Greenfield Arts Block becomes Hawks and Reed Performing Arts Center

  • Harry Goldsher, grandfather of local periodontist Steven Goldsher, immigrated to the United States from Germany in the early 1900s, making his way from Bellows Fall, Vt., to Athol, where he opened a clothing store.

  • The Hawks and Reed clothing store as seen during a parade celebrating Greenfield's 150th anniversary in 1903.

  • The Hawks and Reed clothing store as seen during a parade celebrating Greenfield's 150th anniversary in 1903.

  • A newspaper clipping showing Goldsher, right, when he was president of Athol Junior High School’s student council. Goldsher advocated for photographs in the library so students could listen to music.

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    Director John Reese, second from right, John Iverson, top left, who is the sound designer, Michael Haley, center, as Ebenezer Scrooge, and other cast members, from left, David Rowland, Joan Haley, Sharon Weyers and Ann Steinhauser combine for Silverthorne Theater Company's production of "A Christmas Carol".

  • The Arts Block building on the corner of Court Square and Main Street in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

Recorder Staff
Published: 5/8/2017 7:37:24 PM

GREENFIELD — After being shuttered for two weeks, the Arts Block building will reopen this weekend with an old name — a very old name.

Local periodontist Steven Goldsher, who bought the downtown cultural venue two years ago, has renamed it “The Hawks and Reed Performing Arts Center,”  named after the retailer that occupied the downtown space in the 1800s.

“There was a clothing store at the front of the building that was called Hawks and Reed — two families,” Goldsher said.

The new name is part of a total rebranding that better reflects the function of the space and ties into Goldsher’s own family history. His grandfather, Harry Goldsher, immigrated to the United States from Germany in the early 1900s, making his way from Bellows Fall, Vt., to Athol, where he opened a clothing store.

To Goldsher, the name’s historical roots also tap into the strong connection between clothing — the way people dress — and freedom of expression. At its core, art is about freedom of expression, which reflects the purpose of the space as a performing arts center, Goldsher said. Bringing out the full potential of the venue will also involve a number of physical changes, including a new bar and stage on the ground level, which Goldsher plans to renovate in the near future. The first floor will be called the “Arts Block Ballroom,” as a tribute to the building’s former name. The space has a full kitchen, and Goldsher said he plans to add a restaurant that will serve breakfast, lunch and bar food.

“After I purchased the buildings, I had a feeling that based on the history, if we were really going to be able to tell our story, make this happen, we had to start with something new and fresh that reflects who we are and what we want to accomplish,” Goldsher said. “We knew from early on that we wanted to do that, but it took us almost two years to get to this point. Not because we were wavering or indecisive, but to start to make the infrastructural changes and get the business back on, it took that long.”

Goldsher purchased the Arts Block building and the Pushkin Gallery across Main Street in July 2015, taking them out from under a cloud of bankruptcy. When he saw the buildings were for sale, he realized it was an opportunity to give back to the community by attracting more artists to downtown Greenfield.

Since taking ownership, the family made a number of infrastructure improvements to the venue, including revamping The Wheelhouse — a bar below the venue’s first floor — installing a new sound system on the ground level and sprucing up the building with fresh paint.

“It was sort of like taking a plane that was in a nose dive spin and leveling it out to get it to fly on an even keel,” Goldsher said.

The third floor is being redeveloped into Greenspace CoWork, a non-traditional office setup that will give individuals a place to work independently while also supporting collaboration among members. The fourth floor, now called “The Perch,” has been transformed into a banquet hall and theater space, where Silverthorne Theater is currently in residence.

“We are certainly trying to cover all bases,” Goldsher said, adding the venue has the capacity to host conferences, lectures, cooking demonstrations, wine tastings and a variety of other events that will benefit the community, such as recent fundraisers for the Conway Tornado Relief Fund, Planned Parenthood, and The Literacy Project.

He said artists will also be able to do residencies and teach-ins at the performing arts center that students from local schools can attend. Goldsher hopes events at the venue will create a ripple effect throughout town.

“The goal or vision is to attract a lot of different types of artists to the area, and through that process it will stimulate the local economy and interest. We feel it’s already happening,” he said. “That will attract the younger generation to purchase houses because housing is still affordable in this community, other interesting retail facilities will happen.”

Goldsher said the venue is also beginning to draw nationally known acts. On Friday, Lee “Scratch” Perry and Subatomic Sound System will perform with The Alchemystics during a grand re-opening celebration at the Hawks and Reed Performing Arts Center.

Perry, a producer, mixer and Grammy Award-winning reggae dub artist, was ranked one of the 100 greatest artists of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine in 2004.

The Boxcar Lillies will perform on Saturday for the second day of the performing arts center’s re-opening celebration.

Goldsher said running the venue has been a true family affair. His sons, Jeremy and Benjamin, co-manage the performing arts center and he and his wife, Fran, have both been longtime supporters of the arts. Goldsher recalled years ago, when he was president of Athol Junior High School’s student council, advocating for phonographs in the library so students could listen to music. As president of the YMCA’s Leadership Club in high school, he also helped organize dances and booked bands at the Y. This lifelong appreciation for the arts led him to purchase the Arts Block building.

“Looking back, I always had an interest in putting on events and attracting artists,” he said.

Now, he said, there’s an enormous amount of excitement for the venue’s rebranding.

“We’ve been incredibly grateful for the support the community has given us for all these events, and we welcome creative ideas and we want to continue to work with the local community,” he said. “Even though these national acts will probably bring in people from outside our community, we have an eye on local community.”

For more information, including a schedule of events, visit

You can reach Aviva Luttrell at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 268
On Twitter: @AvivaLuttrell


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