Art League of New Britain puts timely bequest to good use

Published on Wednesday, 23 January 2019 20:52
Written by Karla Santos


NEW BRITAIN - The Art League of New Britain is going through the first phase of a construction project that will include renovation and expansion.

Pirie Associates of New Haven is the architect handling the project.

Plans for the work started after torrential rain flooded the building last October.

A day after the flood, the organization received the news that Anna L. Eckersley Johnson had bequeathed $179,000 to the league. Members of the organization called it a miracle because the funds were received when they needed it the most.

“When we got that bequest, it was just very timely, because we needed to do the structural work right away,” Kathleen Smits, vice president of the league, said. “We are just taking care of one thing at a time. The next phase would be researching what grants we need and doing a campaign to get matching funds to bring the building up to the next level which would be some restoration. Right now, we are just dealing with structural issues.”

Those issues, including beams and footings, are being addressed in the construction. The organization is also looking into lightning protection and sprinklers.

w“We have been suspending gallery exhibitions since November and we hope to get them up and running by March with the annual Photo Juried Show,” Paul Baylock, president of the league, said.

Phase 1 is structural repairs and stabilization, while Phase 2 will include program enhancement, Laura Pirie, principal of Pirie Associates, said.

“What has happened is, over the years as the building was adapted, some of the structural load paths from the roof were disconnected from the ground,” Pirie said. “What we are doing is reconnecting all of these load paths from top to bottom and making stable all connections from the footings to the roof.”

The league is undertaking fundraising for subsequent phases, which would include improvements to the classrooms and expanding classroom and exhibition spaces.

The second floor of the building is not being used and part of the construction plans include would include uses for the second floor of the barn.

“That expansion needs to include an elevator for those who are physically impaired,” Pirie said. “It would include sprinklers in the building and additional stairs for safety. The second phases will also include thermal improvements, interior storm sash windows, insulation and potential air conditioning in the building, which only has heat. Subsequent phases could even include landscape to expand the program spaces to the outdoor.”

The structural project is expected to cost $130,000.

For more information or to make donations, contact the league at, or 860-229-1484.

Karla Santos can be reached at 860-801-5079 or

Posted in New Britain Herald, , New Britain on Wednesday, 23 January 2019 20:52. Updated: Wednesday, 23 January 2019 20:54.