A vibrant and active regional focal point for the arts, Pelham Art Center is widely recognized as "an anchor for the arts in southern Westchester County." Each year, it presents five free art exhibitions, 125+ fee-based classes and workshops, and dozens of free weekend and evening programs. Art outreach programs are provided to people who encounter barriers to participation in arts activities. These programs serve more than 800 at-risk and developmentally disabled youth, senior citizens and families.
PELHAM ART CENTER:
A TIMELINE, 1969 THROUGH THE PRESENT
In connection with the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s centennial, area chapters of the Junior League are encouraged to plan community arts events to celebrate the cultural, performing and visual arts in local settings. Several women in the community and the Junior League of Pelham developed an ambitious plan for a town-wide art and music festival: The Pelham Art Happening.
The first Pelham Art Happening occurs over two days in the spring at Pelham Memorial High School. Events include juried visual arts exhibits, musical performances, and art workshops.
The annual arts and performance event continues each spring. In 1972, Pelham Art Happening incorporates in the State of New York as a separate entity from the Junior League, from which it received support since 1969.
Under community leadership, a former bike repair shop and adjacent empty storefront on Fifth Avenue, Pelham’s main street, is leased and The Pelham Art Happening blossoms from a two-day event into a year round community art center offering art and dance classes, exhibitions, performances, and a store.
Volunteers from Pelham, New Rochelle and Mt. Vernon devote thousands of hours, funds, and elbow grease to make the new center a success. The first paid employee (a part-time administrative assistant) is hired in 1976 and in 1978, the Cities Services Gas Station and Body Shop next door agrees to lease its vacated building to Pelham Art Happening.
Cities Services Gas Station and Body Shop donates its building and corner lot to Pelham Art Center. Two full time staff members, a Board of Trustees, and many volunteers are now involved with the organization.
A Capital Campaign is initiated and concluded in 1985 to renovate and expand the building for the organization to operate “under one roof.” $430,000 is raised to support the construction of the 5,000 square foot facility and exterior courtyard.
Using the name Pelham Art Center (officially changed in 1987) the one-story building opens at 155 Fifth Avenue. It features a large, airy, multi-purpose gallery and community event space, two art studios, a dark room, a kiln, a gift shop, offices and a small kitchen.
A Federal Community Development Block Grant is received to renovate the 2,800 square foot exterior courtyard.
Under Director Alison Paul, Pelham Art Center transitions from a volunteer to professional organization. Grants from government and foundations are sought and awarded, and the Board of Directors actively begins fundraising in the community. Programs begin to thrive, though the lack of an operating cash reserve, endowment or capital fund creates cash flow problems in certain years.
The Board of Directors initiate a second Capital Campaign with a goal of $500,000 to secure the long-term financial stability of the now established but still growing Pelham Art Center. The Campaign meets its goal and creates a Board restricted Reserve Fund and concludes in the summer of 1998.
Five staff members, a Board of Directors, Gallery Advisory Committee, Emeritus Board and dozens of volunteers and interns manage the varied, engaging and innovative Education, Outreach and Gallery Programs that now serve over 16,000 area residents. The operating budget exceeds $500,000 and has grown by 50 percent since 1992.
The Boards and Director Lisa Robb begin a phased renovation program for the entire facility. For Phase 1, $200,000 is raised to completely renovate 1,200 square feet in the front of the building to include a dedicated gallery and fine art storage area, a public reception area, and consolidated staff offices. Other work includes nine computer stations for a digital studio (formerly the darkroom), new lighting and art storage in Studio 1, and upgraded telephone, security and fire alarm systems.