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Meeting planned on feasibility of arts center in Peterborough

PETERBOROUGH — The brick garage next to the Community Center on Elm Street has been used for highway equipment storage since 2009, when the town took over the National Guard armory buildings. Now the garage is under consideration as a possible location for a community arts center, and a public forum is planned for Monday to gauge the level of interest in such a project.

Although posters around town promoting the meeting show the garage with a headline reading “Future Art Center?,” Public Works Director Rodney Bartlett said the meeting is intended to have a wider focus.

“The meeting is really to help us identify what the need is,” Bartlett said on Monday. “We have a large arts and culture community that functions independently. If it’s determined that there is a need for a physical structure as an arts center, [the garage] is one of the options.”

In June 2012, the town of Peterborough and the Sharon Arts Center received a $25,000 “Our Town” grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to do a feasibility study for a possible arts center. Bartlett said Duncan Webb, a consultant from New York City, has been hired to direct the study. Webb has interviewed people in the local arts community, Bartlett said, and the next step is to get feedback from the public.

Webb will be attending the meeting, where he plans to give a summary of what he’s learned so far.

“I was up there in February,” Webb said in a phone conversation on Wednesday. “I’ve talked to arts leaders, community leaders, facilities managers. I’ve tried to talk to a cross section of leadership.”

He said a feasibility study will address four major questions: Is there an audience for an arts center? Are there people who would use it? Are there problems or issues with current facilities? How would a new center serve the goals of the community?

“We’ve developed a lot of data on the market and other facilities,” Webb said. “Now the intent is collect a lot of community feedback. I’ll have a bunch of visuals to show, but I’m going to try not to talk too much.”

Anyone is welcome to attend Monday’s forum, which will be held at the Town House at 6 p.m.

“It’s obvious that the arts transcend town borders,” Bartlett said.

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