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Antrim

Forum to be held on the teen center’s future

Grapevine’s Avenue A looking to create sustainability through more community support and input; new open mic series going

The Grapevine’s Avenue A Teen Center is in the early stages of a process to re-envision its goals and activities, according to Grapevine Executive Director Kristen Vance.

Avenue A, located in what was once Antrim’s Goodell Company, serves teens in the ConVal School District. Maddie Beihl, Antrim resident and University of New Hampshire graduate, is spearheading the project assisted by summer intern Emily Bryer, a junior at Wheaton College and also from Antrim.

Planning for the project began in February when Teen Center Coordinator Dave Kirkpatrick resigned to take on full-time employment at Cheshire TV in Keene. Kirkpatrick had been the coordinator since the teen center opened in 2007.

“Dave brought a unique and dynamic skill set to the job, which naturally guided the direction of the center for the five-plus years he was there,” says Vance. “When Dave gave his notice, we knew things couldn’t be the same. Although we were sad to see Dave go, we’re excited about the next phase of Avenue A.”

Another major factor in the decision to reevaluate the teen center was the elimination of state grants two years ago. “The Grapevine has been working hard to recoup the $40,000 loss and build organizational sustainability,” says the Chair of the Grapevine’s Board of Directors Siobhan Martin. “The teen center, as it was operating, was not amenable to income generation.” An integral component of the current project is to build sustainability into the center.

Since its inception, annual financial support for the center has come from The Gilbert Verney Foundation and the towns of Antrim and Bennington. According to Vance, that covered about half of the $32,000 annual operating costs. “Our goal is to decrease operating costs through increased community involvement, and to generate income by both making the facility available for other uses and developing activities that will benefit teens and the community while bringing in revenue.”

Initial meetings with community members have resulted in preliminary ideas that include cooking, dance and music lessons, recreational club offerings, a summer jobs network, internships with self-employed community members, and an increased emphasis on teen-driven service projects. Intergenerational activities, such as teens teaching elders to use smart phones and other technology, were suggested. Kirkpatrick has offered to continue the Lights, Camera, Action! video club and Safe Sitter trainings in the fall. A survey developed by Bryer is intended to gather input from the wider community, teens and adults alike.

A community-wide meeting and open house at the teen center on July 25 at 7 p.m. will lay out the project goals and invite further community input. Adults and teens from Antrim, Bennington, Hancock and Francestown are invited to participate.

Due to the transition, the teen center has not had open hours since the last week of the school year. Beihl said, “Many teens are especially missing the Friday night Open Mic, and we encourage those teens — and their parents — to attend the July 25 meeting to learn more about this new stage in the life of Avenue A.”

A different and more traditional sort of open mic, one geared to adults but welcoming teens who wish to perform or listen, started at the teen center in June and will continue on the first Thursday night of every month.

Vance said, “When we started thinking about ways to use the space that could benefit teens and the community-at-large, we thought about its potential as a local music venue.”

The teen center space is an open concept with wood floors, a snack bar and a natural stage area in the back. According to Vance, landlords Leslie and Paul Belliveau have been very supportive of the Avenue A and are enthusiastic about the “Heard it Through The Grapevine Music Series,” as the Thursday open mic is called.

Vance invited former Rynborn owner Doug Aborn in to see if the space would work for a coffeehouse format open mic. Aborn invited Rick Fitzgerald, formerly of Antrim, to help. Doug Farrell, a singer/song-writer from Antrim recently featured on NHPR’s The Folk Show, hosted the first open mic event. Kyle Webber, frontman for Ghost Dinner Band, was the featured artist. A $5 donation is requested at the door, and refreshments are offered by donation. The Chatfield Phoenix will be the featured artist Aug. 1.

The Teen Center Sustainability Project, as it is called, is a six-month endeavor funded by the Henry L. and Patricia J. Nielsen Fund of the N.H. Charitable Foundation. As a boost to the project, the Belliveaus decreased the teen center rent for the project period. They are also making improvements to the snack bar area and have plans to reside the front of the building.

For more information, contact Vance at The Grapevine at 588-2620, or Maddie Beihl at the Teen Center at 588-3334 or teencenter@tds.net. Beihl adds that a link to the survey is on the Avenue A Facebook page. Avenue A Teen Center, located at 42 Main St., is a project of The Grapevine Family & Community Resource Center, a nonprofit service organization.

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