Published On: January 13th, 2023

Photos by Robert Torres feature Sharman Altshuler, Geeta Pradhan, and David Altshuler at the future Arrow Street Arts location.

CCF partners with Arrow Street Arts, a new Cambridge nonprofit, to expand local artists’ access to performance and studio space

January 12, 2023—Cambridge, MA

The Cambridge Community Foundation (CCF) is partnering with Arrow Street Arts, Inc. (ASA), a new Cambridge, MA-based nonprofit that is revitalizing two multi-use arts spaces at Two Arrow Street in Cambridge, to increase equitable access to the spaces for artists, arts organizations, and other community groups, especially those from historically underserved communities. The Harvard Square venue is the former home of the American Repertory Theater’s Oberon theater.

Founded by arts advocate David Altshuler, Arrow Street Arts reflects the vision that “Art Creates Community and Community Creates Belonging,” and the organization and its venues are being designed to be a welcoming resource for both local artists and community organizations. “As a long-time resident of Cambridge who has dedicated much of my life to supporting and helping produce art, I have experienced performing arts’ powers to illuminate the commonalities in our shared humanity while exploring, respecting, and celebrating our differences,” said Altshuler. “During the pandemic, we lost connection and our communities suffered. With Arrow Street Arts’ enhanced creative spaces for rehearsals, productions, and events, performers and audiences will come together and thereby strengthen our community. By promoting culture and enlivening the neighborhood, Arrow Street Arts will amplify the work of artists and all who contribute to the fabric of Cambridge and the Greater Boston area.”

Given the Foundation’s deep connections in the community and its commitment to supporting the arts, it will serve as a connector for local artists and community-based arts programs that reflect the cultural diversity of Cambridge. Through the newly established Arrow Street Arts Fund, the Foundation will be able to subsidize artists’ access to the ASA venues. The fund will be administered exclusively by CCF.

“A hub of creativity and innovation, Cambridge has long been a celebrated home for artists and the arts, but the city’s economic growth has had a dramatic impact on the creative community and others who struggle to live and work here,” said CCF President Geeta Pradhan. “We see the Arrow Street Arts Fund and the growth of the Cultural Capital Fund as key to ensuring the arts are able thrive in Cambridge, healing and bringing the community together and keeping our city vibrant.”

The ASA/CCF partnership will also focus on raising new funds for CCF’s Cultural Capital Fund, established in 2020 in partnership with the City of Cambridge, which supports the creative work by Cambridge-centered artists working throughout the city. In the wake of the pandemic, the Foundation created the Cambridge Artist Relief Fund, followed by the Cultural Capital Fund to provide immediate support to arts organizations at risk due to the COVID-19 pandemic and protect the viability of the arts ecosystem for years to come. Since March 2020, these efforts combined have infused about $900,000 into the city’s arts sector.

Informed by the region’s well-documented need for accessible rehearsal and performance spaces, most notably in the Boston Performing Arts Facilities Assessment and Cambridge’s Mayor’s Arts Task Force Report, Arrow Street Arts addresses the pressing need of small to mid-size organizations and individual artists for spaces accommodating audiences ranging from 150-600. Outfitted with comprehensive lighting, sound, and production capacities, ASA’s facility offers both venues and production services that will help meet community and artists’ needs. Arrow Street Arts’ commitment to its vision supporting artists and the community includes ASA entering into a long-term lease with building owner Harvard University.

Reinvigorating a former hub for performing arts

Arrow Street Arts is committed to being a learning organization, exploring issues of affordability, access, equity, and sustainability and increasing the resources available to artists and community organizations. It is partnering with the CCF to provide local artistic producers subsidized use of ASA’s venues through a dedicated grant program and as partners in strengthening the capacity of the local artist community.

Jason Weeks, Executive Director at Cambridge Arts, adds, “When Oberon closed at this location during the pandemic, the loss was deeply felt by our creative community. The introduction of Arrow Street Arts is an exciting addition to Cambridge’s artistic landscape. With two new flexible performance spaces for creation and presentation and a long-term partnership with the Cambridge Community Foundation that ensures equitable access to these resources by local creatives, we have much to celebrate. This project also underscores Harvard University’s ongoing commitment to the important role of arts and culture in ensuring a vibrant Harvard Square as a welcoming and creative space for local artists and audiences.”

Sean Caron, vice president for campus services at Harvard adds, “When vetting proposals for 2 Arrow St., Harvard looked for a partner who understands the importance of honoring the Oberon legacy of contributing to the local Cambridge arts scene with inclusion and vibrancy as two central goals. In Arrow Street Arts, we’re excited to be able to support an expanded performance venue where the Cambridge community and performing artists across Boston come together with Harvard students, faculty, and alumni to be inspired in Harvard Square.”

With renovations underway and planned by Charles Rose Architects, the 11,500 square-foot Arrow Street facility will be revitalized with extensive production enhancements to two flexible performance spaces and other upgrades that will enhance both the audience and artist experiences. A 4,500 square-foot black box theater will offer various seating configurations for up to approximately 300 audience members, and a new 1,100 square-foot street-front studio will offer a more intimate venue for smaller productions and events as well as rehearsal space for productions destined for the black box. The studio is expected to accommodate 100+ people. Both multi-use spaces will support rehearsals, performances, and special events across a range of artistic genres, including theater, spoken word/readings, dance, music, and film. The studio is expected to open in the second quarter of 2023, while the renovated black box theater is scheduled to open in late 2023.

Moonbox to become a Resident Company
Among the expected wide-ranging roster of local arts creators using the space, the Arrow Street venue will provide a new home for Moonbox Productions, the award-winning, Cambridge-based theatre company, which had been searching for a local base of operations for its rehearsals and productions for over a decade. Moonbox Productions will become a resident company at the Arrow Street facility, bringing its programming and organizational commitment to community, diversity, and accessibility to Harvard Square where Moonbox launched in 2011 under the leadership of Producing Artistic Director Sharman Altshuler.

“It is a thrill to be a part of the reimagining and reactivation of this iconic theater space,” said Altshuler. “Since launching Moonbox at the Brattle Theater in 2011, we have produced work in nine different venues, so we are delighted to be returning to our roots in Harvard Square, and to finally have a place to call home. The energy around the Arrow Street venue is incredibly exciting, and it is an honor to be a part of it.”

Moonbox is deeply committed to creating community through live, in-person theater. Moonbox believes in providing platforms and opportunities both on and off-stage for under-represented artists—including BIPOC, LGBTQIA2S+, and people living with disabilities. Moonbox also seeks to strengthen its community through its nonprofit partnerships, mentoring programs for emerging artists, continuing education programs for local theater professionals, collaborative opportunities for local performers, and a robust new works development program developing new plays.

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