From Empty To Bustling; Montgomery Center For The Arts Breathes Life Into Old Building

Feb 22, 2018

When New York native Sebastian Araujo and his partner moved from Cape Cod to Montgomery Center, Vermont, he arrived with the notion that thrifty New Englanders re-purpose old buildings. So when he noticed the biggest structure in town - an 1860s church - standing empty, he wondered why. And then he sprang into action.

It turns out the building, known as Kelton Hall - a Greek revival-style structure that served as the town's Baptist church and was occupied up until the last decade, was already on the radar of some townspeople who were determined to keep its lights on and its roof secured.

Araujo joined forces with them and suggested making the three-story building into The Montgomery Center For The Arts. He is now its president and he spoke with VPR recently about how it all came to be.

The Montgomery Center For The Arts is a community hub for art, music and performance in this small Franklin County town.
Credit Sebastian Araujo

The building now serves as a community center and meeting place as well as performance space and, Araujo hopes soon, it will also be able to house an artist-in-residence on its third floor.

Volunteering countless hours, Araujo and the art center's member board, make sure the structure is sound, the grounds are kept, the snow is plowed and that there is something - a ballet class, wellness offerings, a poetry slam and concert - going on each day of the year.

Araujo also found he wasn't the only one who fell in love with a 200-year-old empty church and turned it into an arts hub. In fact, he found a nearly identical one just across the border in Sutton, Quebec, and at least 14 others (like this one in East Fairfield) in Vermont alone.

He plans to tour those churches-turned-art-centers this summer and create a network of arts-minded organizations who can support each other as they go forward into the future, holding space for artists and community members alike.