Mother Brook Arts Flirts With A New Direction
by Meredith Cutler
Planted squarely on one of the oft-neglected borders between suburban and urban Boston, the former mill village of East Dedham has long remained an untapped opportunity for thoughtful redevelopment. Along the banks of the Mother Brook Canal, the oldest hand-dug mill pond in the United States (circa 1639), and former home to Dedham Pottery, the factory that produced the collectible, crackle-glazed ceramics from 1896-1943, the neighborhood had the bones for an artistic rebirth. In 2011, a group of civic-minded residents and local selectmen saw the soon to be decommissioned Avery School as the perfect opportunity.
REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE
“Why do we automatically think the building needs to be torn down because the use changes?” was the question posed by Town of Dedham Selectman Paul Reynolds, who helped spearhead the re-use committee and now serves as a member of the Mother Brook Arts Advisory Board. The committee moved fast through a series of public meetings, resulting in overwhelming local support for the project. The doors of the Avery School, officially closed as surplus in April 2012, were re-opened in June 2013 as Mother Brook Arts and Community Center (MBACC).
Occupancy of the MBACC, which includes non-residential artist studios, classrooms and community space, has been slowly rolling out since last summer. The four-level brick building now provides studio space for 36 artists, musicians and educators, and includes Metalmorphosis jewelry studio, itself a re-birth of the former DeCordova metals studio, which was bought out last year by a group of jewelry artists who had been working together there for 25 years. A variety of creative classes spanning visual, performing and healing arts are open for youth and adult enrollment.