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Arts festival aims to raise funds for the construction of the Northampton Community Arts Trust

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Dancers have had such difficult times as any artist over the past year and a half, as COVID-19 has forced an art form built around physicality and some intimacy on Zoom, or has forced the masked dancers to remain mostly separate.

But that doesn’t mean the dancers haven’t found other ways to stay active and creative. And on the first weekend of October, dancers and other performers will gather in Northampton as part of an effort to help continue construction of the city’s community arts center.

The fundraiser and the Les pieds au sol festival, which takes place from September 30 to October 30. 3 in the Northampton Community Arts Trust building, aims to raise funds to build a wooden ‘suspended floor’ at 33 Hawley St. center, a floor with an integrated system to absorb shock and reduce the risk of injury to dancers, and which would also be suitable for other uses. Its estimated cost is $ 100,000; $ 20,000 has already been raised.

The organizers dedicate this future floor to the memory of the late Nancy Stark Smith, dancer from Northampton and leader of the dance form known as contact improvisation.

The festival, which offers dance workshops and performances, an exhibition of art, music, poetry and a tour of the building, is also designed to help raise funds for further upgrades to the larger space of the Arts Trust, called the Labor Room, with the last large part of the building remaining unfinished (with a few other exceptions).

For the project, all participating artists donate their time and effort free of charge.

Produced by APE @ Hawley and the School for Contemporary Dance & Thought, also in Northampton, the festival has been a moving target, said APE Associate Director Lisa Thompson. The planning took place during the ramp-up of the COVID delta variant, requiring regular reassessments for, say, how many members of the public should be cleared for the events.

“It’s been a challenge, and not all of the artists (we contacted) felt comfortable performing in space,” Thompson said during a recent interview in Labor Room 3. 800 square feet. “But overall the program went pretty well.”

Jen Polins, founder and director of the School for Contemporary Dance & Thought, says she is satisfied with the number of dancers who have joined the festival; many have deep connections to the Northampton dance scene, she added, “and we’re really happy to have them back.”

Event calendar

Friday and Saturday October 1 and 2, includes a full series of events. Sunday October 3 includes a morning dance workshop and afternoon performances by dance students from regional high schools, including several from the School for Contemporary Dance & Thought. The schedule for Thursday, September 30 is more restricted.

Friday’s itinerary includes an exhibition of paintings by Rachel Jenkins and a talk by the artist, followed by a reading by members of the Group 18 poetry workshop in Northampton.

Saturday October 2 is “Dance Day” with short introductions from several dancers including Chris Aiken and Angie Hauser, who teach at Smith College, and Cameron McKinney, a New York dancer, choreographer and teacher whose work often celebrates. Japanese language. and cultural. Other shorter performances that evening include dance, music, and poetry.

All events take place in the labor room, which is slowly but surely approaching a finished state. The space is now equipped with a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system and has received its official certificate of occupancy.

What is needed now is soundproofing along the walls, a lighting system, the floating floor – the dancing is currently done on a marley vinyl floor which can be installed in different places – and more seating. permanent, among others.

The working room has already been used for a range of events – theater, dance lessons, artist residencies, virtual presentations from Transperformance and First Night Northampton last year – but finishing the space will allow the room working to greet the public more comfortably, note Thompson and Polins. .

They plan to host up to 300 people for a range of events, just as the Arts Trust’s smaller ‘flexible space’ can accommodate theater, dance, music and more.

Completing construction is done step by step, Thompson said, using grants and fundraising, which is helpful as it can give planners a better idea of ​​how to proceed with the next part of the project. construction once part of the project is complete.

She says about $ 2.5 million is needed to complete construction of the entire Arts Trust building, including finishing the lobby and ticket office and a visual arts gallery. The total cost of the construction project is set at $ 9.25 million.

Thompson says a group of donors recently pledged $ 50,000 to the Arts Trust if organizers can raise an additional $ 50,000 over 50 days; the funding would be used to create an acoustic barrier between the workroom and the flexible space so that performances can take place in both simultaneously, without sound crossing from one location to another.

And, Thompson added, if the Arts Trust can collect that $ 50,000 in 50 days, another match of up to $ 25,000 over an additional 25 days will be triggered: this gives the trust the ability to raise 150,000. $.

“There’s so much we can do here” after the space is over, said Polins, who noted that the Pioneer Valley Symphony Orchestra has used it a few times to rehearse; and the Young @ Heart Chorus also considered it for a practice space once the aged vocal group returns to live rehearsals.

“The sound is really good here, and we haven’t even finished the space,” she said.

For more information on fundraising and the Feet to the Floor festival, or to donate to ongoing construction at the Arts Trust, visit scdtnoho.com/feet-to-the-floor-fundraiser– festival.html.

Performances will likely be limited to 30 people and dance workshops to 15. Face masks and proof of COVID vaccination are required for entry.