We heard that Millville was an arts destination in South Jersey, so we headed down there to have a look. Sure enough, the Glasstown Arts District is home to galleries and artists’ studios, as well as shopping and dining. The main street was unfortunately bare on this extremely cold winter day, but there were a few venues open and we soon found ourselves invited into the workroom of the ceramics studio of Cumberland County College. Two very friendly women took us on a private tour of the spacious studio, which is open to the public on the 3rd Friday of every month as part of the district-wide embrace of the arts.
The ceramicists also told us the sad story of the Levoy Theater, which had collapsed the week before. The theater was in the midst of renovations and clearly a cornerstone of the town’s claim as an arts district. When the collapse happened, cement was being poured as part of the foundation when something went wrong. Luckily, no one was badly hurt.
But clearly, the town had taken a hit, physically and psychically. One whole block was cordoned off from traffic. Now we knew why most of the stores and galleries were closed; everyone we spoke to said the destruction of the theater had played a part. It was dramatic and sad and yes, even beautiful in a tragic way to see the pile of crumbled brick, the pieces torn away from the building immediately adjacent, and the bits of blue sky visible through the fallen scaffolding.
How many times have we seen towns struggling to create a niche in this new economy (New Bedford and Pittsfield, Massachusetts also come to mind) only to suffer a setback like this. I remember when the brick building across the street from my first studio in New Bedford collapsed overnight. That was over six years ago now, and the hole is still there.
Good luck to Millville as they pull themselves up and carry on.