“We did it–we are thrilled to report that Access 51 was a resounding success and we’ve met our half-million dollar goal! It was quite a challenge but one we had to tackle to ensure the continuation of the performing arts in Concord. Getting older sometimes means we have to repair a few creaky joints. Such was the case with Concord’s treasured building at 51 Walden. Since 1887, the historic structure at 51 Walden Street has served the Town and surrounding communities as an armory, a meeting place for the Concord Minutemen and the American Legion, and now as home to The Concord Orchestra, The Concord Band, Opera51, The Concord Players, and several dance programs.
In 2017, it was apparent that the building did indeed have a few creaky joints. Even more important was the need to bring the building up to state access code. The work would be expensive, at least $300,000 in fact. It wasn’t the first time 51’s bones needed to be shored up, so this time, the 51 Walden Board and the three Resident Performing Arts Groups made a long term plan. They decided to raise a whopping $500,000 to do the immediate work needed and to create an emergency fund for the leaks and creaks that will surely present themselves in the future.
The Access 51 Campaign began in January of 2018 with a kick-off that included Joyce Kulhawik, Honorary Chair of Access 51, then-State Representative Cory Atkins, and Town Manager Chris Whelan. Chairwoman Dorrie Bean, Board president Gail Penrod, and members of the Access 51 committee worked the phones to personally solicit funds. Soon the town-wide appeal was on, with coverage in local papers and a mailing to everyone who lives in Concord. In the end, more than 282 individuals made contributions, ranging in size from from $25 to $50,000. An artful, professional multi-page case statement designed by Tracy Wall of The Concord Players was a valuable tool for visits to prospective funders. It was not only beautifully crafted, it was evidence to prospective donors that the committee had done its homework and was qualified and prepared to steward the funds.
The campaign enjoyed 100% participation from the boards of The Concord Orchestra, The Concord Band, The Concord Players, and 51 Walden. Five thousand dollars from the MetroWest Foundation, $100,000 in Community Preservation funds, and $40,000 from the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund helped to bring the total to just over $507,000. The committee also produced two special events that not only brought in funds, but brought the community closer together. A concert by Emmy Award-winning pianist Paul Sullivan raised over $10,000, thanks to Dorrie Bean’s persistence and artful persuasion. A Hurly-Burly Vaudeville Extravaganza in March of 2019 brought every tenant in 51 together to perform for a sold-out house. Local purveyors of food and wine pitched in, offering treats and beverages either as donations or at cost.
Now, thanks to all that hard work and the generosity of so many, little girls in tutus, hip-hoppers who leap and roll, and tap-tap-tappers can continue to dance with abandon. Music continues to flow through the hall in a joyous sound, and audiences and performers alike can experience the shared dramatic connection that only happens when the lights go down and the curtain comes up.
Most important, people of every age and every ability can access the building and its renovated bathrooms more easily; even the stage, thanks to a $22,000 lift donated by the Concord Players.
This was truly a community effort, and we are so grateful for the generous support of so many people. We look forward to thanking you personally at one of the many exciting events this season. Check them out at www.51walden.org.