Sharon Arts Center and its Peterborough gallery and store are closing this summer

  • The New Hampshire Institute of Art has announced it will be closing the Sharon Arts Center and its associated gallery by the end of August and class offerings to other campuses. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • The New Hampshire Institute of Art has announced it will be closing the Sharon Arts Center and its associated gallery by the end of August, and will be moving those class offerings to other campuses. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • The Sharon Arts Center in Sharon is closing. Staff photo by Meghan Pierce—

  • The Sharon Arts Center in Sharon is closing. Staff photo by Meghan Pierce—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 6/21/2019 5:10:04 PM

The Sharon Arts Center in Sharon along with the Sharon Arts Center Gallery and Fine Craft Store in Peterborough are closing this summer.

The announcement was made Thursday, about a year after the New Hampshire Art Institute in Manchester, which absorbed the Sharon Arts Center in 2012, announced it was merging with New England College in Henniker.

“The merger of the New Hampshire Institute of Art with New England College will become “official” on July 1,” James Murtha, Senior Vice President of Academic Alliances at New England College, said in the email to arts center students Thursday. “NHIA will then be renamed the Institute of Art and Design at New England College. All academic programs formerly offered by NHIA will continue to be offered by NEC.”

“As part of the merger, NEC will be ‘rightsizing’ its property holdings to best serve its students and to meet their academic needs. Part of that rightsizing initiative will include exploring the sale of a limited number of underutilized former NHIA properties, including the Sharon Arts Center building in Sharon, which was home to NHIA’s regional Community Education classes, and the Gallery and Fine Craft Store in Peterborough.

The email goes on to say that in order to prepare for the sale of the Sharon Arts Center building, New England College plans to cease operations at the Sharon Arts Center in Sharon. The store in Peterborough will close on or before Aug. 31 and the gallery is planned to close on Aug. 11.

In a press release Thursday, New England College said, “To support campus planning, NEC has engaged commercial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield of Manchester to review the real estate portfolio and to assist in ‘right sizing’ facilities for current and future campus needs. Properties in Manchester, Sharon, and Peterborough will be presented to potential buyers over the next several months. NEC will phase out activities in Sharon and Peterborough later this summer.”

Murtha said in his email, “Due to the timing of the closure, all exhibitions previously scheduled by NHIA for the Fall of 2019 have been canceled. No further classes will be offered in Sharon following this date, however, NEC will continue to offer classes that are open to the public through its Community Education programs in Manchester.”

Dr. Tom Horgan, Executive Director of Community Relations and Public Affairs for New England College, said on Monday that no new classes will start at the arts center and all classes currently underway will conclude sometime in August and the center will then officially close.

“It’s a community arts center and we’re a higher education institution. Our core mission is to serve students who are seeking degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels so running a community arts center is not in line with our core mission,” Horgan said.

The store and gallery in Peterborough are being closed for similar reasons.

“As far as I know it’s been underperforming. But more importantly, it’s a retail art gallery which, yet again, is not core to educating our students,” Horgan said.

In 2016, NHIA announced plans for a $300,000 renovation of the gallery and store in Peterborough.

“As far as I know those plans never materialized,” Horgan said.

The proprieties are not yet on the market, he said, but there have already been interest from potential buyers, he said.

“I know we’ve talked to a couple of people in the area but the marketing of the properties are just starting,” Horgan said. “If someone wanted to run an art gallery in Depot Square that would be a great use for that building and we’d be happy to talk to them.”

Peterborough artist and ConVal art teacher Mary Goldthwaite-Gagne said Monday she and her students are saddened by the news of the closings.

“The news was really devastating and really sad for us,” she said. “The Sharon Arts Center is so connected to the arts community in our region. It’s really hard to think about the absence of that.”

Goldthwaite-Gagne has taught at the center and curated shows for the gallery and had high school students put on shows in the gallery. More importantly, she has seen students go on to study art at the college level then return to the community to work at the gallery as well as exhibit their own work there.

“I think it’s important for my students to see they can leave the community and have something to come back to,” she said.

For the past two years, the annual Monadnock Art Tour has held a show at the Sharon Arts Center to both showcase its 70 or so tour artists and promote the fall art studio tour.

Joe Caracappa, president of the Monadnock Art Tour, said Monday he too is saddened by the closings.

“I was sad and I know the arts community’s sad. The Sharon Arts Center was such an institution in this area. Most of the artists in the area have had an affiliation with them over the years. It’s hard to believe that it won’t be here.”

The Sharon Arts Center was founded in 1946 as a place for artists and the public to come together to learn, work, shop and appreciate fine art.

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