Dear Students, Members & Friends,
“In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity.”
That piece of wisdom, attributed to Albert Einstein, reflects what the French Cultural Center has been contemplating since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
When the crisis hit last March, we moved all classes and cultural events online. We intended to reopen the Center this month. With the pandemic’s endpoint nowhere in sight, however, we have decided to take bold action.
Rather than reopening while the health risk remains high, the Center instead will undertake a major building renovation that we have contemplated for years. In doing so, we are turning the disruption of the Covid-19 crisis into an exciting opportunity to serve you better.
We all love the French Cultural Center’s brownstone headquarters, with its history, character and charm. But, designed as a residence in 1865, the facility has significant shortcomings for hosting a passionate community of people who have 21st century expectations about educational and cultural programming.
Rest assured that the Center’s classical beauty will not change. Rather, through careful design and execution, the renovation will:
- Expand classroom capacity for group and private language lessons
- Make the children’s suite larger, brighter and more conducive to learning
- Create new social spaces for conversation group and workshops
- Upgrade the kitchen to host a new gastronomy education program
- Install a wine cellar to support a new wine appreciation program
In addition, installation of an elevator will render all parts of the building accessible to people with limited mobility. Upgraded heating and air conditioning will make classes and events cozy in winter and comfortable in summer. An improved IT/WiFi network will strengthen learning and communications. A fire-suppression/sprinkler system will safeguard the beautiful, 150-year-old buildings.
This Board of Trustees has approved a $6 million budget for the project. The ongoing capital campaign, which so far has raised $2.7 million, will cover part of the expense. You can contribute to this transformational project by contacting our Director of Development, Joyce Grippen, at email@example.com or making a donation online. All donation amounts are welcome.
While the renovation is underway, the Center will continue to offer French language classes online at all levels for children, teens and adults.
We will offer cultural and social events online. When safe and appropriate, we will organize in-person events and activities in outdoor settings, as we have been doing for several months already.
The library will continue to lend books, DVDs and other items, with delivery details to be worked out.
The renovation will last 12 months. Should the pandemic abate before next September, making in-person gatherings of large groups safe again, we will create programs at venues outside of the Center. Solutions could include renting classroom space, partnering with other organizations on cultural events, and other approaches.
As much as you miss coming to the Center, we miss welcoming you there. Online meetings, though useful, are no substitute for the pleasure of in-person gatherings. Separation is one of the pandemic’s cruelest impositions.
When the renovation is finished, we will have a big celebration to welcome you back. And when we do reunite, the French Cultural Center will be better equipped for us to learn, share and enjoy all of the richness that the French language and culture has to offer.
We are extremely happy to share this news with you and can’t wait to send you updates as the renovation progresses. The French Cultural Center will retain all of its charm – and offer so much more!
Chairman, Board of Trustees