BRATTLEBORO — The founders of the New England Center for Circus Arts have a dream: To create the country's first state-of-the-art circus training facility right here in Brattleboro. On Saturday, twin sisters Elsie and Serenity Smith Forchion announced they had reached a major milestone toward making that dream a reality.
During the opening of the Circus Spectacular fundraiser at the Latchis Theater, the pair announced that they have raised $1 million, enough to hire an architect and builder and to move forward with the project.
"There were so many people that helped us with that portion of the project, it was an amazing milestone that means a lot to us," said Elsie Smith, co-founder of NECCA.
The new building is expected to be a state-of-the-art center for circus training that competes with similar circus schools in Canada and Europe.
In 2003, identical twins Elsie and Serenity Smith Forchion, world renowned circus performers and teachers, settled in Brattleboro. They started their own circus school and performing troupe, Nimble Arts, LLC, offering lessons in aerial and acrobatic arts as well as choreographing for top circuses, schools and dance companies and performing with their troupe around the United States and as top aerial acts around the world.
Since 2006 hundreds of circus artists have come from all over the world to take classes and teach through NECCA. But with the increased interest and skill level, the performers are outgrowing their space.
"We're in a position of really needing to do this," said Kate Anderson, president of the NECCA's Building Committee. "We're like a 12-year-old boy in a five-year-old boy's bed, arms and legs hanging out everywhere, and we really need to move into the facility that is going to allow proper growth."
NECCA has been held in the Cotton Mill studio, which is a century old building. Leaders of NECCA have felt it's time to construct a space that will allow them to perform comfortably and reflect their exceptional talent.
As co-founders Elsie Smith and Serenity Smith Forchion announced at the Circus Spectacular performances, the organization's $2.5 million capital campaign has passed an important milestone: As of the close of 2015, more than $1 million has been committed.
Achieving this preliminary goal has enabled NECCA to choose a construction team and begin actively planning at the new site on Town Crier Drive in Brattleboro.
Gordon Bristol, of Gordon Bristol Consulting, Williamsville, has been working with the NECCA group for over two years on coordinating the needs of the owner as it interfaces with architects, engineers, builder and those who are going to use the facilities.
"NECCA has now formalized a relationship with Bristol to serve as Owner's Representative for this project," stated a NECCA press release.
Turner Brooks Architects of New Haven, Conn., has been chosen as the architect. Serene notes they have an "impressive resume of successful projects especially those projects with unique needs such as our circus arts school."
Trumbull-Nelson Construction Company of Hanover, N.H., is the builder and has a history of projects in the Brattleboro area. According to the NECCA press release, Trumbull-Nelson intends to utilize local vendors as much as possible.
The project will be assisted by Building Green of Brattleboro regarding Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), a new building concept that emphasizes collaboration and shared risk.
NECCA's building committee, Trumbull-Nelson and Turner Brooks and Bristol will be working together on every aspect of the project under the tutelage of Building Green.
"It changes some of the adverserial nature of what can happen in a construction process to team work," said Gary Fox, co-chair of NECCA's building committee.
Fox noted that this creates a "no-finger-pointing" concept in the building process. If a problem is found it will be fixed collaboratively and Fox says all of the money is in a pool that everyone shares.
"It is an honor to have been chosen to work with NECCA on the new headquarters for their circus arts school," said Gordon Bristol in a press release. "The Team looks forward to making this state-of-the-art circus arts building one of the best in the world."
NECCA purchased the three-acre plot near downtown Brattleboro in early 2014, and it has since been the site of the seasonal flying trapeze. Current plans call for the new facility to be constructed in phases, beginning with an indoor trapezium.
Fundraising continues toward the $2.5 million goal; when the goal is reached, the circus center will be completed and NECCA's operations will be centralized at the new site.
"Stay tuned, it's going to be an awesome facility, community oriented facility, great for the circus arts," said Fox.
Maddi Shaw can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext 275