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01907 Summer 2018

Jackie Kinney, center,

Jackie Kinney, center, co-president of ReachArts, shares a laugh with artists Ingrid Pichler, left, and Tereza Swanda. PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE Within Reach Community arts group works toward town-wide cultural district BY BILL BROTHERTON The stately building at 89 Burrill St. was in terrible disrepair when ReachArts, Swampscott's community arts group, moved in a little more than a year ago. The cleanup and demo work was only the beginning. “We had to de-raccoon the place. It was a little like ‘Grey Gardens,’” said Jackie Kinney, co-president of ReachArts, the nonprofit group of artists and residents that are turning the long-vacant building into a cultural, economic hub. The group signed a two-year lease with the town in April 2017, at $1 per year, to restore the place. These days, the former senior center is looking mighty spiffy. The porch has been rebuilt, the exterior has been painted and the gallery in the basement just housed a successful exhibition of works by young local artists. Kinney praised the efforts of “hero volunteers,” including contractors Leland Hussey and Bruce Paradise, electrician Jesse Kuhlman, plumber Rick Massey, carpenter Todd Flannery, demo expert Eric Zakanini and landscape designer Will Godin who absorbed the labor costs of various projects. There's still plenty of work to do in the 3,500-square-foot structure, which was originally a circa 1885 single-family home until a fire shuttered it and it was bought and rebuilt by an American Legion post. A capital campaign is in the works to raise $300,000 to install an elevator and sprinkler system, set up a kitchen next to the gallery and renovate the second-floor “jewel” of a ballroom with its coffered ceilings and art deco touches. The basement gallery space is now the building's only ADA-compliant space. “The library is just down the street and the waterfront with its restaurants and shops is just a block away. There is great enthusiasm from artists in town, and town officials too,” said Kinney. “There is a focus, too, on the revitalization of Humphrey Street, which has been identified as the 'downtown' of Swampscott. That means more foot traffic, stimulation of a cultural economy, pop-up galleries and public 26 | 01907

PHOTO BY SPENSER R.HASAK The ReachArts building on Burrill Street sports a fresh coat of paint and a new porch. art installations, getting the community involved.” The train station, she added, is about a 10-minute walk away, making it accessible to day trippers from Boston, Rockport and Newburyport. “Beyond Walls in Lynn was a real game changer. A cultural arts district is doable here.” Ingrid Pichler, a glass designer who serves as ReachArt's artist liaison, said the group “is starting small and building, building, building. Good things take time. The arts community is really responding in a big way. “This is not just a gallery. What's happening here is a community. I feel comfortable. I'm part of a community of artists.” A small-works exhibition is planned for the fall. Tereza Swanda, an art teacher whose work has been shown throughout the country, curated the recent “Emerging” young artists exhibition. ReachArts is emerging too, finding its identity. Swanda said ReachArts “is creating a stir in Swampscott. There's a vibe happening. I've lived in town for 30 years or so, and the arts community has yearned for years for this. This building is incredible. It's home. This is a place you can feel free to do what you want, whether you're a poet, or visual artist, or experimental or traditional. It's home to all.” “I really think there's an appetite in town for this,” added Kinney. “I see art on all the walls. I envision a gift shop. I see teaching happening in here. Watercolor classes. Poetry groups … the possibilities are endless. “Everything is within reach.” SUMMER 2018 | 27