TORRINGTON — A completely repaved parking lot and driveway make up just some of the upgrades a recently purchased property of Five Points Center for the Visual Arts would get under a proposed State Bond Commission grant.
The grant, in the amount of $2,733,500, is expected to be voted on during a Special Meeting of the commission at 10:30 a.m. July 23.
The project, which is the renovation of the former UConn Torrington Regional Campus into an art center, has been in the works for three years, according to Judith McElhone, the center’s executive director and founder.
“Negotiations through the city of Torrington and state of Connecticut and Uconn took two years and two months to turn the former campus into an art center,” McElhone said.
The property was originally a bequest from former Torrington resident Julia Brooker Thompson, who donated $650,000 to the university in her will to create the campus.
The campus has been sold and the renovations began last year.
“We received a $100,000 grant from the Thaw Charitable Trust, which allowed us to start renovations in the building,” McElhone said.
The new facility includes a 30,000-square-foot building and 90 acres. There is a second building that houses the agriculture extension service and a large maintenance garage, which the center will use as a sculpture studio.
It will be a full-capacity art center where art will be made, according to McElhone.
“It will host fully equipped, cross-disciplined art laboratories where artists in our diverse community can learn, explore and experiment together,” she said.
Opening soon is a print-making studio, painting studio and drawing studio.
Aside from the repaved parking lot and driveway, the grant will enable the center to update facilities in the building.
It would “give us those kinds of major expenses that would take us years to be able to do,” such as adding air conditioning to the auditorium, McElhone said.
The gallery saw a need for the new facility for a long time, according to McElhone.
“That need was something that we felt after careful deliberation and developing a business plan we could achieve,” she said.
Due to the pandemic, the center has “lost a lot of ground” and that bond will “help us catch up,” she said.
“We closed on the property on June 30, 2020 in the middle of the pandemic,” she said. “We weren’t able to open any programs until just now. We’re just starting now to open classes and workshops for the community and for artists.”
This is a 20-year project with five year benchmarks, according to McElhone.
“With the bond, it will help us bring down that 20 years to a much more reasonable number,” she said, adding she hopes to complete it within 10 years or sooner.
“We have our fingers crossed,” she said. “It would be an amazing thing for Five Points and for the area.”
Current locations of Five Points Gallery are the downtown Torrington Five Points Gallery, the Annex Gallery in Downtown Torrington, and the Launchpad Program with the University of Hartford.
In a recent press release, state Rep. Michelle Cook, D- Torrington said she encouraged the State Bond Commission to approve the grant.
“This is a great victory for Torrington and prospective creatives in Northwest Connecticut. The Five Points Center has provided local artists with a unique experience – they are provided a space that allows them to create as well as collaborate with likeminded individuals. This funding will help the Center expand its reach,” Cook said. “I’d like to thank Governor Lamont for prioritizing this project and urge the commission to approve the funding.”
The State Bond Commission Special Meeting will be available for viewing via CT-N live broadcast and recording, including audio of the teleconference participants. The broadcast and recording can be viewed at www.CT-N.com.