By Jann Wiswall
The Springville Center for the Arts has a new home in a former Baptist Church at 37 North Buffalo St. and is in the process of renovating the building to provide top-notch theater, gallery, educational, performance and rehearsal space for now and into the future.
Springville’s theater arts community has been thriving for many years, beginning back in the 1960s with the birth of The Community Musical and then the Springville Players. As the success of their productions grew, space constantly was an issue. Productions moved from the high school to the elementary school and then to a Main Street location, where, in addition to theater programs, the center offered workshops, visual art shows, residencies, musical performances, cinema and more.
By 2006, it became obvious that the Main Street location was inadequate for the growing organization, so the board launched a capital campaign, raised $100,000 in three months, and purchased the church in 2007.
According to the center’s Executive Director, Seth Wochensky, members have since raised $525,000 from the New York State Historic Preservation Office, the Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo, the New York State Council on the Arts, Erie County, the Springville-Griffith Community Education Foundation, and individual donors to make exterior and structural repairs and to a second-story classroom addition for the center’s growing educational programs. This phase of the project will be completed by fall.
The next phase will include interior renovations to create increased theater seating, more gallery hanging space and secondary rehearsal and performance spaces.
The center also recently acquired a building at 5 East Main St., a dilapidated, but historic structure that had been vacant for years. It plans to create an Arts Café in the building, with a coffee shop, a gallery and artist residency spaces. According to Wochensky, the center plans to install a publicly accessible “green roof” on the building where vegetables and flowers will grow. There will be a greywater collection system, which will be used to irrigate the gardens and other efforts will be made to make the building as green as possible, within the confines of historic building status rules.
All this expansion is not only valuable to the artists in the region, but also “serves as a catalyst to bring more investment into the village,” Wochensky said, adding the arts can be “a key part of the economic growth of an area.”
For example, he noted last weekend’s Arts Crawl, during which art by dozens of regional artists was displayed in local businesses.
“The event attracted some 1,000 visitors to the village who spent time and money in shops they may never have been in before,” he said.
Despite the construction status, the center has a full slate of adult and children’s activities planned for this summer, Wochensky said. The center’s art camps, workshops and performances for elementary age children are extremely popular, and there are dozens of musical and dramatic programs planned for adults as well.
On June 1 at 7 p.m., the center is presenting a new and exclusive production called “Four Seasons, Four Years” featuring 11 singers and musicians performing Civil War music. The performance will include an historical narrative specific to New York and the New York Volunteer Regiments. Tickets are $20 each and may be purchased through the center’s website, where the full calendar of summer events and activities will be posted soon. For more information, visit www.springvillearts.org, or call (716) 592-9038.