Worcester Center for Crafts ready to reopen; Alliance forged with WSC in June.
WORCESTER - The Worcester Center for Crafts is getting ready to fire up the furnaces again.
With a new interim director in place, the crafts institution will offer classes this fall for the first time since the cash-strapped facility closed its doors last January. Glass-working classes will be offered at the Craft Center's New Street Glass Works, 35B New St., in September while classes in other crafts including clay and metal likely will start in January at the center's main building at 25 Sagamore Road.
In its first formal meeting yesterday, a recently reconfigured Craft Center board of directors unanimously named Carol B. Donnelly interim director of the institution. She takes over from Barbara Walzer, hired as executive director in July 2008, who stepped down citing family reasons, craft center officials said. Ms. Donnelly has been professor of education at Worcester State College since 1997 and served on the Craft Center's previous board for 12 years.
The board was reconfigured after Worcester State College forged a life-saving alliance with the 153-year-old Craft Center in June. The agreement included $250,000 a year to rent studio space for college students at the center and a $412,000 loan from the Worcester State Foundation, a private entity that acts much like a college endowment fund, to help clear the center's crippling debt. Ms. Donnelly had been slated for a sabbatical this academic year and now will spend it running the Craft Center.
"What the board needs to do is first of all get things up and running and get some of the logistical problems solved, get our core staff on board and get some of our systems functioning," Ms. Donnelly said. "In January we will start working a little more strategically at what the long term outlook of the Craft Center will be."
The center is ready to begin moving forward with a management team that, in addition to Donnelly, includes retaining Tammy Nigosian, director of finance and administration, one of few people who remained after nearly the entire Craft Center staff was laid off in January.
Also, glass studio head Jake Vincent, who had been working part time maintaining the expensive equipment at New Street since January, has been restored to full-time status. The board is also negotiating a new contract with longtime clay studio head Tom O'Malley.
"Those two studios obviously need in a director someone who knows about those areas and the equipment in those areas," said William F. O'Neil, former president of the Massachusetts College of Art, now retired, who has been named the president of the reconfigured board. Mr. O'Neil also is a member of the board of the Worcester State College Foundation. "We're going to begin class work in the glass shed in September and meanwhile we're anxious to do something at the Sagamore Road facility but we have to make sure it's up to code and that we've got the proper permits," he said.
While work continues on things such as fire alarms and a sprinkler system, many hard decisions about what goes on in the soon-to-be-upgraded building remain. Ms. Donnelly said she plans to hold meetings with all interested parties including a loyal base of adult students from the community, some of whom have been studying crafts at the center for decades.
"We have huge respect for all of the studios that are in there but one of the reasons that we have this marvelous opportunity of collegiality is because the studios weren't paying the rent," Ms. Donnelly said. "So we're really going to be looking very hard at all of the programs and make sure that when we come back it's as a vital sustainable, independent organization."
Glass, metals and ceramics, which Ms. Donnelly called "our three mainstays" will definitely be back, and discussions are ongoing with people from the center's fiber arts and wood refinishing departments.
What about photography, which has an especially dedicated corps of adult students?
"We'll certainly be talking with them but photography is something that we also have in other places in the community," she said.
"The colleges all have good photography programs. The art museum has a good photography programs, although we're absolutely not ruling it out." One complication is that, while the college intends to move its visual and performing arts program to the Sagamore Road site, its photography classes are run through the communications department at Worcester State.
The Craft Center's new officials are confident it all can be sorted out, however. "We're pleased with the progress," O'Neil said.
The 8,000-square-foot New Street Studio houses a three-station hot shop with a brand new 535-pound Correll glass furnace, a state-of-the-art 10-station flame shop, a fully equipped cold shop and a flat shop for fusing, slumping, casting and stained glass work.
CUTLINE: Ms. Donnelly
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|Title Annotation:||LOCAL NEWS|
|Publication:||Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)|
|Date:||Aug 13, 2009|
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