Five Points Center for the Visual Arts opens with gala celebration


TORRINGTON – At 6 p.m. Saturday night, a line of several hundred well-dressed guests stood outside the new Five Points Center for the Visual Arts, hoping they wouldn’t get caught in the rain.

The rally was held to celebrate the opening of the arts center, a dream fulfilled by Founder and CEO Judy McElhone, who stood by the doorway, greeting guests as they filled the hall. The rain held out until almost everyone was inside, much to her relief.

“I’m exhausted,” she said. “I am delighted. What is happening tonight is more than I expected. It’s incredible.”

Even before the crowds were inside, they saw an example of McElhone’s efforts, when several works by famous New York sculptor Don Gummer were delivered and set up near the entrance to the building. Four more Gummer pieces are expected to be delivered this week. Gummer’s works will be on display until the end of the year.

Former State Representative Roberta Willis, who was present with her husband, Bill, and her friend Janet Block, said having Gummer’s pieces at the opening was an important statement.

“The last time I saw one was at Columbus Circle in New York City,” she said. “I was involved in the early concepts of an arts center in Torrington, using the creative community, for downtown reclamation. It went much further than that, and national and international artists like Don Gummer are now part of it.

“It’s wonderful to see this come to fruition,” said Willis. “The real bulk of the work is yet to come. “

The arts center is housed in UConn’s old Torrington building, which closed in 2016 and was purchased by Five Points Arts in 2020. Since then, McElhone and a team of staff and volunteers have spent their days renovating and converting classrooms into spaces for painting, photography, printing, drawing and children’s activities. Much of the equipment was donated, including content from the Robert Dente engraving studio which was housed in the building’s old library.

On Saturday evening, celebration guests were able to tour the building themselves – a one-story structure surrounding a courtyard that will soon become a sensory garden, outdoor studio, and meeting space – while tasting a variety of food provided. by Ciesco Catering and refreshments. from the Litchfield Distillery.

The center is a major achievement for the Five Points group, which started with the Five Points Gallery on Water and Main streets in downtown Torrington and now includes a second gallery, the annex and the Launchpad program which provides spaces work for recent graduates of art schools. . At the visual arts center, a host of painting, drawing, sculpture, mixed media, photography and printing classes are offered to adults and children, as well as to groups of organizations like County LARC. from Litchfield.

State Representative Michelle Cook D-Torrington and her husband Chris Cook were among the guests. Cook, who worked with McElhone to negotiate the deal to buy the old university building, said the center was a step in the city’s future.

“It puts our city on the international map,” Cook said. “This is what we need to invest in our city, not just for the arts, but for our businesses, our stores and our restaurants. I’m happy to be a part of it.

“I am totally and positively blown away,” said developer Ken Merz, partner of KidsPlay Children’s Museum, another relatively new venture to the city and a supporter of the arts center. “It’s just awesome. I’m so happy to see what Judy did.

“This is a very important night for Torrington,” said town planner Marty Connor, who was present with his wife, Janice, and spending time in the Dente print studio.

“It will get people from all over to create art,” he said. “It’s amazing what Judy did; she is so creative and so visionary.

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