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Depot Takes On New Artistic Life

By September 4, 2013 No Comments
Windsor dedication

Wayne Dombkowski, President of the Board of Directors of the Windsor Art Center, addresses the crowd at the dedication. (Photo: Steve Cote)

WINDSOR, CONN.—On September 4, 2013, town officials and local residents joined with members of the Windsor Art Center (WAC) to celebrate the grand opening of new artists’ studios in the historic Windsor depot—now renamed the Windsor Art Center Studios. Founded to promote the creative endeavors of local artists, artisans, actors and musicians, WAC moved into the nearby Hartford and New Haven Railroad freight house in 2008. It quickly became a center for art exhibitions and programming.

Noting a lack of studio space for painters, sculptors and other artists, WAC decided in early 2013 to lease the old French Second Empire style depot from the city. Erected in 1870, the building stands across the tracks from the freight house; although served by Amtrak, passengers only use the platform.

In the late 1980s, Windsor, along with the Greater Hartford Transit District and Amtrak, undertook a full $1.3 million restoration of the two railroad structures. Rededicated in October 1988, the depot initially contained retail and office space, and the project was recognized as a positive “adaptive reuse” of a historic building. In recent years, it stood largely vacant until WAC leaders saw the potential for a new use.

Five studios have been created across three floors, and there is also a large classroom available to arts instructors. Renovations included the addition of interior walls and doors; installation of carpeting, color-corrected lighting and signage; upgrades to the fire and security systems; and painting. WAC board members Holly Pelton and Wayne Dombkowski note, “We wanted to do more than showcase the arts, we wanted to be able to offer classes as well as provide a home for working artists: a place where art is not just displayed but created.”

Renovating the depot was an easy choice for WAC. Not only is the building a local landmark and close to the freight house exhibition space, but WAC had also built a strong relationship with the town through its arts programming. Rents will cover the cost of the lease, and the town will continue to oversee building maintenance. Local businesses lining the nearby Broad Street Green also benefit from increased foot traffic generated by studio activity.

Read more about the Windsor Art Center.