ACES Educational Center for the Arts (ECA), the state’s oldest Interdistrict Magnet School dedicated to the arts, is undertaking a capital project to update instructional space critical to pursuing its mission. The $500,000 campaign will fund renovations to The Little Theatre on Lincoln Street, which provides instructional space for the ECA program as well as a venue to share student work with the community.
History of ECA
In 1972, ACES converted Temple Mishkan Israel, in New Haven to Connecticut’s first inter-district magnet high school for the arts. ACES secured a grant from the Connecticut Department of Education for renovations to the building. These initial renovations included the creation of classrooms, artist studios, and a theatre. In 1986, ACES signed a 99 year lease to operate the building ostensibly taking ownership of the building from the city of New Haven. During this same time, ACES purchased “The Little Theatre” in an effort to save the historic site from demolition. The theater, known for generations as the “Lincoln Theatre” was purchased and completely refurbished with more than $4 million of state education funds. This project was one of several key elements of the redevelopment of the Audubon Arts District project.
In 2000, ACES was awarded over $10 million to renovate and expand ECA from the Connecticut Department of Education’s Interdistrict Magnet School Program to renovate and expand ECA. Over the next two years, the building at 55 Audubon Street was entirely gutted, all systems (mechanical, plumbing, electrical, etc.) were modernized, and the space was built out to support the school’s mission of instructing students in the arts. Classroom and studio spaces were updated, a new theatre was created, and two additional floors were built. As part of this project ACES acquired ownership of two units in the New Haven Community Foundation Building at 70 Audubon Street. Purchased from ArtSpace, ACES took ownership of “Studio70” a small gallery for the display of art on the ground floor of the building and “DanceSpace” a second floor space used primarily as practice and small performance space for dancers.
ECA's Strong Impact On Alumni
While ECA has produced many alumni who have gone on to successful careers in the arts, the school’s legacy is one that also includes graduating hundreds of well-rounded young adults who had an opportunity to express themselves in a safe learning environment. Countless former students and parents of students echo the notion that ECA helped them find a voice that could not be found in a traditional school setting. ECA has not only fostered artistic abilities in it students, but has allowed them to develop the confidence to express themselves and pursue their interests.
The impact of ECA has also been felt far beyond the student body. The school’s facilities and faculty have long contributed to and been a valuable resource for the arts community of New Haven. The spaces that we are seeking to renovate are used on a daily basis by community arts groups and local artists. Having access to affordable space is critical to groups who use these facilities on a daily or regular basis-- groups like: New Haven Ballet, The New Haven Chorale, Neighborhood Music School, and New Haven’s Cooperative High School. These various ECA facilities have been host to countless arts events which add to the flavor of the city, from the world class events in Arts & Ideas New Haven to the varied theatre, dance and music events produced by New Haven’s community and neighborhood artists and arts groups.
Overview of Space Needs and Usage
Studio 70 at 70 Audubon Street is used on a daily basis by ECA students and faculty as well as community groups. To continue serving this dual role the space needs several modifications to ensure student safety. Major projects include a new floor (engineered specifically for dance instruction) and a new wall (to replace the current glass partition) both which currently expose students to increased risk of injury.
DanceSpace at 70 Audubon Street is a lower level dance studio used constantly by students and community groups. The most significant need is to modify the existing dance floor to allow more affordable maintenance while retaining its high quality resiliency and support for proper dance education.
The Little Theatre has been home to the ECA drama department since 1986. The last round of significant renovations is now twenty years old. To continue the safe and effective operation of the building, the Little Theatre needs significant repairs including: a new HVAC system, repairs to the stage area, lighting & sound, and refurbishment of the seating (both fixed and moveable).
Individuals can help in this exciting project by underwriting the refurbishment of one of the historical seats in the Little Theatre.