Sandwich Town Hall has a new tenant. What does it mean for the Sandwich arts scene?
CAPE COD TIMES.com – Housed in the historic, grey-sided, white-pillared Sandwich Town Hall is the Sandwich Arts Alliance.
Paintings and photographs from Alliance artists line the muted pink, beige and teal blue walls, some fitted with ribbons of honorable mention or first, second and third places after winning a recent judged art exhibition. Books by Alliance authors fill shelves on the gallery walls and ceramics fill cabinets and tables.
A few paces away, the Alliance’s gift shop is filled with smaller works for visitors to peruse and purchase if they’re not in the market for cashing out on one of the gallery’s larger works but still want to take something home with them.
It’s a floor rich with undeniable artistic and historical beauty. That’s something the Alliance holds near and dear, especially now they’ve found a new home in the “crown jewel of Sandwich Village.”
“We are right in the heart of the Glass Town cultural district and that’s a designation that merges historic preservation and cultural arts,” Kathy Aubin, president of the Sandwich Arts Alliance said. “We feel very privileged to be there. It’s been a wonderful collaboration with the town. We’ve all worked really hard to make sure that this is the best that we can do to showcase the historic district.”
History of the Sandwich Arts Alliance
The Sandwich Arts Alliance, a volunteer-based non-profit, moved from its former location on Route 6A to the old Sandwich Town Hall on Sept. 1. A formal grand opening is planned at the end of the month.
The organization’s origin story goes back to 2015, when a group of local artists decided they wanted a space to display their work where they live, rather than travelling to other parts of the Cape.
“There were a number of people in that beginning group who were just very dynamic, accomplished folks and they got wrangled together by Joanne Westerhouse, who was our founder,” Aubin said. “I think she was very skilled at saying ‘Can we get people together to build something that’s bigger than ourselves?’ Because we didn’t have really a cultural arts center here at the time.”
The alliance strived to be a place for artists of all mediums to find community and a place to practice their craft and prove that the arts were integral to the town of Sandwich.
They launched at Sandwich Fest in 2015 and met in living rooms and dining rooms until 2019, when they received a $20,000 grant from then-state Rep. Randy Hunt and leased out their first physical space.
“It was a great location,” Aubin said. “It got us started as it relates to having a gallery, a book store, a gift shop. The limitation of the space was that we really wanted to feature classes for artists, musicians or performers.”
In the years since its inception, the Alliance has grown from a group of 65 artists, blossoming into a community of more than 300 members from on and off the Cape.
They’ve not only grown in size, but in revenue, as well. In 2015, the Alliance generated just shy of $6,000 in gross revenue — a number that would seem minute a few years later. In 2022, they generated more than $100,000 in gross revenue and more than $8,000 in class programming, a revenue source that amounted to zero in 2015.
“Fast forward to eight years later and look where we are now,” Aubin said. “Quite incredible.”
Outside of facts and figures, they have grown to become an integral part of the community, hosting a variety of events such as Uke Fest and the Adirondack Chair Trail, and working with the Fishermen’s View and the library to feature artists’ work.
“It’s really about all of us building each other up together,” and “many people have contributed to making this a great organization.”
What are the different groups of the Sandwich Arts Alliance?
The Alliance is home to three artistic groups — performing arts, visual arts and literary arts — and one non-artistic group, the Friends of the Arts, who support the alliance through volunteering, monetary donations and partnerships.
The performing arts group is run by coordinator Melinda Gallant who, after several years on the board of the Cotuit Center for the Arts, joined the Alliance with hopes of resurrecting Sandwich’s community performing arts scene.
“My whole thing is community theater; has been all my life,” Gallant said. “We have a very excellent high school performing arts program here … but it’s not community theater … I felt we needed something that showed off the talents of others, including the doctor, the lawyer, the librarian (and) the woman who lives down the street.”
During one of the group’s events, a reading of A.R. Gurney’s “Love Letters,” Gallant realized one of the group’s main purposes: reconnecting members to hobbies they left in their youth.
“All four of them (Tobin Wirt, Denise Dever, Bob King and Pattie Piva) said ‘Oh my god, I haven’t been in a play since I was in high school. I don’t know if I could do this,'” she said. “That’s what it’s all about. It’s rekindling those feelings of success, being creative and actually having the chutzpah to get on a stage.”
For Muccini and co-visual arts coordinator Tony Donovan, becoming coordinator of the visual arts group was never their intention. But when the visual arts coordinator position opened, they agreed to do it together.
“We get along pretty well, you know, which is good because I don’t think either one of us would be doing it if it was (with) another person,” Donovan said.
The visual arts group includes a myriad of artists such as painters, photographers, sculptors and fabric artists. They host a series of exhibitions throughout the year, along with two gallery walls at the Sandwich Public Library and at Fisherman’s View Restaurant.
Outside of being a space for their members to hone in on their craft, the visual arts group, and the alliance as a whole, gives members a reason to get out of the house and find a new community.
“It’s a very therapeutic thing for a lot of people,” Muccini said. “There was one woman (who) lost her husband (and) she didn’t leave the house for like two years until she found us … We’re not saving the world, but in a small way, we are helping folks enjoy their later life.”
Run by Donna Harrison, the literary arts group works to foster creativity within its writers, offering workshops and critiques, along with providing them with an opportunity to meet others in their literary community.
While most authors aren’t directly published through the alliance, the group has published three books in the past, featuring work from the literary group and the visual arts group.
“Our latest, The Sandwich Boardwalk, is filled with paintings, photographs, poems and stories heralding our famous boardwalk,” Harrison wrote in an emailed statement.
What’s new at Sandwich Arts Alliance, after the move to Town Hall?
In their new space, the Alliance still has a gift shop and gallery but now has space for a classroom for workshops and classes like the upcoming “Improv your life” workshop and “Big Brush Painting” class later this month.
They also have a stage for shows, as the floor above them is the Town Hall’s auditorium.
“The auditorium is run by the town and they hold the (Select Board) meetings up there, zoning meetings up there and all that, but it’s also used for the (Alliance’s) theatrical performances and musicals,” Muccini said.
The move marks a significant chapter in the Alliance’s history, as they plan to stay in their newly-leased home for years to come, helping to bring more awareness and artists to the alliance and Sandwich Village.
“(In) every (other) place in the world, cultural arts is the number one thing,” Gallant said. “Unfortunately, in America, it isn’t always. But our town has seen it fit to say ‘Yes, the cultural arts are important and we’re going to work out a way that you can use this historic, beautiful building, and make it come alive.’ And that’s what we’ve done and I am so proud of everybody who’s worked so hard on that.”
By Frankie Rowley, arts and entertainment reporter