Worcester Cultural Coalition Receives Major Award to Develop Performance and Multipurpose Arts Space


Erin Williams

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Worcester Cultural Coalition Receives Major Award to Develop Performance and Multipurpose Arts Space


Worcester, MA–  The Worcester Cultural Coalition (WCC) today announces a $1.1 million grant from the Boston-based Barr Foundation to support the fit-out and operation of the WOOteria, a new collaborative art space and 300 seat performance venue located in downtown Worcester. Located at 20 Franklin Street, the previous home of the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, WOOteria will include a multipurpose exhibition gallery and space for creative collaboration, in addition to a 300 seat performance space for theater, concerts, lectures and convenings. “Great cities support great art,” noted Erin Williams, Cultural Development Officer for the city of Worcester.   “The WCC supports the city’s efforts to activate the downtown and engage people of all backgrounds in bringing the city to life through creative expression of music, dance, theater and public art. It’s a space for everyone to get engaged in the arts in an active way.”


The WOOteria is in development by the Cultural Coalition in partnership with Worcester Business Development Corporation (WBDC) /New Garden Park and The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts. “The Cultural Coalition conducted town hall meetings and a survey of arts organizations and creative entrepreneurs to determine the needs for physical space and accessibility. More than 426 people completed the survey, in addition to a query of cultural organizations, who noted the need for more intimate performance spaces. WCC and New Garden Park are seeking additional funds for the build out of the two spaces,” noted Joseph P. Cox, EcoTarium president and Worcester Cultural Coalition board of director’s chair.


Over the past two years the WCC, in partnership with the WBDC have operated the Worcester PopUP in a storefront of 20 Franklin Street. “The WOOteria will be a great compliment to our innovative property development,” said Craig Blais, CEO for WBDC. “It is another anchor for the revitalization of the downtown and the Theatre District.” Hundreds of people attended art exhibitions, dance classes, fashion shows, theater and more. The PopUP space will be renovated with an anticipated opening in the summer of 2017 and the performance space in 2018. The theater will be managed by the WCC in partnership with The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts. “The Hanover Theatre has just completed the buildout of our new Performing Arts Conservatory. Having this new theatre space in the WOOteria creates more opportunities for our students to perform, and contributes to the vitality of the district, noted Troy Siebels, president of The Hanover Theater for the Performing Arts.

“The City of Worcester believes that art plays a vital role in the reactivation of our public spaces,” said Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus. “The WOOteria location abuts Worcester Common, which we are activating throughout the year as a site for festivals, concerts, farmers markets and food trucks, and more. People are loving it and audiences are growing. There is creativity blossoming throughout the city and the WOOteria provides an opportunity to build on and deepen this great momentum. We want to continue to make this a destination location for everyone in the city.”


“The Worcester Cultural Coalition is committed to cultural expression for everyone. We are most grateful to the Barr Foundation for its generous support for our creative placemaking efforts in Worcester,” noted Joe Cox.


With its arts grantmaking historically focused only on Boston, the Barr Foundation’s Arts & Creativity program now aims to “elevate the arts and enable creative expression to engage and inspire a dynamic, thriving Massachusetts.” This grant for WOOteria is among the Foundation’s first major grants outside of the Boston area, and its first in Worcester.  “We were attracted to Worcester because it is a city whose leaders see arts and culture as a key strategy to bring economic and cultural revitalization to its downtown,” said San San Wong, Senior Program Office for Arts & Creativity at the Barr Foundation, “WOOteria and the Theater District can deliver an exciting, 18‐hour/day destination for visitors, and a resource for artists and residents.”


About the Worcester Cultural Coalition

The Worcester Cultural Coalition (WCC) is a public-private partnership established in 1999 between the City of Worcester and twelve cultural organizations. Today membership stands at 75 organizations, accounting for more than 2.7 million visitors to Worcester in calendar 2015, up from 1.5 million in 2006. Its mission is to draw on the region’s rich and diverse cultural assets to foster economic revitalization, support active, creative engagement for all and promote a strong cultural identity for Greater Worcester. For more information about the Worcester Cultural Coalition visit or follow WCC on Facebook at


About the Barr Foundation

The Barr Foundation’s mission is to invest in human, natural, and creative potential, serving as thoughtful stewards and catalysts. Based in Boston, Barr focuses regionally, and selectively engages nationally, working in partnership with nonprofits, foundations, the public sector, and civic and business leaders to elevate the arts, advance solutions for climate change, and connect all students to success in high school and beyond. With assets of $1.6 billion, Barr is among the largest private foundations in New England and has contributed more than $710 million to charitable causes since 1999. For more information, visit or follow @BarrFdn.