With two days to go ‘til its Saturday night grand opening, “The Hive” is, true to its name, a beehive of frenzied last-minute activity these days.
“It’s huge!” says Art Haven director Dawn Gadow of Art Haven’s new offspring and Gloucester’s new “creative hub.” She’s not just talking about the 4,000 square feet of freshly renovated space the multi-functional facility will occupy at 11 Pleasant St., but the impact it will have — and has already had — on the life of the community.
Of the hundreds expected at Saturday night’s open house, many will be from an army of “over 100” volunteer building professionals who labored for four long brick- and mortar-pounding months on the long neglected retail site which, says Gadow, needed major work after 10 years without a sustained tenant.
Lots of others, she adds, will also have contributed in one way or another to growing Art Haven — the Hive’s Main Street mothership — into what has become a vital center for creativity in the heart of downtown Gloucester.
Gadow, who, in 3
1/2 years at Art Haven, has grown its programs and taught some 650 students ages 2 to 84, says that Saturday night will also celebrate the fourth anniversary of Art Haven, the shopfront nonprofit studio that founder David Brooks opened at 180 Main St. on July 31, 2008.
Brooks, now just 24, was all of 19 when he first conceived of Art Haven. A physics major at Gordon College, he dropped out after one semester, driven, he says, by the age-old, time-honored need “to do something meaningful.”
Four years of accumulated student loan debt was not for him, he says, nor was a 9-to-5 life.
But back at Gloucester High School, two beloved mentors had inspired him to do for others what they had done for him. Those mentors — ceramics teacher Nancy Higgins and the late track and field coach Jim Munn — had “given a lot to a lot of kids,” he says. Both, incredibly, are gone to cancer now, he says, and that’s all the more reason to continue carrying on working in their spirit.
As to why a physics major and a track and field jock should choose as his mission the founding of a community art center, Brooks says that, through his involvement in high school sports, he became aware of how lots of local kids — for many reasons, including lack of family finances — missed out on all the character-building positives that come with sports.
At the same time, through his involvement in ceramics and sculpting classes, he was aware of the transformative power of creativity, and how it can be used not just as a character builder, but a community builder. With local school art curriculums increasingly at the losing end of budget cut backs, the option of an affordable local art center seemed increasingly like a necessity in economically challenged Gloucester.
While Brooks said he wasn’t motivated by money — as board president, his services remain pro bono — he knew he’d need plenty of it to establish Art Haven, so he started pitching his idea like an MBA entrepreneur.
He drew up a business plan, and solicited help from anyone who’d listen, including Cape Ann Business Incubator (CABI), which, among other things, helped him incorporate as a nonprofit. Action Inc., was a huge supporter too, says Brooks, ultimately offering 1,500 square feet of its street level property at “way below market value.” In short, it took more than a village to grow David Brooks dream; it took the whole city of Gloucester.
Once established, Art Haven attracted residents of neighboring Cape Ann towns, including Rockport, where a group of artists shared a studio co-op called “The Hive.” Looking for retail space to sell their works, the group settled on a corner in Art Haven, which, with its prime Main Street location, launched “The Hive” as a source of local original art.
With its catchy name, “The Hive” also caught on as a brand, and collaboration with Art Haven grew over the years. Its connotations of “busy-ness” seemed exactly right, says Brooks, for a “brand extension” of Art Haven, which needed new space to accommodate its rapid growth and optimize its potential.
It found it, right around the corner, adjacent to Cape Ann Museum, in a retail property which, with its 4,000 square feet, expanded the capabilities of David Brooks’ vision “beyond his wildest dreams,” he says. Together with Art Haven’s 1,500 square feet, 5,500 square feet of prime downtown real estate is now dedicated to fostering what — next to fishing — Gloucester it most famous for: art.
Along with more classes, workshops and pottery wheels, the gallery sized sweep of space offers studios for rent, a computer lab, an art supplies “thrift shop,” and a large format printer donated by Gordon College. It’s also the new home of the Chill Zone and GenY Life Design, both after-school program for teens, and will serve as an adjunct screening space for Cape Ann Cinema.
Saturday night’s opening is open to all, adds Brooks. It’s a thank you, he says, to the community, for all its made possible, and the food — catered by Classic Cooks and Giuseppe’s — should be great.
Like everything else that’s led to this night, he adds, it was donated.
Joann Mackenzie can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3457, firstname.lastname@example.org.