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written by Nancy Olesin, originally published in the MetroWest Daily News on 9/9/16

NATICK – Local developer Stonegate Group is pledging to match up to $50,000 in donations received by Oct. 22 for The Center for Arts in Natick’s $1.7 million capital campaign to transform the second floor of its former Summer Street firehouse into a 120-seat art house movie theater, pay off debt, and renovate other parts of the facility.

Yesterday, as workers painted, plastered, hammered and scurried to complete lobby renovations and to rearrange the first-floor main stage seating in time for an evening concert, the electricity in the building suddenly went out when a branch fell on a wire down the street, cutting power to the neighborhood for a few hours.

But the show must go on. Jethro Tull guitarist Martin Barre was scheduled to play Thursday night, and TCAN Executive Director David Lavalley was taking it all in stride.

“This is a huge gift for us, and it comes at a time when we have just $350,000 remaining to reach our campaign goal of $1.7 million,” said Lavalley. “The renovations to our lobby and upper level are well underway and we are expecting them to be completed by Oct. 22.”

​The downtown arts center has already raised $1.4 million toward its goal, Lavalley said, from corporate and foundation donors, as well as $105,000 from an online Kickstarter campaign, which ended in July.

Renovations began in late July. The concessions area has already been expanded, the ticket office downsized, and new restrooms and the movie theater are nearing completion. New vinyl floors that look like hardwood are being installed, and in the lobby there’s an expanded art gallery wall area, new track lighting, and a ceiling with tiny twinkling lights.

As a TCAN neighbor, Stonegate Group wants to add to the vibrant life of the town center, said company president Sean McGrath. Stonegate is currently renovating a neighboring property, the iconic American Legion building at 13 West Central St. to include 11 condos, 7,000 square feet of retail space and an 18-car garage. It’s hoped the retail space will attract restaurants.

“TCAN is a community-building and arts center that provides important cultural experiences for residents,” said McGrath. The Weston resident, who is also a trustee of the Highland Street Foundation – which sponsors Free Fun Fridays at arts venues across the state – said he met with Lavalley several months ago and “loved the project they are doing.”

TCAN, which has occupied the firehouse since 2003, was formed in 1997 and currently has about 1,800 members. The new movie theater – which might offer free popcorn – will start showing films just before Halloween. Lavalley said he’s hoping the new theater will help grow the organization to about 2,300 members.

The deadline for the matching donations coincides with TCAN’s Oct. 22 Annual Gala, this year featuring singer-songwriter Marc Cohn.

Cohn is best known for his soulful ballad “Walking in Memphis” from his 1991 eponymous album. Tickets for the gala are $100. Pre-sale for TCAN members ends Sept. 23. Both individual and corporate sponsorship packages will also be available.

To donate to the capital campaign, and for gala tickets and more information, visit or call 508-647-0097.