Cape Cod cultural groups get $1.5M boost
State grants will help launch renovation, preservation efforts at venues strained by pandemic.
May 31, 2020 : Cape Cod Times, by Kathi Scrizzi Driscoll
A project to winterize and reshingle the historic summer-only Cape Playhouse in Dennis is due to start later this year now that a key piece of funding has been granted by the state.
The $150,000 award is part of $1.55 million in cultural facilities grants recently awarded to nine Cape and Islands arts groups through the board of MassDevelopment working with the Massachusetts Cultural Council in this year’s $9.3 million statewide program.
Among the other local projects that won funding, each with $200,000 grants: Payomet Performing Arts Center turning a former air base officers club in North Truro into its first indoor performance and class space; Heritage Museums & Gardens in Sandwich adding new paths and classrooms; and Friends of Nobska Light creating a maritime museum at the Keeper’s House in Woods Hole.
All grants require organizations to supply matching funds, and playhouse producer Joe Grandy said this week that its money had been raised, waiting for the state portion. With another $250,000 awarded by the Dennis Community Preservation Committee in December, the $550,000 is enough for the first phase of a preservation and energy-efficiency project. Insulation and new shingles will be added to the 1838 structure, a former church that, in 1926, playhouse founder Raymond Moore converted into what is now the longest-running professional summer theater in the country.
“It’s so wonderful to see the support,” Grandy said. “This is a big step forward for the future of the organization ... We’re looking to expand the programming and expand the season if possible to offer more for the community.”
Heritage also had the matching funds ready, and officials are in the early planning stages to renovate existing space to add two classrooms to the three already at its Hundred Acre School, according to president and CEO Anne Scott-Putney.
In addition, she said by email, “we are thrilled that this funding will also allow us to create an ADA-accessible pathway from the carousel to the treehouse and Hidden Hollow, the hands-on outdoor discovery area. The project allows us to meet our community’s need for pre-K and early elementary education and summer programs, and to ensure that Heritage’s outdoor facilities are accessible to all.”
The money for Payomet is just the start of a two-phase, $2 million-plus project. Executive artistic director Kevin Rice said he hopes to start raising more money by year’s end, but it would not be ready for three years at the earliest. The renovations are planned to create a building that could be used for Payomet programming — concerts and music workshops, small circus events (including aerials because of planned high ceilings), film screenings and a 75-seat black-box theater — as well as be open for use by Truro community groups.
A foyer, Rice said, would memorialize the 762nd Air Force Radar Squadron that built and occupied the base for 35 years at what is now part of the Cape Cod National Seashore.
Grandy noted the state funding is hopeful news for the future at a difficult time for cultural organizations.
Because of COVID-19 concerns, Cape Playhouse postponed its 2020 summer season to 2021. That shutdown might allow the renovations to start earlier than planned, according to Grandy, if construction workers are safely allowed to be on the job.
“We hope to get spruced up so we can welcome people back next year and it will just be a big “Wow!” he said. Officials hope to have the first phase completed by fall 2021, with the possibility of starting some off-season programming next year.
The town and state money will allow the Cape Cod Center for the Arts, which operates the playhouse, to take “a big step forward” in plans for the future, he said. “So much is needed on this building,” Grandy said. “We still have a lot of work to do, but it’s great to have this (grant money) and we can start moving forward on this.”
Cape Cinema, also part of the Route 6A campus, will get a new roof this summer, thanks to a $47,500 Community Preservation Act grant from the town. That project will protect the giant 90-year-old art deco canvas mural designed by Rockwell Kent for the cinema’s ceiling.
Cultural grant winners
Of the $9.3 million in facilities grants awarded by MassDevelopment to cultural organizations statewide, $1.55 million went to Cod and Islands projects:
‒ $200,000 each to: Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown for continued renovation to buildings and grounds; Friends of Nobska Light for interior renovations to the Keeper’s House to create a maritime museum; Heritage Museums & Gardens for two new classrooms and handicapped-accessible pathways; Payomet Performing Arts Center to renovate a former club at the Highlands Center into a flexible performance/event/class space; and Wellfleet Historical Society for repairs that include a new reception area, restrooms and expanded gallery and program space.
‒ $150,000 each: to Cape Cod Center for the Arts for exterior renovations to Cape Playhouse in Dennis; Nantucket Historical Association to create a cultural center from a store on Straight Wharf; and Truro Historical Association & Museum, for various repairs, including completing the installation of an elevator
‒ $100,000 to Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill to complete renovation of several buildings on the Edgewood Farm campus and other projects.