Kimball-Jenkins, League of NH Craftsmen could merge — which leaves NHTI where?
By Heidi Masek firstname.lastname@example.org
Some of Sylvia Brofos’ Thursday night watercolor students have been with her for almost 20 years. They followed her from what is now New Hampshire Institute of Art to a studio in Hopkinton. Brofos took her 60 students to Kimball-Jenkins School of Art in 2002, where she now teaches six three-hour watercolor classes per week. Brofos trained as a commercial artist, working in London and then for Young and Rubicam in New York. She taught art at a women’s prison for 15 years.
About ten adult students gathered around a work table Thursday, Oct. 18, listening to Brofos go over a few techniques, value studies and how to construct shadows.
“Some of us have been painting together for over a decade so it’s a lot more than an art class to us,” said Patty Andruchuk of Manchester who teaches biology at Memorial High School, who started with Brofos in 1992. Students meet for dinner, or have tea or wine together at class. Conversation goes from painting to books to politics to science.
“This forces me to paint,” said Lisa Fortier of Concord. Kimball is really the only “community” art school around, said Lenore Child, who teaches art at Pinkerton Academy. NHIA classes are now more competitive, and more expensive, and require prerequisites. A civil engineer from Concord commented that there are few such historic buildings still open for community use like Kimball-Jenkins.
Last week, news came out that 70 students from the Kimball-Jenkins School of Art signed a letter protesting a possible partnership between the school and the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen. No decisions have been made, and the future of the Kimball estate is in the hands of the probate court, leaders of the organizations say. But a change at Kimball could impact New Hampshire Technical Institutes’ new and swiftly growing visual arts program.
“All of us who are being noisy about this really want this to succeed as an art school,” Brofos said.
Carolyn Jenkins died in 1981, leaving her two-acre parcel with five buildings to the city of Concord to “be used for cultural and educational purposes, including the encouragement of art.” A community art school was opened in 1985.
Kimball-Jenkins was in financial trouble a few years ago, when they initially approached the League. Since then, Kimball managed to get out of the red, in part thanks to NHTI. The college started renting space for studio courses in 2002, and launched an associate degree in visual arts last year due to the popularity of the classes. They project that more than 700 NHTI students will use Kimball-Jenkins this academic year. Many Kimball-Jenkins teachers are also NHTI adjuncts. Some are League members.
NHTI’s leasing contract runs out at the end of December.
“We’d like to continue having classes there,” said NHTI’s communications director, Alan Blake. NHTI has no space on campus for a studio program, he said.
If the League were to move its headquarters into Kimball at this point, it would include their office of eight staff members, gallery, library, permanent collection, storage and meeting rooms, said Beverly Wolf, president of the League’s board of directors.
“In my opinion, it’s utterly impossible to move League operations to Kimball because there is no room” unless they pitch tents in the yard, said Dan Dixon, who has been a League member for about 30 years and teaches at Kimball-Jenkins.
The estate is about “80 percent full” and growing, said Ryan Linehan, Kimball’s director of operations and education. NHTI has added about five courses each semester. About 400 NHTI students and 180 community art students are taking classes this semester, Linehan said.
Wolf said the League’s board would want to continue the current uses of the estate (which include rental to other colleges and schools) if they move in, “but there’s going to have to be some give and take on all sides.”
Conveniently, the home adjacent to Kimball-Jenkins is for sale. Wilson said he wouldn’t mind if NHTI bought it since state facilities are free of zoning regulations in Concord (it’s residential). The League is not currently considering purchasing it.
Eventually, the League would put their current building on the market, if they move. The property has been home to headquarters for 61 years.
“For the League to sell a piece of property which is in Concord, dedicated to the arts, and take space from another organization in Concord which is dedicated to the arts is just plain stupid,” Dixon said. He said he supposes one could argue that if the crowding at Kimball forced NHTI to build studio space, it would balance the loss of the League’s dedicated art space.
“I think it’s a grand idea,” said Jane Balshaw, a Canterbury fiber artist and League member. Space for workshops and classes at headquarters would help the League fulfill its mission of education, Balshaw said.
Trustees usually meet with a probate judge every three years, Wilson said. One is scheduled for the end of November, when the judge plans to review the estate’s finances, Wilson said.