Arlington Center for the Arts Celebrates New Home

On Saturday evening, October 27th, hundreds of supporters and collaborators gathered throughout the evening to celebrate the re-opening of the Arlington Center for the Arts, at 20 Academy Street, in newly renovated space that places the ACA in the heart of Arlington’s recently designated Cultural District. ACA was established in 1988 by a visionary group of artists, writers, musicians and educators as a place where artists could share their work with the community through educational and outreach programs.

The ACA was located for 27 years in the Gibbs Building and there was a time when the organization did not know it would survive. Help came from every corner: the Town helped locate the new space and continues as landlord. The Massachusetts Cultural Council supported the project with a $187,000 Cultural Facilities Fund Grant. Hundreds of donors contributed funding, from campers donating their allowance, to three major anonymous match challenges that kept the fundraising thermometer rising. The Arlington School Department and the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church rented space to the ACA over the past two years to run the kids camp programs, ensuring that the ACA would to stay alive and continue to create meaningful creative summer camp experiences for hundreds of local kids.

ACA Executive Director Linda Shoemaker opened the celebratory evening stating, “Arlington now has a brand-new, beautiful cultural center befitting the recent surge of interest and involvement in the arts in Arlington. The ACA will serve as Arlington’s hub of creativity and community.” Joe Curro, Arlington Select Board Member, shared the organization’s history and integration with the town and ending his comments by capturing the spirit of the night remarking on the happiness that the arts bring to communities. Also present were Town Planner Jenny Raitt and Meri Jenkins, Arreen Andrew, Luis Cotto, and Diane Daily from the Mass Cultural Council.

Central to the speaking program was the dedication of The Shaira Ali Gallery + Performance Center with Mohamad, Kecia, Tariq and Saadia Ali present to eloquently share remembrance and vision for the large modern gallery that now houses exhibits of the work of local and regional artists and will serve as a performance space for intimate concerts, readings and performances of all kinds. The inaugural exhibition, I’m New Here, Perspectives on Migration features artwork by 33 artist and highlights diverse expressions of migration by groups of people, in the natural world, and in the small intricacies of daily life.  Guest juror: Boriana Kantcheva was present.

ACA Founder and Poet Jean Flanagan read from her work to the assembled guests before the program ended with a ribbon cutting.

The space feels at once rustic and modern, pairing historic 19th century wooden beams, exposed brick, and quirky roof angles, with sleek modern lighting, and pops of dramatic color. While the gallery was buzzing with wall-to-wall excitement, refreshment and conversations, some retreated to the “Loft 2” classroom, sat down at the art tables, pulled out some materials, and created some opening night artwork.

The Center includes five art classrooms including a dedicated pottery studio. ACA programs include classes and workshops in drawing, painting, fiber arts, jewelry making, and a new maker series as well as kids after school and Saturday classes. 6 individual private studios, ranging from 80 to 240 square feet, which will be rented as artist working space, plus an artists co-working space with workspace and locker storage for 12 member artists. Applications for studio spaces will be available in the coming weeks.

The ACA is grateful for the generous outpouring of support from our community. While a one million dollar fundraising goal seemed a high goal at first, the finish line is almost in sight, with $60,000 needed to finish the campaign. This last push will help to build the pottery studio and open the clay program next year.

ACA is a vibrant community arts center and a cornerstone for the creative community in Arlington offering opportunities for people of all ages to discover and express their own creativity and to
appreciate the creativity of others through a dynamic mix of classes, workshops, exhibits, performances and special events. The ACA invites people to come visit, see the gallery and classrooms, take in a performance, and dream together about how the new ACA can even better serve our community.

For more information: visit or contact Linda Shoemaker, Executive Director, at or 781-648-6220. For more information about studio space contact Pam Shanley at