by Lori Goldstein, email@example.com
At its 20th anniversary gala the evening of May 24th, New Hope Arts officially kicked off its Elevate the Arts Capital Campaign to renovate the gallery’s exterior and interior. Well-known architect and board member Ralph C. Fey will lead the architectural project. During the gala, New Hope Mayor and Chairman of the NHA board, Laurence Keller, conducted a live auction of seven valuable works of art donated by New Hope member artists. New Hope Arts has already raised close to $200,000 in its private funding phase. Community members are encouraged to visit the New Hope Arts website, www.NewHopeArts.org, and follow its social media to find the various ways to contribute to the now-public aspect of the Elevate the Arts Capital Campaign.
The building that has been the home of New Hope Arts at 2 Stockton Avenue for the past 20 years wasn’t always a gallery. Built along the Delaware Canal in the first quarter of the 19th century, the native stone structure, originally a barn, functioned as a foundry and a station for storage and transporting goods. In subsequent years it has served as a theater, an auto repair shop and gas station, even a fencing studio. In 2002 the building was leased to New Hope Arts by board member Tom Scannapieco. In 2008, New Hope Arts purchased the building from the Scannapieco Development Corporation.
Ever since 2002 when the second floor was transformed into a gallery, repair and maintenance of the building’s infrastructure has been paramount, as windows were literally falling to the ground and shattering. During the summer, four room air conditioners were used to cool insufficiently the gallery. Windows were replaced, an HVAC system installed, and $5 clip lights were exchanged for LED track lighting. The roof was insulated, and the ceiling painted black.
“It’s a comfortable space. It’s not an engaging space and getting there is very difficult,” says Ralph Fey. “What is going on inside surpasses what is going on outside.” He is ready to change that.
Accessibility, especially for someone with a disability, will be remedied with a three-story elevator that can be reached via a 22-foot-long ramp on the York Road side of the building. The expense of the elevator will be funded by a $116,000 grant that Senator Steve Santarsiero shepherded through the state Senate. Awarded in 2021, the monies must be spent within two years. An ADA-compliant restroom will also be installed for gallery visitors. A two-part series of compliant stairs will replace the winding, steep stairs up to the gallery–an aid to senior citizen visitors. The most important aspect of all these modifications is that they will make New Hope Arts eligible for other grants, which require an ADA-compliant building.
The elevator is three stories because it can also take you to the lower level, which is not a basement. “It is completely walkable, with sliding doors to the canal,” says Fey. “We hope to be expanding into that space as we make it accessible with an elevator.” There are spaces for tenants, for artists to do and exhibit their work. They may rent on a monthly basis at below-market value. “It has always been part of the mission of New Hope Arts, to provide gallery space, presentation space…to the arts.” Another bonus of the elevator is that it will transport large sculptures up to the gallery. “In the past, we actually had cranes drop sculpture through a window, what used to be the hayloft has a giant door and we would load sculpture in that way.”
One trait that characterizes much of Fey’s work is his ability to make a connection between the community and the construct. That is discernible in his numerous New Hope projects – the Logan Inn, the New Hope Ferry Market, Stella’s, and the Nektar Wine Bar among them. Fey aims to achieve that aesthetic unity with the remodeling of New Hope Arts’ Stockton Avenue entrance. As the visual rendering indicates, a new staircase invites a visitor in, the use of a canopy of glass and more glass on the front of the entrance are similarly welcoming. One’s eye is drawn to the metallic lettering above the canopy, confirming the building’s identity and compelling a visitor to explore it.
The plans drawn up by the team of Ralph C. Fey AIA Architects will have been submitted to the New Hope Historical Architectural Review Board (HARB) as of this writing. The budget for this project is $750,000, which includes the $113,000 elevator grant. Indeed, Fey points out that the grant award was the impetus for the other aspects of Elevate the Arts that will enrich the experience of everyone who visits New Hope Arts. The timeframe for renovation is relatively short, from November 2022 through February 2023, when the gallery has less programming and fewer attendees during the winter.
“In the community that I was raised in, which is Doylestown/New Hope,” says Fey, “what serves the community is a strong understanding of the history of the place, the needs of the community. We’re trying very hard not to be the building that everybody just points to and says ‘Hey, I’m here,’ but contributing another piece of architecture which hopefully will be cherished and taken care of as much as we cherish the historic buildings that are here now. So we take that very seriously, that we’re a piece of…the fabric of our community. We want them to say ‘Wow, new building, that really fits in nicely.’”
PHOTO CAP: Redesign of New Hope Arts’ Stockton Avenue entrance and staircase leading to 2nd floor gallery. Courtesy of Ralph C. Fey AIA Architects.