In the late 1990’s the North End of Middletown began to undergo a revitalization to remove the blighted properties and clean up the neighborhood. The North End Action Team was formed in 1997 to help community members organize and have a voice. In 1998 a committee of North End stakeholders was convened to discuss a vision for the future. The committee expressed the community’s desire for a central gathering place. Conversations were held with then Mayor of Middletown, Dominique Thornton and an arts center was suggested. A feasibility study in 2001 suggested that the North End community and Wesleyan University would support an arts center, and identified the property of 51 Green Street as a critical piece of real estate due to its central location.
The City of Middletown committed to renting the location to Wesleyan, who then began a fundraising campaign for renovations and operations, which resulted in support on the federal, state, and local levels. Renovations to the building began on May 2, 2004. Originally the Johnson Street School in the late 1800’s and later St. Sebastian’s School, the building was a perfect fit for an educational center.
While renovations were taking place, pilot programs were run through the Green Street Arts Program at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church on Main Street in Middletown. Classes included Music Alive!, children’s dance classes, and an after school program of about 20 students. In partnering with Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts, workshops with artists in residence were also held. Green Street Arts Center officially opened its doors at 51 Green Street on January 5, 2005.
Through the essential partnership of the North End Action Team, the City of Middletown and Wesleyan University, Green Street continues to offer programming for preschoolers to adults and we continue to reach out to the surrounding community. Many of our participants have been with us since our programming at Holy Trinity Church. We will highlight their stories in upcoming articles.