DCR ghosts artist group in Hull

Local artists seek to convert empty state building into arts center

A FEW YEARS AGO, the state Department of Conservation and Recreation put an early 1900s dilapidated, long-vacant building it owns across from Nantasket Beach in Hull out to bid for renovation and repurposing. The agency got no bids.

Now a group called Hull Artists wants to come to the rescue, telling DCR that they would like to raise $1.8 million, renovate the building (which was once a police station), and turn it into the Nantasket Center for the Arts. The group says the center could be a workspace for many local artists and offer art and cultural activities for the community

After a couple of meetings took place last year between the two parties, DCR officials ghosted the artists, ending the conversations with no explanation.

“I can’t wrap my mind around what’s going on,” said Irwin Nesoff, the treasurer of the artist group and himself a photographer. “We have tried every which way to get the project off the ground, but nothing works.”

As requested by DCR, Hull Artists completed a $39,000 feasibility study for the project financed with a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council along with matching funds from over 200 residents of Hull and neighboring communities.

“We went back to them last August with our study and finally met with them in November,” said Nesoff.  “They have taken no action, nothing, since then.  I emailed them two, three weeks ago and got no response.”

“When we first started the project, everyone told us, ‘Good luck working with DCR,’” Nesoff said. “In fact, we were warned that if we upset DCR, they won’t work with us. To that I said, they’re not working with us now.”

In words reminiscent of a Janis Joplin song, Nesoff said, “At this point, we have nothing to lose, and so have launched a letter-writing campaign to Gov. Baker asking for his help in moving the project forward.”

DCR did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Hull Artists is not the only nonprofit group in the town having difficulty dealing with DCR. The Friends of the Paragon Carousel owns and runs an authentic 1928 carousel and the building that houses it on land leased from DCR. The carousel is just steps away from the dilapidated building sought by Hull Artists. 

The Friends’ lease with DCR ran out in 2016. Legislation passed that very same year authorizing the agency to issue a new lease, but DCR and the Friends have been battling ever since then over the terms. The Friends remain a tenant at will.