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New museum for Franklin County?

Have you been to the Museum of New England Art?

If not, don’t feel too bad — it only exists on paper and in dreams at the moment. But that could soon change.

“We just sent our incorporation papers in to the state, to become a nonprofit organization,” said Beverly Phelps, of Bernardston.

Phelps and others thought the Moody Homestead, at 225 Main St., would make the perfect home for a museum. With 14 rooms, plenty of parking, and a 1½-acre lot, there would be room to grow, too.

“The Homestead has the potential to be a smaller version of The Clark (in Williamstown),” said Phelps.

However, the historic 1895 building may no longer be available. That’s not going to stop Phelps and friends, though. They will continue to look in Northfield and Franklin County for a place to call their own.

The Homestead was one of a handful of Northfield Mount Hermon School properties that went on the market earlier this year. Since then, Hobby Lobby Stores, which owned the former Northfield campus until January, has made an offer on the Homestead.

Hobby Lobby officials have said there are no immediate plans for the Homestead, that the company decided to buy it so that it might stay with the main campus. The campus is now owned by the National Christian Foundation, which is seeking a permanent owner to give or sell the property to.

In the uncertainty around the Homestead’s future lies hope for Phelps and crew. Hobby Lobby has stressed its desire to stay true to the legacy of NMH founder D.L. Moody. Phelps said the idea for a joint museum, featuring New England art as well as Moody mementos, could work out for everyone.

Phelps said it would make a good fit, since Hobby Lobby, a craft store chain, has made its fortune off the arts. She also thinks an art museum would complement the campus and its future use, especially if the campus becomes home to a school or college.

“We would certainly be willing to collaborate if someone wanted an internship, or a course in how to curate a museum or art preservation and programming,” she said. The museum would also seek other like-minded organizations to work with, she said.

In addition to paintings, sculptures and other traditional art forms, said Phelps, the museum would feature fine crafts and designs.

Until it is certified as a nonprofit organization, things are on hold for the Museum of New England Art. Once the paperwork’s all in order, the group will be able to begin taking donations.

“We’re getting our ducks in a row and moving forward,” said Phelps. “We’ve got a lot of good people on board, helping with the organization.”

Phelps said that, once the nonprofit status is official, the museum may seek a temporary home while it looks for a permanent place.

Once the museum finds a home, said Phelps, it can begin to gather a collection. She said there have been numerous offers from private collectors in the area, who would like to find a permanent home for the pieces they’ve accumulated.

If you would like to join the effort to found the Museum of New England Art, contact Beverly Phelps, at edcp.bap@comcast.net.

David Rainville can be reached at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

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