Perkins Center for the Arts buys its building from Collingswood borough

The Center had been leasing its building from the borough for almost 20 years. It also received a $250,000 grant for its Moorestown site.

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Open Studio Figure Drawing in the Perkins Center for the Arts building in Collingswood, N.J., which the center recently acquired from borough of Collingswood

Open Studio Figure Drawing in the Perkins Center for the Arts building in Collingswood, N.J., which the center recently acquired from borough of Collingswood. (Courtesy of the Perkins Center)

The Perkins Center for the Arts has bought the building it has been leasing from the borough of Collingswood, N.J. for many years. Last Friday, the community arts center acquired the building on Irvin Avenue for $456,000.

The center has also received a $250,000 grant from the New Jersey Historic Trust and State Council on the Arts to make critical renovations to its other building, the flagship Tudor-style house and estate in Moorestown, N.J.

(Courtesy of the Perkins Center)

Director Kahra Buss said the acquisition of one property and the renovation of the other will allow the organization to become more accessible.

“It really is about starting with the basics and preserving the buildings so that the other pieces of work that need to follow after can do so safely,” Buss said. “So you’re not chasing your tail with building renovations.”

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The building in Moorestown was built in 1910 and used as the private residence of the Perkins family, who eventually bequeathed it to the city in the 1970s, then leased to the newly formed Perkins Center in 1977.

(Courtesy of the Perkins Center)

Since then it has presented exhibitions, performances, and instruction on a range of artistic disciplines, for children and adults.

Buss, who as a child was one of the first people to attend the Center in Moorestown when it opened, said it has never undergone extensive renovations, which makes it feel like it’s still a home.

“Most of our house concerts are hosted in the living room. We have refreshments in the dining room,” she said. “The rest of the rooms serve multiple purposes, both as gallery space and instructional space.”

(Courtesy of the Perkins Center)
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The Moorestown building is a registered historic site, which can make extensive renovations complicated and expensive. The quarter-million dollar grant will allow Buss to replace the entire roof, which has already exceeded its expected lifespan, and upgrade the HVAC system, which will bring air conditioning where it never existed before.

The building in Collingswood, originally built in the early 20th century as an automobile dealership, has larger rooms than the house in Moorestown, allowing the Perkins Center to exhibit large-scale artwork and install a pottery studio.

The pottery (Courtesy of the Perkins Center)

The Perkins Center has been a tenant of the Collingswood building since 2005, but at first only modestly. The Center had occupied the building sporadically, not placing any permanent staff there. Only in the last several years has the building been used full-time.

“Really it all started in 2020 as we all started looking at what was necessary and the resources that the borough had and what the Center had, and what needed to happen with that building to better serve the public,” Buss said. “This became the best option.”

Buss said owning the building will allow the Perkins Center to make it more accessible for people with physical limitations, and to determine for itself how best to modify the building for future programming needs.

(Courtesy of the Perkins Center)

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