Cultural Center awarded $160,000 grant to ‘keep the building alive’

Jun 12, 2023

With a $160,000 matching grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Dartmouth Cultural Center hopes to make its building handicap accessible. 

The Cultural Center has until 2024 to secure the funds which will be used to upgrade and preserve the center's building located at 404 Elm Street. 

Now the Dartmouth Cultural Center will go to the Community Preservation Committee to ask for $160,000 to match the grant. If approved, it will be presented to the Select Board and Finance Committee, then voted on at Fall Town Meeting. 

Supporting the building, which was built in 1889 to be a community library, is a key part of the Cultural Center’s mission, and what caused the group to form around 2018.   

“This money will keep the building alive,” said Pauline Santos, President of the Dartmouth Cultural Center. “The building is from 1889 and there hasn’t been much done to upkeep.” 

Santos explained that the money will go towards upgrades to the building, which is owned by the town. 

“Our first plan is to make the building handicap accessible,” she said.

These changes would include installing a ramp to enter the building and making changes to the bathroom, like installing a wider door.

With the grant, the center will also upgrade the electrical system and heating system, which would involve installing new windows, Santos said. 

The building has a history of using donations to survive. 

For instance, John Haywood Southworth donated funds to establish the permanent library on Christmas Eve in 1888, along with 2,500 books in memory of his father, Deacon John Southworth. 

Again in 1921, the Padanaram Association donated $475 to provide the library with modern plumbing and running water. 

The building has been “saved by town meeting members” previously, Santos said, referring to a 2018 Town Meeting a proposal to sell the building, which was rejected by town meeting members. 

This led to town officials to issue several rounds of requests for proposals seeking a tenant. In the aftermath of the failed Town Meeting vote, a group of residents formed “Save Old Southworth,” now known as the Dartmouth Cultural Center, to pitch a proposal to transform the building into a nonprofit arts center, which they have done.

The cultural center hosts local artists, classes and lectures at the Old Southworth Library building.

To make donations to the cultural center or see current programs visit