PUTNEY—In the middle of March, Next Stage Arts purchased the building on Kimball Hill that houses their offices and performance and programming space.
They bought it from the Putney Historical Society.
The purchase price, according to Next Stage Executive Director Maria Basescu: “No cost. Just a dollar. It went from one nonprofit to another."
“This was always part of the plan,” Basescu said.
In the middle of the last decade, the historical society bought the circa-1841 church, located at 15 Kimball Hill, from the United Church of Putney when their congregation disbanded.
For quite a few years, the building was rarely used, said Basescu, and it was in need of renovation and upgrade.
“Bless them, the Putney Historical Society took it on,” she said.
Around the same time, the Putney General Store burned down. Twice.
“It was a real gut-punch,” said Basescu, but, “in this very organic way, organizations and people in town said, ’Let’s rebuild the store!’ and they held talent shows and other fundraisers at the church.”
During this coming together, “a bunch of people here saw what a fantastic venue the church is for live events,” she said.
And this is where the founders of the Next Stage vision convened, Basescu said.
Billy Straus, John Burt, Eric Bass, Barry Stockwell, and Chip Greenberg were the original five. They held initial fundraisers, got money for a feasibility study, held community meetings, and formed the Next Stage Arts Project. When they began forming the Board of Directors, that’s when Basescu came on.
Soon after, she became Next Stage’s executive director.
Next Stage and the historical society worked together on a successful $1.7 million capital campaign to renovate the old church and turn it into a fully accessible, modern performing arts and community center.
The arts organization has rented its space from the historical society, “but the historical society is not in the real-estate business,” Basescu said. “The common understanding from the beginning was, the ownership would transfer from them to Next Stage.”
In mid-March, the closing took place. Now, said Basescu, the historical society pays rent to Next Stage for office space, displays, meeting space, archive storage space, and the ability to offer open hours on Saturdays.
The historical society, which owns and operates the Putney General Store, “can now focus on that,” Basescu said.
“They are an extremely dedicated, generous group of people in the community,” said Basescu, “and we’re lucky to have them, and be partners with them.”