FRAMINGHAM, – Local nonprofit organization OUT MetroWest serves more than 300 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ+) youth each year.
Since 2011, they have offered their supportive programs in donated and rented spaces around MetroWest Boston.
Beginning in fall 2021, those programs will have a new, more permanent home: the ātac: downtown arts + music building at 160 Hollis Street in Framingham.
The move is the result of a two-year search for a property that could accommodate the organization’s growing programs.
“We’ve been fortunate to have access to wonderful community spaces since our programs began in 2011,” says Whitney Retallic, OUT MetroWest’s executive director. “As we’ve grown, however, we’ve realized the need to consolidate many of our services in a single hub—in a space that matches the unique needs of the youth we serve. We took our time identifying the right space because so many factors needed to align: physical accessibility, gender inclusive restrooms, convenient transportation options, and a landlord eager to have an LGBTQ+ youth organization as a tenant. When we got connected to the folks at ātac, we realized what a great match it would be.”
Formerly known as Amazing Things Art Center, ātac was founded in 2005 with a vision of bringing together a diverse community of artists and art appreciators of all ages, cultures, and interests in a supportive and nurturing environment. The organization moved into its current home on Hollis Street in 2008 and will continue its arts programming without interruption. The ātac building–a former firehouse–features a performance hall and gallery space and is located just a five-minute walk from the Framingham commuter rail station. Much of the building’s upper level, which is accessible by elevator, will be converted into meeting space and offices for OUT MetroWest.
Jannelle Codianni, ātac’s executive director, is thrilled about sharing space with the LGBTQ+ organization.
“There is a natural alliance between the arts and LGBTQ+ communities. Both urge us to imagine what is possible in a more expansive and inclusive world. This opportunity required a radical reimagining of how we use our venue and organize our programs. After this year, a bit of radical reimagining is called for. We are so excited to see what we can create together for downtown Framingham and the MetroWest region.”
“We’re grateful to ātac for their willingness to think creatively with us and to The Sudbury Foundation, which will help to cover the cost of renovations, plus rent and utilities for our first three years at ātac,” says Retallic. “We also couldn’t make this move without support from CBT Architects, who’ve generously designed plans to convert our part of the building into a vibrant youth space. This move has been, and will continue to be, a true community effort.”
Later this summer, after nearly 18 months of virtual program delivery due to the pandemic, OUT MetroWest youth groups will return to in-person meetings in their new home. When they arrive, youth participants will find updated computer stations, an LGBTQ+ lending library, and a bright, comfortable space to connect with affirming peers and adult role models. The space will also include a private space for youth counseling sessions, which are provided through a partnership with Framingham-based Wayside Youth & Family Support Network.
As they centralize their services, OUT MetroWest is aware that some youth previously served at their Newton and Wellesley locations may not be able to travel to the ātac building.
“We’re in talks with communities around MetroWest about the possibility of launching satellite sites throughout the region,” explains OUT MetroWest’s director of communications and outreach, Julie Blazar. “Between our new hub, satellite sites, and continued virtual programming, we anticipate serving more youth than ever before.”
For more information about OUT MetroWest and its free services for LGBTQ+ youth, see outmetrowest.org.
In full transparency, the photos and press release were submitted to SOURCE for publication.