As seen in The Day newspaper – Sunday, August 26, 2018 (Photo: Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
A sweet song playing out in Westerly
By Ann Baldelli
Westerly — The good news keeps coming for downtown Westerly.
The project to create a regional center for the arts and art education across several downtown venues is gaining additional support in the second push of its $12 million fundraising campaign, collecting monies that will go toward the United Theatre/Knickerbocker Café collaboration to establish a multi-venue campus for the arts.
There are numerous other committed partners: the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra & Music School, the Newport Folk and Jazz festivals, Trinity Repertory Company, Robert Ballard’s Ocean Exploration Trust, the Artists’ Cooperative Gallery and the Salt Marsh Opera.
The plan is transforming the former vaudeville theater and a next-door building that once housed a Montgomery Ward store on Canal Street into a series of performance, meeting and classroom spaces. There will be a black box theater, a first-run art house and revival cinema, a micro-cinema, events space, fine arts gallery and classrooms.
Around the corner, at the storied Knickerbocker Café at 35 Railroad Ave., there is additional entertainment space for headliners and other musicians who come to perform in Westerly, as well as space for master class sessions with visiting musicians. To date, Jon Batiste, Deer Tick, Leon Russell and Robert Earl Keen have been among the big names at what is now called The Knickerbocker Music Center.
“The opportunities are endless,” said Tony Nunes, marketing consultant for the endeavor.
“This is a multifaceted project that will strengthen Westerly’s presence on the shoreline and in the region, and be a central meeting point for Connecticut and Rhode Island,” said Maureen Fitzgerald, chair of The United board of directors and president and chief executive officer of the Ocean Community YMCA.