The Hippo


May 28, 2020








The Concord Community Arts Center. Courtesy photo.

Check out the Concord Community Arts Center

Where: 40 Thorndike St., Concord
Contact:, 641-8608, 
The door is locked from the outside during the day, so visit the site to find tenant websites and contact information.

School to art
Concord Community Arts Center continues to grow

By Kelly Sennott

From the outside, the Concord Community Arts Center still looks like a school, complete with an outdoor playground, cafeteria and bathrooms with sinks that come up to your kneecaps.

Inside, some vacant rooms still have remnants of its Rumford Elementary School life: cursive alphabet posters and birthday charts coat the walls, and children’s chairs are scattered around. But in the occupied spaces, the change is apparent.
The Eastern Ballet Institute owners ripped out the rugs and installed a wall-sized mirror and dance floor. In Pilates Studio 603, there are pilates machines, hardwood floors and exercise balls, and in the Rumford Learning Center, there are infants and toddlers.
Currently, the CCAC is at 60 percent capacity, arts center owner Brian Thibeault said, which is right on track to become what he envisioned when he purchased the building for $400,000 last summer. (Rumford School was replaced by the Abbot-Downing School in a series of Concord elementary school re-configurations in 2012.)
“We had reached out in Concord and saw there was a great need for a space like this,” Thibeault said. “My whole vision was to take this school that was vacant for a few years and get a place for tenants and artists, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
Thibeault says he owns properties all across New England, but he hopes this location will become the Concord version of what he did with the Pawtucket Armory in Rhode Island. He purchased that building four years ago and transformed it into the Pawtucket Armory Arts Center, which houses a theater, rental spaces and artist studios. 
So far, tenants are pleased.
“I was just looking for a bigger space,” said Dustin Rose, sweeping the floor in Dustin’s Fitness Solutions, which is settled alongside what used to be the school cafeteria. (Plans exist to make the caf into a community cafe, but no word yet on whether this is definitely happening.) “I’m paying $200 a month more here than I was at the last place I was at, but I have 50 percent more space.”
Rose said he was looking forward to seeing other tenants move in — a spinning instructor recently had a look at the art center, and he hopes a yoga business will come in too.
Across the way, Hannah Brennan, co-owner of The Rumford Learning Center, was feeding kids and putting young ones down for naps. She signed the lease in June and started business in September.
“I love the community aspect,” Brennan said. “I love that, without ever leaving the building, we can offer the older kids all kinds of enrichment. There’s the ballet studio, and there’s No Brushes Allowed. … The kids play in the playground every day, and it’s nice to use it because people worked hard to get it there when [the building] was a school.”
The Rumford Learning Center takes in kids ages six weeks old through preschool. Brennan taught in Concord for 10 years before taking on this venture.
“I knew there was a large need for infant care, especially in Concord, just from talking to friends and colleagues. The stars kind of aligned, to be honest,” Brennan said. “We’re filled to capacity and having a waiting list.”
Rooms start at $200 a month and range in size from 264 to 1,200 square feet, according to the art center website. Some rental units include storage and private bathrooms. All rooms are functional as is, but Thibeault encourages tenants to look at them as blank canvases.
Other arts center tenants: The Artist’s View, a tiny art school; Henniker Music School; No Brushes Allowed, a child-centered art studio; and Sew Sisters Studio, a space tenant Deb Green would like area quilters and sewers to use at their leisure.
“They’re just nice, sunny spaces, and the parking is great,” Green said via phone. 
Sewers can come and pay by the day ($10 a day) or month ($50 a month) to use the studio, or they can take lessons from Green, who has been quilting for 30 years. 
Upstairs, Mircea Geana runs Henniker Music School. The former Pembroke public school music teacher tried to start the business in Henniker but found more interest here. Parents, he said, like that his lessons are less expensive than those at the Concord Community Music School, and he hopes to eventually gain a music school faculty. He sees the art center doing great things because of its accessibility.
“I have my own kids, who are all interested in different things. To have all those things inside one building instead of driving from place to place. … I think that’s the reason behind [the arts center],” Geana said.
Thibeault is still looking for community members to make the available rooms into artist, recording, production or fitness studios. Or just whatever they want.
“Nobody likes to see empty buildings in their neighborhood. We want to make sure people understand there is space available and that we’re willing to work with anybody out there,” Thibeault said. “We worked with the City of Concord and also the school district to purchase [the building] at a reasonable rate so that we’d be able to offer it to the community for a much lower price. It works.” 
As seen in the April 2, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

®2020 Hippo Press. site by wedu