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Owners of Gateway City Arts in Holyoke list lack of city funding as one reason for closure

Gateway City Arts in Holyoke, Massachusetts, announced in December 2023, it will be closing. It's not the first time owners said they would sell the building and business, but this time, it's pointing a finger at the city, in part, for not supporting the music and arts venue with additional ARPA funding.
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Gateway City Arts in Holyoke, Massachusetts, announced in December 2023, it will be closing. It's not the first time owners said they would sell the building and business, but this time, it's pointing a finger at the city, in part, for not supporting the music and arts venue with additional ARPA funding.

The owners of Gateway City Artsin Holyoke, Mass., are blaming city officials in part for having to close their business, after more than ten years bringing local and national music to the city.

"When we ask for more support from this ARPA money," co-owner Vitek Kruta said this week on NEPM's The Fabulous 413, referring to COVID-19 federal relief money, "we did not receive any and that was like the last drop in our exhaustion and in our attempts to [keep] it going."

Gateway City Arts received $15,000 in a first round of ARPA grants. Kruta was referring to a second round in June 2023 and he added, "You know, obviously the city has a different plan and so be it."

The venue had great impact on Holyoke's Race Street neighborhood and the city has supported their efforts, said Holyoke's Director of Planning and Economic Development Aaron Vega.

"I think that if we look at the long standing relationship that the city and Gateway City Arts has or had, we see that when they first opened, we offered them tax relief," Vega said. "There's been other small business support that we've brought to bear to them."

In June, Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia distributed $20 million in additional federal COVID-19 relief money. Grants largely went to projects dealing with some significant needs in the community, Vega said, like affordable housing and addiction recovery.

"[The mayor] was trying to put the money into projects that will address those issues more long term," Vega said.

More than $60 million in ARPA grants was requested, Vega said, for $20 million of funds. "So there was a lot more people unhappy with the decisions than there were people happy with the decisions," he added.

But Holyoke officials did give $2 million in ARPA funds last June to the Victory Theater, a project long under renovation. The city's decision to do so, Vega said, was in part to show Massachusetts officials Holyoke is serious about the project, which as an arts center would also be a venue for touring Broadway shows. Massachusetts has given the theater project $3.5 million in capital improvement funding Vega said.

The city has long been envisioning a cultural venue district, from Gateway City Arts to the Victory Theater, Vega said.

"The smaller 500, 700 seat place where a singer- songwriters and local musicians and national names can come and play, as well as those touring Broadway shows — which of course, the touring Broadway show is going to bring in some significant economic benefit," Vega said.

Gateway City Arts co-owner Lori Divine said they are hoping someone is going to step in to continue "Gateway as Gateway," she said. "I mean, it's been our vision and our love and our last 12 years of our life, and we've put a whole lot into it."

This is not the first time Divine and Krutek announced for economic reasons, they were unable to continue running the multi-space operation.

You can listen to the entire conversation with Gateway City Arts owners Vitek Kruta and Lori Divine on the Fabulous 413 podcast.

Gateway City Arts has been an underwriter on NEPM, which is not a factor in our news coverage.

Jill Kaufman has been a reporter and host at NEPM since 2005. Before that she spent 10 years at WBUR in Boston, producing "The Connection" with Christopher Lydon and on "Morning Edition" reporting and hosting. She's also hosted NHPR's daily talk show "The Exhange" and was an editor at PRX's "The World."
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