teacher at ConVal. “It’s time that they have a space that will enhance their work and expand our opportunities for creativity and collaboration,” adds Morin.
The high school’s planners also left out a theatre for dramatic arts. By necessity, a lecture hall was converted into a theatre, and was later named for Lucy Hurlin, a talented ConVal actress who died in a car accident in 1979. The Lucy Hurlin Theatre lacks a backstage, orchestra pit, wings, storage space, and proper lighting, acoustics, and HVAC. With only 200 seats, and a small stage, the theatre cannot accommodate large theatrical productions or musical programs.
Resource for Local Arts Organizations
Many local arts organizations have expressed support and need for this facility. In 2014, twenty organizations replied to a survey issued by ConVal VPAC regarding need for local arts facilities. Responses came from Francestown, Greenfield, Hancock, Keene, Peterborough, Nashua, and Wilton. In 2017, ConVal VPAC held two arts forums at which a variety of local arts organizations expressed their ideas on performance space, and details of both their met and unmet needs. Through these outreach efforts, ConVal VPAC discovered interest in the following potential uses of a new performance facility:
- Dance recitals
- Plays or Musicals
Excellent acoustics are cited as one of the most sought-after but least available technical assets in existing venues.
Arts & Culture In Peterborough and the Monadnock Region: Past and Future
The Peterborough Master Plan (The Plan), chapter “Cultural Resources,” acknowledges that although Peterborough is recognized as the “educational, cultural and economic hub for all the towns between the Monadnock peaks,” it is still necessary and valuable to continue strengthening arts opportunities and connections within Peterborough and surrounding towns.
The Plan recounts the rich history and legacy of the many arts organizations that have enhanced the region since the founding of the Monadnock Summer Lyceum in 1828, and recognizes the important role of local nonprofit arts organizations that have “self-organized to fill the community’s need for creative experience, extending the benefits of the arts to all.”
The Plan states that the arts “must be perennially reinvented to remain viable and relevant,” and that steps must be taken by citizens and those in positions of civic leadership “to sustain tomorrow’s opportunities to build community through the arts.”
The Plan makes a strong case for the future role of arts and culture in the region: “The importance of Peterborough’s cultural resources cannot be overemphasized, and the need to establish a vehicle for cooperation between public, private and nonprofit sectors dovetails nicely with conclusions put forth in other chapters of the Master Plan.”
The Thornton Wilder Center for the Arts organization envisions the arts center as a hub for diverse arts activities that will enrich our towns and enhance community.