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Nashua Finally Gets an Arts Center

Published Friday May 19, 2023

Author Scott Merrill

People have been talking about building a performing art center in Nashua for more than 30 years, and after years of planning and design, the city finally has one. Nashua Center for the Arts held a ribbon cutting ceremony April 1 with a packed house.

And with about 20 shows already booked, the art center has the potential to be a boon for local businesses, says Richard Lannan, president of Nashua Community Arts and The Lannan Company. “We’re looking to see the building utilized as much as possible,” Lannan says. “And there will be spillover for restaurants, bars and retail. [This] is what we’re looking for.”

Nashua Community Arts is a nonprofit formed in 2018 to support the Nashua Center for the Arts and to provide financial assistance to the art center, which includes the Sandy Cleary gallery on the first floor.

Lannan, a real estate developer and investor who owns two mixed-use properties on Main Street in Nashua, says he was asked to chair the committee that worked to make the art center a reality after the sudden passing of Brian McCarthy, a longtime advocate for the arts and a Nashua alderman. After a formal presentation to the Board of Alderman, the city agreed to provide $21 million so long as $4 million could be raised privately. Nashua Community Arts was formed, and a $250,000 donation from Bank of America followed. “At first we had no idea where this would go because the current location was not available,” Lannan says, explaining that Alec’s Shoe Store was still in business but later moved out of downtown. “When that building became available, everyone agreed that was the spot.”

Lannan says Bank of America has since provided another gift of $250,000, which gave the bank naming rights for the Bank of America Theater. And the art center has also received two anonymous gifts of  $250,000 and $1 million.

The Nashua Art Center was built by Harvey Construction and is managed by Spectacle Live, which operates Lowell Auditorium, the Colonial Theater in Laconia and many other properties. Spectacle Live was involved in the initial planning of the art center four years ago. “They thought Nashua would be great for this, and there was no doubt who we wanted,” Lannan says.

Peter Lally, president of Spectacle Live, says his company is the largest independent venue concert promoter in New England focusing mainly on Massachusetts, NH and Connecticut. “We’re super excited about things getting underway, especially after five years of coming together,” Lally says, going down the lineup for scheduled shows at the 750-seat venue in coming months, including Clay Aiken, Susanne Vega, and Bos Skags in May.

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