20200817-LOC-MAxT

MAxT plans to have a presence with a ceramics studio at this Dublin business park on Route 101.

DUBLIN — Local artists are one step closer to recouping the programming they lost when the Sharon Arts Center closed last year, thanks to recent financial support from the state for a new ceramics studio in Dublin.

MAxT Makerspace, a Peterborough nonprofit group that provides its members with a workshop to make textiles, jewelry, wooden crafts and other goods, received $62,500 in tax credits from New Hampshire’s Community Development Finance Authority in July. The organization will distribute the CDFA tax credits to raise funds for the new studio, according to its executive director, Roy Schlieben.

MAxT has identified an open suite at Dublin Village Park on Route 101 that it hopes to lease for the Sharing Arts Ceramics Center — a nod to the former arts studio in Sharon — and is now raising $100,000 to turn the space into a ceramics facility, Schlieben said.

With the recent CDFA allowance, New Hampshire businesses that donate to the development project will receive a state tax credit for 75 percent of their contribution’s value.

Schlieben said MAxT has already received $28,000 from two companies that will receive tax credits, as well as $32,000 in other contributions.

“We hope to be able to complete the fundraising and open up the facility in … early 2021,” he said.

The new ceramics studio is part of an initiative by several organizations in the Monadnock Region, including MAxT, to replace the arts education programs that disappeared when the Sharon Arts Center closed in September 2019.

New England College closed the center and the Sharon Arts Center Exhibition Gallery, also in Peterborough, last year after acquiring them in its merger with the Manchester-based N.H. Institute of Art. The center had previously merged with NHIA, in 2012, to offer a master of fine arts degree program.

NEC closed the Sharon Arts facilities because they did not serve its “core mission” as a higher education institution, NEC’s executive director of community relations and public affairs, Tom Horgan, said at the time.

The loss of the Sharon Arts Center, which offered instruction for professional and amateur artists before it was shuttered, “left a big void in the arts community,” Schlieben said.

Paul Looney, a Walpole resident who took classes at the center for 27 years, said ceramics students like himself were among those affected by its closing.

“Sharon Arts Center had stopped running as many classes [in other media] over the years as they used to,” Looney said. “We were the ones that were hit the most at the end.”

Looney joined about 30 other amateur potters from the center to discuss how they could preserve its educational programs. The group initially considered buying the building from New England College before it approached Schlieben in November 2019 to discuss finding a new studio, according to Looney.

“It was really a difficult thing because some of us were very attached to the old building,” Looney said. “We eventually had to let that go because it wasn’t a practical solution.”

Schlieben obliged and began working with the group to find a new space when it became clear that MAxT’s 9,000-square-foot facility in Peterborough could not accommodate a ceramics studio.

“Seeing that Sharon Arts’ continuing education programs were very similar to what we at the makerspace offer and [that] their workshop facilities were similar to the type of facilities that we run, we [thought MAxT] might actually be a good organization to help fill this gap,” Schlieben said.

Some of the potters moved to other facilities after the Sharon Arts Center closed, and many have been practicing their craft at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, Looney said. Nonetheless, the group will begin using MAxT’s new studio when it is safe to do so.

“We all made a commitment to being members of the space,” he said.

Looney is particularly excited that the studio will be closer to Keene than it was at the Sharon Arts Center, which he hopes will make it more accessible to the city’s residents.

The ceramics facility is one of several features of the Sharon Arts Center that local arts organizations have adopted in their “Sharing Arts” initiative.

MAxT has already begun holding a series of outdoor workshops in drawing, paper crafting and stone carving. The makerspace is also working with Arts Alive!, a Keene nonprofit group, and the Dublin School to host classes and galleries in their facilities.

“There really was concern in the arts community that … because of the closure of the Sharon Arts Center and other resources that had gone away, artists would no longer be attracted to the area,” Schlieben said. “Our hope is to provide these resources … for the arts community.”

Caleb Symons can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1420, or csymons@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @CalebSymonsKS.