The former Harwich Middle School was converted into the town’s Cultural Center in 2017

​Following a successful first year, Harwich selectmen on April 23 voted unanimously to extend a two-year trial period for a new Cultural Center, adding another five years.

“With this five-year extension, we can start to see about applying for grants,” said Community Center Director Carolyn Carey.

When Harwich joined a regional school system, its middle school building was left empty. Committees debated how to repurpose the building, and decided to fund a two-year trial period to use it as a rental space for “engagement in recreational, social, educational, cultural, community service, civic and government activities.”

“It is unique to the Cape,” Carey said. “This is tying the whole community together, and the community has been really supportive.”

More than 500 people attended the Cultural Center’s first open house last summer, and the center recently participated in the statewide ArtWeek celebration of the arts. The center has open artist studios every Friday.

Artists have fully rented out the 28 open studio spaces, which were formerly classrooms. Larger spaces like the gym, auditorium and cafeteria are available for rent and have hosted local dance group rehearsals and performances, fairs, group meetings, festivals and other activities. A local junior theater group will be using the auditorium this summer.

The harbormaster is also located in the building, and the Recreation Department makes use of the gym. The building also houses a Cape Verdean museum, as well as an art gallery in the old library space.

All the available space is projected to generate $150,000 per year, a figure that may rise over the course of the five-year extension. Carey said the Center is working toward the break-even point.

“It helps the economic development of our community,” Carey said, “and creates necessary space. It’s a destination for people on the Cape and provides more opportunity for people to do more in the town.”

Future plans for the center include an outdoor labyrinth, for which the center is currently raising funds, and summer season events.


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