BRATTLEBORO—The Selectboard said “yes” on Nov. 20 to entering into contract negotiations with Fulcrum Arts to launch a business in the historic and dilapidated Archery Building, the town-owned structure at 26 Depot St.
The approval came after lengthy discussion, led by Vice-chair David Gartenstein, about whether the business matched the town’s vision for the property.
The board approved contract negotiations with glassblower Randi Solin and ceramic artist Natalie Blake, the team behind Fulcrum Arts’ proposal for a gallery, workshop space, and working studio. The board has not approved the project.
During a public hearing held prior to the regular Selectboard meeting, Blake explained the partners’ proposal for the abandoned Archery Building, which hails from Brattleboro’s history as part of a thriving railroad-based economy.
Blake said she felt that Fulcrum Arts would serve residents and visitors attending longer workshops she and Solin would offer, adding that the space also could serve as a hub, or ripple effect, for visitors to discover a wealth of local artists.
Blake and Solin have twice attempted to move their studio from the Cotton Mill in Brattleboro, but lost out on both locations.
“We love the Cotton Mill,” said Blake. “But the retail location doesn’t really work.”
Those attempts have made Fulcrum Arts proficient in vetting, funding, and developing old buildings, Blake assured the board.
Limited parking spaces shared by the Amtrak train station and the Whetstone Station Restaurant and Brewery posed reason for concern, however, and could deter the project, Blake said.
Blake also stressed her and Solin’s business interests in moving the project expeditiously.
“ASAP!,” she said about the timeline. “We have been waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and we have all our ducks in a row.”
According to a Sept. 26 article in The Commons, proposals for the Archery Building were vetted by an ad-hoc committee including representatives from the Town Arts and Union Station committees, the Brattleboro Development Credit Corp., the Recreation and Parks Department, and the Planning Commission, among others.
The committee recommended proposals to the Selectboard after grading the projects based on financial sustainability, integration with the Town Plan, and whether the request for proposals (RFP) conformed with the town’s criteria.
Fulcrum Arts was one of two groups to submit an RFP to the town.
The other was Brattleboro Clayworks, which envisioned a center for ceramics and three-dimensional art, possibly serving as a Vermont State Craft Center. That effort, tentatively called ArtsWorks, would move Clayworks’ studio from Putney Road to the Archery Building and work with River Gallery School and other arts organizations to create a group gallery and school.
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