The Monadnock Region of Southern New Hampshire has a rich history in the cultural arts. Listed below are some of the region’s well-known arts organizations.
The Colonial Theatre is an historic performing arts center with the largest state-of-the-art movie screen in the region. First open in 1924, it has hosted movies, vaudeville shows, operas and community events. Rosa Ponselle, Thornton Wilder, Amelia Earhart and Maude Adams are among those who graced the stage and engaged the audiences. Today it brings the cultural and creative spirit of our community to life. The Colonial Theatre vision is to be the model regional performing arts center; exciting, educating and challenging audiences of all ages.
MacDowell Colony started as an idea of composer Edward MacDowell who wanted to give other artists the opportunity under which he thrived. Known as “the Peterborough Idea”, it was his wife, pianist Marian MacDowell who in 1906 garnered support of prominent citizens including Grover Cleveland, Andrew Carnegie and J. Pierpont Morgan. Marian’s leadership continued to develop support for an idea that became the art colony we know today, which has provided studio space and support to over 6,000 artists. Among these artists are Benny Andrews, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, E.L. Doctorow, DuBose and Dorothy Heyward, Alice Sebold, Wendy Wasserstein, Thornton Wilder and so many more. In 1997 the National Medal of Arts was awarded to the Colony for “nurturing and inspiring many of this century’s finest artists” and offering them “the opportunity to work within a dynamic community of their peers, where creative excellence is the standard.”
Monadnock Art / Friends of the Dublin Art Colony (MA / FDAC) produces the Annual Open Studio Art Tour in early October to celebrate the presence of the visual arts in the Monadnock Region of southwestern New Hampshire. This includes the artists who gathered in and near Dublin at the turn of the 19th century and the hundreds of artists who live and work throughout the region today. More than 50 present-day artists in the towns around Mount Monadnock open their studios to the public. The tour is free, and many artists offer special pricing at this time.
A close audience-performer relationship developed from the beginning of Monadnock Music in 1966 with a few concerts in the Nelson Meeting House. It all started when Conductor James Bolle gathered musicians from big cities. Working on a shoestring budget they stayed with him and his family in a cottage in the woods on Silver Lake. Today’s Village Concerts continue to be performed free to the public in Peterborough and other towns throughout the Monadnock Region, while the Peterborough Town House Series are ticketed and help support the organization. Distinguished artists enrich the lives of all who attend the annual summer festival, while during the school year over 25,000 students in more that 25 towns, participate in the Lend an Ear! program gaining vital music education.
The Peterborough Players was founded in 1933 by Edith Bond Stearns, a mother of three with limited means, imagination, vision and a love for the arts. Today this organization continues to provide professional theatre within a supportive atmosphere for professionals and students to practice and expand their art. From its beginning in an 18th-century barn with no running electricity the theatre has progressed through many renovations to become the intimate 250-seat, state-of-the-art theatre we know and love today. Many actors and writers have contributed to the rich experience and celebration of the human spirit through the years, including Thornton Wilder, Will Rogers, James Whitmore, Paul Robeson and Avery Brooks.
The mission of the Sharon Arts Center, a non-profit organization, is to support and serve artists and craftspeople, to engage our community in the artistic process, and to foster the relationship between artists and the community through education, exhibitions, the promotion and sale of art and craft, as well as through special programs and events.
The mission of the New Hampshire Institute of Art is to engage students, artists, scholars, and the community in the arts through quality education, outreach, and access to creative resources, with a focus on the present and a vision on the future. The Institute will distinguish itself through a continued emphasis on teaching the integration of creative, aesthetic, technical, and critical skills in artistic expression. At the end of 2012, the New Hampshire Institute of Art has reached an agreement to formally merge with and assume the management of the Sharon Arts Center in Sharon and Peterborough.
The Park Theatre is a 90 year-old building in the heart of historic downtown Jaffrey, NH. Since 2006, the community has been working to rebuild and reopen the facility as a regional center for the arts and entertainment, a meeting place for the community, and a dynamic force in the region’s economic vitality and quality of life. The reconstruction of The Park Theatre will start in December 2013. When reopened, it will offer year-round programming—movies, plays, and concerts by local artists, schools and touring companies. The 400-seat, state-of-the-art, superbly acoustic facility will be available for rent for private, public and community-wide events, and bring opportunities for cultural events to enhance the school curriculum, providing space to the five schools in downtown Jaffrey and their 1,200 students.
Photo of Mount Monadnock by S.R. Gilcreast, Jr.