The mission of the Northampton Community Arts Trust is to protect and ensure the long-term vitality of Northampton through the acquisition and preservation of space for creative work — affordable and accessible — in the heart of the community.
The Arts Trust envisions a downtown Northampton with art at its center, including a diversity of spaces that can incorporate a range of artistic activities: A black box theater, exhibition galleries, music and dance performance areas, work space for artists, office space for arts administration and retail space for arts related businesses. The Arts Trust will acquire spaces, either through purchase or donation, and ensure that such spaces remain dedicated to creative work as well as affordable and accessible to the community into the future. Adapted from the model of land trusts, the facilities created on property acquired by the Trust will enter into long-term lease agreements with the organizations, artists and businesses that occupy and manage the property.
Arts Trust Core Beliefs
- Imagination is essential to the creation of a future we will want to inhabit.
- The capacity to create something that has been imagined is an essential process for the health of an individual and a community.
- Unencumbered space and unchallenged time – essential for the playing out of this process — are Common Heritage Resources and deserve to be protected.
- Because Common Heritage Resources belong to everyone, being compromised by market-driven forces or private ownership should be unacceptable.
Why Us, Why Now?
Northampton, Massachusetts has a long history of recognizing the important role the arts play in the economic and social life of the community. Today, downtown Northampton boasts a vibrant mix of residences, businesses, restaurants, stores, art galleries and entertainment venues housed in buildings of historic and architectural note. This diversity makes Northampton attractive to tourists, enhances the life of its residents and contributes to its economic success.
However, the very same attributes for which Northampton is rightly celebrated have also given rise to the need for the Arts Trust. As downtown has become increasingly attractive and desirable, the cost of occupying property has risen dramatically. This has come to present real challenges to the creative community. As rents have risen, artists and arts groups have moved out of Northampton to more affordable rehearsal and studio spaces in surrounding communities such as Easthampton, Holyoke, Montague and Shelburne Falls. Essentially, Northampton is losing the foundational organizations, opportunities and citizenry that made Northampton what it is today.
- In 2006, Thornes Marketplace changed hands and the 10,000 square feet on the top floor of Thornes Marketplace occupied by A.P.E. and housing a 100-seat flexible theater, two art galleries, a Pilates gym, artists studios and offices, was converted to office use.
- The Northampton Independent Film Festival (NIFF) downsized its operations.
- Pleasant Street Theater, a locally-owned theater showcasing independent and foreign films since the 1970’s, closed in 2012
- The Northampton Center for the Arts, a community arts organization was forced to abandon its location in 2013 when the city’s lease for that space expired.
The arts are crucial to Northampton's character, its community and to its central business environment. Without action, the loss of spaces for the arts will continue. The Arts Trust aims to create a groundbreaking approach for preserving the arts as part of Northampton's downtown, part of its identity and part of its economic vitality.