Arts Spotlight: MoCo Arts's new building!

Arts education is an equalizer that gives kids in our community - all kids - the skills that help them flourish. That is something that the folks at MoCo Arts in Keene deeply believe in as they work to transform lives through movement and creative expression.

We recently had a chance to talk to their leadership about their programs and their exciting campaign - MoCo Moves: Building MoCo Arts’ Future Capital Campaign - for a brand new facility in Keene for the future of the organization, along with the architect and builders taking on the project. Please enjoy!

Established in November 1991 as The Moving Company Dance Center, dba MoCo Arts plays an integral role in the lives of people in our community. Their mission is to transform lives through movement and creative expression. In fulfilling this mission, they provide accessible, high-quality arts education programs for kids, advancing the physical, intellectual and social well-being of citizens of Keene and the surrounding Monadnock Region. For more on MoCo's history.

“MoCo Moves” to build a community hub of creative arts education

If you’ve driven down Roxbury Street in downtown Keene in the last few months, you’ll have noticed a lot of construction activity. MoCo is building a new space to better accommodate and expand their current arts education programming. This project has been supported by the “MoCo Moves: Building MoCo Arts’ Future Capital Campaign.” Arts Alive! took a moment to chat with the architect involved, Katie Cassidy-Sutherland of kcs Architects. 

The building site March 2017

The building site March 2017

The building site April 2018

The building site April 2018

Katie, what is so special about this building?

There is a rhythm of action on the street with this building and it melds well with the street and surrounding area. I hired and collaborated with Leading NYC theatre architects during the design phase of this project. I felt it was important to bring their level of expertise with this building type to the table for this important community building and resource.
It was a wonderful design collaboration in which we melded their theater expertise with our knowledge of local design parameters of the Historic District and Planning Board. Knowing that the building would be constructed in the historic district of Keene, we worked with contextual materials of brick, glass and aluminum in a contemporary design that compliments the scale of our downtown.
We created a rhythm of fenestration facing Roxbury Street, using narrower windows on the more residential side that grow larger and create a crescendo as you approach the entry courtyard to MoCo which faces Central Square. We worked hard to streamline the design and, keep the budget where it needed to be, all while creating functional spaces inside.  We used different materials and volumes on the exterior to break down the scale of the building.
How is it different (is it?) to design/create a space for the arts, as opposed to a home and/or other spaces?

Every building is different… this one is inspired by a collaborative design process with the MoCo family. It is creative while using concepts that are simple and functional. It was an honor to work with the MoCo organization where creativity and ideas were shared”, especially being part of their family as a MoCo Mom as well. It was a labor of love.

Matthew Wheaton, Vice President Business Development, DEW Construction Corp. / The MacMillin Company, shared his thoughts on the project, as well. 

Matthew, this is a pretty special project for our community. What are your thoughts on it?

We have been an integral part of the team from the beginning and have loved every moment. This will be a building that the MoCo community will utilize and enjoy for years to come, and it will be a building we are proud to showcase. It’s a perfect project in many regards – function, community, dedication, partnerships and future.

A building project of this scale takes committed community investment. We returned to the staff to ask them how their campaign is going.

Where are you on the Campaign?

As we near the opening of our new facility (September 2018!), we ask for your support in getting us to the finish line. Our community has been so generous in supporting this project but we have just under $200,000 left to raise to meet of our goal of $5 million dollars. As we approach the opening of our new facility, we ask for your support in getting us to the finish line. By helping us reach our goals, you help secure the future for the kids and allow us to continue to provide nearly $70,000 in tuition assistance a year.

We wanted to know a little more about how MoCo fits into the regional picture. It is a significant part of our region’s creative economy, and is leading the way in providing training and access to the arts for young people in our community.

Please explain MoCo’s commitment to the arts in the Monadnock Region.

MoCo is committed to the kids, arts and community. We feel every child should have the chance to experience the arts no matter their background, this is why we provide nearly $70,000 a year in tuition assistance. Everyone on our staff from our teachers, customer service reps, tech support and administrative staff are passionate about the arts, the kids and our community. We live in this special community. Many of us have kids and all MoCo kids become part of our family. By providing a strong arts education we are teaching more than the arts; we are teaching life skills including teamwork, dedication, discipline and problem solving among others. These are skills that will serve these amazing kids well in whatever path they choose in their future. Our commitment to the arts is a commitment to the future of our children living in this community, as they will become our leaders, arts lovers and donors. Every community needs a strong arts culture and we are dedicated to helping keep this region’s arts strong for decades to come.   

Dancers in ‘Time To Dance’, January, 2018

Dancers in ‘Time To Dance’, January, 2018

What is MoCo’s vision for arts in the Region and the state of NH? How will MoCo work to make that happen?

Our vision for the future is continue to do what we do well, arts education for kids! If we continue to do our part, we will continue to make the Monadnock Region a strong arts community that we can be proud of. This region is a major player in the arts scene in New Hampshire. Just look at how many wonderful arts organizations and artists there are in our region and see the quality work that is being produced. Our job is to stay true to our mission of “transforming lives through movement and creative expression”. MoCo will continue to provide high quality arts education to the kids of our community, making us a better, stronger and healthier community.

Is MoCo collaborative? How so? How does MoCo work with artists and arts related organizations?

MoCo is always looking to collaborate when possible with other arts organizations or artists. We have an ad trade with many organizations in our programs to support the amazing work we are all doing. We provide a scholarship for an NHDI student that has never been in a dance studio to come take dance classes and continue to foster their love of dance. Our Professional Series bring artists that teach and perform side by side with our kids. This has included Principal Dancers from Boston Ballet performing in our Nutcracker, Apple Hill String Quartet performing live with our kids and a Broadway/Screen Actor teaching a theatre workshop. We have been a part of Kristallnacht Remembrance for over a decade partnering with the Cohen Center. MoCo also partners with Keene Housing Kids Collaborative providing free tuition for kids living in Keene Housing. Through MoCo’s ARTreach initiative, MoCo Arts teachers bring high-quality arts education into classrooms, daycare centers, gyms, and other organizations in the region. We have many meaningful partnerships including residencies in Hinsdale Daycare Center where a teacher visits weekly to provide Young Arts education to students, and may more. MoCo also partners with the Redfern Arts Center and The Colonial Theatre whenever possible. MoCo feels if arts organizations can support each other, it makes us a better, stronger community.

“We are so thankful to be a part of this community and for the support you have given us the last two and a half decades. We hope we can count on your support of the MoCo Magic and our true stars, the kids, for decades to come.” Reagan Messer, Executive Director/Artistic Director of Dance