There was a calm murmur inside the second-floor art gallery, as guests walked between towering cocoons made of silk and fiber, past vibrant colors unabashedly parading across contemporary quilts, curated dresses and colorful fabric sculptures.
The pieces were a part of Fiber, Fabric, Fashion, a rich textural exhibit running through June 5 at the New Hope Arts Center on Stockton Avenue in New Hope.
It’s a show, however, some art lovers could easily miss, a broader concern which brought a handful of community leaders and local artists together earlier this month, as the New Hope Arts Center unveiled its renovation plans and a $750,000 capital campaign, called Elevate the Arts.
“We are an organization for the last 20 years that’s coming into its own. The art is still the art. The artists have found us, and we are the venue for that. But now it’s time that the building and the facility are equal to the quality of what’s happening inside,” said Ralph Fey, a long-standing board member of New Hope Arts.
Connecting the community with local artists has been an ongoing mission of the New Hope Arts Center, since it began without a physical location in 2002 before acquiring its property, an early 19th century stone structure along the Delaware Canal, in 2009.
But over the years, the building has presented limitations in furthering the center’s goal to increase exposure and appreciation for the local arts community thanks to issues like its indiscernible front entrance, steep staircase and limited natural lighting.
And while the organization intends to honor the building’s history — originally a barn, which previously operated as a foundry, theater, gas station and fencing studio before becoming home to New Hope Arts — the campaign looks to drive the organization forward by increasing its visibility and accessibility.
“Our mission, which was established early on, continues to be a place for the arts and a place for the community and the arts to meet. Where we can provide that environment and make it accessible is our next goal,” said Fey, who designed the building renovations with the help of his team at Ralph C. Fey Architects, based in Doylestown.
The firm is currently pursuing approvals with New Hope Borough with the aim of starting construction in January 2023, a project which is expected to take about four months to complete.
“I’ve been working on the improvement of this building with the board for 18 years. And this is a pretty proud moment for us to go from a little project to a little project to a significant project and a capital campaign that will elevate the building and elevate the arts,” said Fey.
Renovation plans include a dramatic front entranceway with new signage, an updated interior lobby with an ADA restroom, an elevator, a larger open staircase, a rear entrance with an ADA ramp and improvements to the exterior façade.
“With our new vision … we will move it forward even more vigorously toward embracing a community arts organization,” said Carol Cruickshanks, executive directorof New Hope Arts.“This would not be possible if it were not for a very stalwart board of directors, as well as a staff that have been dedicated over the course of the years to making this happen,” she noted.
The elevator installation, which will be the first step in the proposed renovations, was made possible by a $116,000 Pennsylvania Community and Economic Development grant, initiated by Sen. Steve Santarsiero.
“The one thing that was sort of was our springboard for this capital campaign was Senator Santarsiero’s office. That really became the inspiration for us to go to the next level,” said New Hope Mayor Larry Keller, as he credited the board, staff, donors and the support of local political leaders in helping to get the campaign off the ground.
“For me personally, as a resident, as a business owner, this is a dream come true, not only for me as a resident, mayor, etc., but all of us, all this community. There’s a reason New Hope is thriving right now. New Hope Arts, I think, is a big part of that,” said Keller, who is also chairman of the board for New Hope Arts.
New Hope artist Robert Beck, who attended the unveiling, emphasized the importance of venues like the New Hope Arts Center in providing a space for artists to learn and exchange ideas, to inspire one another and the community as a whole, and propel the arts forward in all its various forms.
“It’s the only place you’ll find that freedom of idea, that core creation is in the arts. And this is a place to bring that all together, bring all of them, the creators and the rest of the community, together,” said Beck.
“It is inspiring to an artist, it’s inspiring to an audience, to know that you can get there from nothing. Anybody can develop their own voice and go someplace from nothing in their own genre or medium. It’s in everybody,” he added.
The first phase of the Elevate the Arts Campaign was launched privately in January. In that time, members of the board have received $173,000 in pledges.
Campaign initiatives include digital and social media campaigning, ambassador initiatives, a video series and a donor recognition program.
Additionally, a 20th Anniversary Gala will be held on May 24 at Hotel Du Village on River Road in New Hope. The fundraising event includes hors d'oeuvres, drinks, live and silent art auctions and live music.
Artwork for the live auction have been donated by Robert Beck, Malcolm Bray, Miriam Carpenter, Rita Gekht, Kevin Kopil, Justin Long, Sean Mount, Rye Tippet.
Tickets are $150 a person and can be purchased online at newhopearts.org.
This article originally appeared on Bucks County Courier Times: New Hope Arts Center unveils renovation plans and $750,000 campaign