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Vermont town's $14 million arts center to open in June

Associated Press logo Associated Press 2/04/2017 By LISA RATHKE, Associated Press

GREENSBORO, Vt. — The tiny Vermont town of Greensboro on the Caspian Lake has long been a haven for out-of-state summer residents. Now one of them is giving back to the community he's visited since he was a child by funding a $14 million arts center.

Andrew Brown wants Highland Center for the Arts to be a welcoming place, said Melanie Clarke, the center's board chair.

"His aspiration for Highland is quite simple," she said. "He wants it to be a place for people to gather and participate in the arts."

Efforts to find contact information for Brown were unsuccessful; Clarke said he prefers to remain out of the spotlight.

The center is scheduled to open in June. Last week, crews were installing seats and lighting in a 300-seat theater, designed to look like Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.

"This is a beautiful theater. This is a really exciting space," said Amanda Rafuse, of the professional theater company, Northern Stage in White River Junction. The company is working with the center on its programming, to include theater, music, film and fine art.

The center has space for smaller performances and classes and a cafe, to be open year-round. High school actors will get a chance to christen the stage with an abbreviated version of Shakespeare's "A Mid-Summer Night's Dream." The April 13 show is tied to the center's professional production of the play in August.

Greensboro, with a population of fewer than 800 residents, nearly triples in size in the summer. Alex Aldrich, executive director of the Vermont Arts Council, said the northern Vermont town is known for its "creative pulse."

Hundreds of artists moved into the Hardwick-Greensboro-Craftsbury area in the 1960s and started restoring the community theaters. Food and farm entrepreneurs recently began pouring in.

Aldrich said many of Greensboro's summer residents go back generations and have strong connections to academia at Ivy League colleges Princeton, Yale and Harvard. Some also settle in the town after retirement.

"They want to turn this into the summer place that they've always wanted," he said.

He predicts the new center will transform the Caspian Lake, Greensboro and Hardwick areas into a cultural destination.

Either way, it's a huge gift to the community, Rafuse said.

"Coming and participating in the live performing arts is the one place where we get to come together and share an experience," she said.

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