New England College’s Commitment to Manchester Continues with School District Partnership to Host Family Welcome Center | New England College

New England College’s Commitment to Manchester Continues with School District Partnership to Host Family Welcome Center

June 26, 2024

The College’s historic French Hall building in downtown Manchester will house the Welcome Center and continue to offer community art education.

New England College (NEC) continues to support the Manchester community by partnering with the Manchester School District (MSD) to host a Family Welcome Center inside French Hall at 148 Concord Street in the heart of the city. The proposed partnership and Welcome Center were approved by the Manchester Board of School Committee on Monday, June 24.

“French Hall has been a cultural landmark for over a century. Emma Blood French’s original vision was that the building be used to advance the arts and education in Manchester,” stated Dr. Wayne F. Lesperance Jr, President of New England College. “In addition to our Art at French community programs, NEC is thrilled to partner with MSD to provide Manchester students and families with a hub that will better connect them with the community and better facilitate their education.”

MSD plans to open the Welcome Center for the fall of 2024 and use the initiative to provide year-round services and resources, including community orientation, community resource center, school registration, meal hub, multilingual and homelessness support, and more. MSD will use French Hall’s expansive footprint to offer classroom spaces, smaller spaces for confidential conversations and larger gatherings such as family events and professional development opportunities.

“The new District Welcome Center is the realization of a dream and a lot of hard work,” said Manchester Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jennifer Chmiel Gillis. “This has long been a goal, and thanks to a smaller-scale welcome center created at Central High, we have been able to see how great an impact a space like this can have. By positioning key resources and supports in this welcoming space, we will strengthen partnerships with our families and help ensure that our students can thrive. We are incredibly grateful to NEC for this partnership and thankful to our team for the work they have put in. We can’t wait to get this up and running and welcome the community.”

In keeping with the original vision for French Hall, New England College hosts Art at French, a full program of low- or no-cost art education and cultural activities for the greater Manchester community. Art at French provides artists, art students and art enthusiasts with valuable opportunities to explore different mediums, enhance their skills and enjoy exhibitions by local and regional artists. Since Art at French was introduced in September 2023, NEC has hosted 206 adult learners for community education classes and workshops; 85 youth for the free Saturday Morning Art Program; 335 people at four exhibitions and opening receptions; and a successful holiday maker fair featuring 38 vendors, the maximum capacity for the space.

“NEC has many talented working artists who are as passionate about educating others about art as they are about making art,” explained Darryl Furtkamp, Dean of the Institute of Art and Design at New England College. “Art at French gives these artists and the Manchester community a place to come together to create a vibrant and inclusive cultural and learning environment. I am thrilled about this partnership with the Manchester School District and am especially excited that their fine arts director will have their office in French Hall.”

New England College’s Art at French fall 2024 classes begin in August and include jewelry and metalsmithing, photography, screen printing, printmaking, drawing and painting, and more. Registration is coming soon.


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