Cultural center a gem in Georgetown

The first thing you notice about the G&B Cultural Center on New Street in the Georgetown section of Wilton is the architecture.

Built in 1915, the one-story former G&B School is an attractive work of brick and stone that resembles buildings that might be found in a Spanish-influenced place like San Antonio.

Walk through the front door and you realize you are in the local version of art heaven. Original paintings and sculptures line the walls and floor of the exhibition space. The large main room doubles as an auditorium with a stage, and excellent acoustics.

“Yes, the acoustics are perfect. Remember, this was built in 1915, before the invention of sound amplification systems,” said Pat Hegnauer of Wilton, the director of the cultural center.

The center has existed at the former school, which closed in 1974, about 10 years. Curiously, it was not mentioned at all in the report on public amenities and assets that was presented to the public April 19 as part of the Plan of Conservation and Development by the consultants Milone & MacBroom.

The quality of the art on display and for sale at the cultural center indicates its significance on the map of Connecticut arts and culture. Several artists have studios and give classes there.

“Oh yes, we have people coming from upstate to get their art fix,” said Hegnauer, who added that the center bills itself as an exhibition space, rather than an art gallery, because it wants to encourage art among all ages, not be a judge of the artists.

“We have art by young people and art by older people. You know, they can produce some nice creative art after they’ve let go of all their baggage,” Hegnauer said.

The building is owned by the town of Wilton, which leases it to the Georgetown Community Association for $1 a year. The association maintains the building.

In addition to artists’ studios and classrooms, there is a music school, the Weston Music Center.

Geographically, Georgetown is at the junction of four towns, Wilton, Weston, Redding, and Ridgefield. The former school takes its name from the former Gilbert & Bennett wire mill on Route 107 in Redding.

The Georgetown Community Association has been meeting there since 1932.

In addition to being a cultural center, the G&B Cultural Center serves as a community warming center during storms and power outages. The building is equipped with its own generator, so there is power even when the town is in a blackout.

There is also a lending library of classic art books.

Milone & MacBroom did not intend to slight the center, said Bob Nerney, the town’s planning director. He noted that Hegnauer attended the POCD meeting and spoke about the center.

“It’s kind of an interesting space with a lot of history,” Nerney said. He said he would encourage the consultant to include it in the finished plan. “We want as many people as possible to participate in the POCD,” he said. “Georgetown is a very important historical part of Wilton.”