New Cultural Center unveiled at ribbon cutting

Oct 26, 2018

Behind a glossy red ribbon is a world of possibilities at the new Dartmouth Cultural Center, housed in the Old Southworth Library at 404 Elm Street.

That ribbon was officially cut on Oct. 26, amid a crowd of dozens of people to celebrate the past, present, and future of Dartmouth’s newest cultural asset.

“We have art, we have people — we’re really just getting started,” said Kathleen Del Sordo, one of the founding members of the Dartmouth Cultural Center.

Classes have already begun at the center, with more fall classes still to come, including workshops in sushi, handmade books, and scrimshaw.

“Dartmouth is in the middle of a renaissance,” Select Board Chair Shawn McDonald said, noting that the Cultural Center is one of many new ventures in town, alongside the new library, police station, and maritime center.

Rick Kidder, the President and CEO of the SouthCoast Chamber of Commerce, explained that this is the second ribbon cutting at the Old Southworth building. The first took place in 1890 when the library first opened. Then, the ribbon was cut by District Attorney Hosea M. Knowlton, who was the prosecutor in the Lizzie Borden trial.

“Once again, it is a repository of knowledge and culture,” Kidder said.

The ribbon cutting has been a long time coming. A quest to transform the Old Southworth Library, which dates back to 1889, began shortly after long-term tenant Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust vacated the building in 2015.

After a proposal to sell the town-owned building was voted down at Town Meeting, a consortium of citizens formed “Save Old Southworth” to come up with a way to reuse the vacant building.

Deciding on an arts center, the group morphed into the Dartmouth Cultural Center. Organization officials responded to several requests for proposals, and overcame a zoning issue to secure a lease of the building.

The Center has several events planned, including a craft and arts fair on Dec. 1 and an exhibit by the South Coast Artists group on Dec. 7, 8, and 9. Winter classes will be announced early in December.

“There’s nothing nicer than starting with a blank piece of paper and ending up with a creation,” Del Sordo said. She said that process is the best part of the classes that have already happened at the Center.

Elsie Haskell, who was a librarian at Old Southworth, said she was happy to see it in use again.

“I just love this place,” Haskell said. “It was like a second home to me, and I was with it to the end.”

Now, Old Southworth is starting a new life.

For more information about the Dartmouth Cultural Center, go to