From the outside, the Mosesian Center for the Arts looks as it has for years, but step inside the front doors and you are greeted by a new lobby that draws you in and showcases works of art on its walls.
Thursday evening, the Arts Center located in the Arsenal on the Charles, held a grand opening for its new and improved lobby, and a return of the performing arts.
A soft opening was held on Nov. 12 when the first stage show in more than a year-and-a-half went on — the Watertown Children’s Theatre Production of Mama Mia. Mosesian Center Executive Director Darren Farrington said the project was finished just in time.
“I almost was skeptical that it would finish on time, but we did for the opening of Mama Mia,” Farrington said. “The building inspector came in the morning, the elevator inspector was here in the afternoon, left at about 4:30, and we opened the doors at 5:30 to let the first volunteers in.”
The project removed the double staircase with a white platform in between, and added one staircase on the one side. A wide space that extends up three stories was created, and the new open space showcases works of art on its walls. During the event, Farrington thanked the designers from Sasaki Associates, contractors Sienna Construction, and the staff at the Mosesian Center for the Arts.
Standing in the new lobby, Farrington said the finished product was better than he pictured when the designs began.
“The first ideas were just to open it up. Sasaki did so much. Even their drawings didn’t do justice to what it is,” Farrington said. “Even as it was getting done, at times I thought ‘I’m not sure I see this.’ And then, ‘it’s all so white, I’m not sure I like that.’ But once the art is up it puts the emphasis on the art.”
President of the Mosesian Center’s Board of Directors, Vincent Piccirilli, said that the Mosesian Center for the Arts had been planning to do some renovations for about a decade, and held a capital campaign, but the final push came at a strange time for the center, and for performing arts, generally.
“Fast forward to March 2020, when the bottom fell out of the whole arts business and shut down. To actually be there together wasn’t allowed under the emergency order. We, like every other arts organization in America, went into a tailspin,” Piccirilli said. “I remember Roberta Miller in June 2020 give me a call telling me she got a phone call from Dante Angelucci at Alexandria and he had a proposition for us — and that proposition was to turn this lobby into what it is today.”
The Arts Center got started on making the idea a reality, Piccirilli said, without an executive director, because Miller had retired. During the pandemic, Farrington was hired and jumped into designing the project, even though he had only seen the space once. He recalled his favorite phrase during the planning stage was “what do you think, Sean?” referring to Sean Dooley, the MCA’s Director of Theater Operations and Facilities.
Piccirilli said the project was completed due to many people believing it could be done.
“I want to thank the Watertown community, and the Mosesian Center for the Arts family for keeping the faith that we were going to make this happen, and be where we are tonight with a reimagined building as we begin on our reimagined year of new programing,” Piccirilli sad. “Thank you all for keeping the faith and getting us to this point.”
After the thank yous, attendees of the grand opening were entertained by Reggie Gibson, a former National Poetry Slam Champion, who has been featured on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam and was the poet in residence at Museum of Fine Arts. He also performed during one of the Mosesian Center’s performances under the tent over the summer.
Pianist Asako Nagashima played the grand piano during the reception at the grand opening.