Jul 15, 2013
08:19 AMArts & Entertainment
Once With a National Presence, a Connecticut Craft Center Faces More Tough Times
For the second time in three years, the Brookfield Craft Center (BCC) in western Connecticut has suspended operations, in an effort to reduce its expenses as it endeavors once again to find its future.
The center, which in the past has enjoyed a national reputation for its exhibits and roster of classes, canceled an open house planned for June 29 and has suspended all classes, open studios and gallery hours until further notice.
Jim Degen, the president of the center’s board and a longtime faculty member, said in a prepared statement in late June, “We have not yet given up on finding a way to go forward fulfilling the Brookfield Craft Center mission, but we are painfully aware that the current mode of operation cannot continue. I deeply regret that it has come to this, but the board cannot allow the organization to continue operating at a loss and incur debts it is unable to satisfy.”
The craft center, with a lifetime commitment to promote fine craftsmanship through education, exhibition and marketing, had proudly marked its 50th year in 2004, after successfully undergoing two of three phases of a major improvement project at its campus on Route 25 along the Still River near the Four Corners intersection with Federal Road.
The center of the nonprofit organization’s campus is an historic, circa 1780 grist mill, which was an abandoned structure in 1952 when Nancy Dubois Hagmayer, a New York City school teacher, purchased it for $5 to turn it into a craft center, which was established two years later. She and her husband, John, had many friends who were artists and together they launched a campaign to renovate the facility, a project that has been vastly expanded over decades.
As the last decade unfolded, however, BCC’s financial picture became more and more bleak, with no significant opportunities for turn-around given the straitened national economy, and then shock waves rippled through the local community and the broader fine arts and crafts region in mid-May 2010 when it announced it would be closing its doors, due to financial difficulties. Amid that downward spiral, some clung to the hope that perhaps “a few angels” would save it or enable it to be reborn and, in fact, two months later, steps began to be taken to reinvent it. The center reopened in the fall of that year, after restructuring part of its debt, arranging for the elimination of its debt to its artists, and being chosen to receive a $100,000 matching grant from the Windgate Foundation.