ADVERTISEMENT

http://www.wbjournal.com

Money, passion creating Worcester's creative hub

5/15/2017
PHOTO/BRAD KANE
PHOTO/BRAD KANE
Laura Marotta & Stacy Lord Executive director & Chairman, Creative Hub Worcester, Inc.

Laura Marotta and Stacy Lord

Birthplace: Marotta: Leominster, Lord: Princeton


Residence: Worcester


Education: Marotta: Boston University & Tufts University; Lord: Anna Maria College & Museum School in Boston.


Website: creativehubworcester.org

A month ago, Laura Marotta & Stacy Lord took a giant step toward bringing their vision of a collaborative Worcester artists space to life by buying the former Worcester Boys Club building on Ionic Avenue, using $1.3 million from MassDevelopment. The duo still has a long way to go – wanting to spend $2.3 million to renovate the deteriorating facility – but the property purchase gives them credibility with investors and artists are already signing up to rent the facilities.

Marotta: Stacy & I are both members of the Massachusetts Art Education Association; we are both public school art educators. We shared a passion for bringing art to a larger audience.

Lord: I grew up just outside of Worcester and have been involved in the cultural organizations. I have seen the ebb and flow over the years, and right now, it is at the point where it is going to peak. For us that have been in the city a long time, it is very exciting.

M: I saw the really incredible opportunity. Being from the Boston area, there is not much that can be done there to build a business, especially a nonprofit organization. Worcester is right in the middle of this renaissance with cultural and arts.

L: The location of the building is just beautiful, especially being on the cusp of the theater district. We looked at a lot of different properties, and then the city economic development office came to us with a proposal. They had us meet with the previous owner. He gave us a tour of the building and then gave us a year to come up with the funds to purchase it.

M: His plans were to turn it into a storage facility. He loves historic buildings and wanted to see it saved.

M: A building of this size – 40,000 square feet – and a project of this size requires more than two people. We were lucky enough to find a partner organization, the Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston. They have a great new program called Creative Campus, which is a new initiative where they are helping cultural organizations purchase real estate. We are their first initiative.
They have a lot of capacity and a huge team. They helped us secure funding from MassDevelopment to purchase the building and the adjacent parking lot.

L: We are raising money privately as well, through foundations and businesses.

M: MassDevelopment was the primary source of funding for the purchase, which gives us the site control that is important for the regional investors. We can now go back out to the foundations and the community to reignite that capital campaign.

M: Our mission is to provide arts opportunities for Worcester, but if you look at a lot of nonprofit organizations, they rely on grants and outside funding source to maintain the affordability of their programs. That makes life difficult and doesn't make for a long-term sustainable organization.

We wanted something in the business that could make us sustainable without outside funding. We need outside funding now to get up and running, but once we are operational – hopefully by fall of 2018 – places like the event spaces will not only bring new people into the building but help us provide for our mission.

L: We are working on a long-term sustainability plan for the building, and programming is our No. 1 initiative. We don't want to start something that isn't going to sustain for the long term.

In this building, we have two event spaces. One is a 4,000-square-foot space with a suspended tract, which is the old gymnasium. The second space is the rooftop, the only one in Central Mass. That is a 4,000-square-foot rooftop that we will put a deck on, and it overlooks downtown.

L: Having multiple streams of revenue is important as well. Not just from the makerspace, but we will also have performance and dance studios and artists studios we will be renting out.

M: We have most of our artists studios rented out already.

L: We have 13 total, and it is a wonderful mix of artists, too, with different genres and mediums. That is what we wanted as an organization. One of the things with artists is inspiration comes with collaboration.

-This interview was conducted and edited for length and clarity by Brad Kane, WBJ editor.