December 22, 2016

New 300-seat Worcester venue, artistic space gets $1.1M grant

Photo/Caitlin Reidy
Troy Siebels, Hanover Theatre president and CEO, stands in front of the main entrance to his facility. The Hanover Theatre is helping develop the new WOOteria at 20 Franklin St.

A new performance venue and collaborative arts space is coming to the former Telegram & Gazette building on the Worcester Common.

The Worcester Cultural Coalition announced Wednesday it received a $1.1-million grant from the Boston-based Barr Foundation to support the development of the WOOteria, an artistic venue and 300-seat performance space inside of the 20 Franklin St. building. The space, which will include an exhibition gallery and collaboration space in addition to the theater, is being developed by the Cultural Coalition, the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts, and New Garden Park, the nonprofit subsidiary of the Worcester Business Development Corp. It will be managed by the Cultural Coalition and the Hanover Theatre and is expected to be fully operational by 2018.

In a series of town hall meetings and surveys of Worcester-based cultural organizations and creative entrepreneurs, it was determined that the city needed more intimate performance spaces, said Joe Cox, Cultural Coalition chair and EcoTarium president. Cox said the Cultural Coalition and New Garden Park are seeking additional buildout funds.

Currently, the WBDC and the Cultural Coalition jointly operate the Worcester PopUP in the same building, and the WOOteria will be a great compliment to that project, said Craig Blais, WBDC's CEO. The project also represents the Barr Foundation's first Worcester grant.

Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus said the city sees the development as an important piece of the downtown revitalization puzzle.

"There is creativity blossoming throughout the city and the WOOteria provides an opportunity to build on and deepen this great momentum," said Augustus. "We want to continue to make this a destination location for everyone in the city."

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