Springing onto the arts scene in 1998, Latchis Arts was created to take on a vital issue facing the artistic and creative culture in Brattleboro at that time.
It all started with a series of public forums spearheaded by the local daily newspaper, the Brattleboro Reformer — forums prompted by a Letter to the Editor posing this essential question: With all the wonderfully talented local arts groups, with performing and visual arts and arts education so central to the core of this town’s creativity and artistic fabric, why, then, weren’t there equally sophisticated and professional performing arts spaces?
A group of interested and committed volunteers took up the challenge. Calling themselves the Brattleboro Arts Initiative (BAI), they set to work.
Early initiatives included an inventory of existing performance spaces and a catalog of available spaces for potential future use. Following that, BAI co-commissioned a regional marketing study along with the Town of Brattleboro and Building a Better Brattleboro.
In 2001, a golden opportunity presented itself to the Brattleboro community: the Latchis Memorial Building was for sale. Armed with data gleaned from the earlier studies, BAI believed that non-profit ownership of this significant art deco, historic hotel and theatre complex was critical both to the fabric of the downtown, and also as a future performing arts center, enhancing the already beautiful and beloved Latchis Theatre.
Working with the Preservation Trust of Vermont, BAI began a fundraising campaign. In March 2003 they were able to purchase this historic landmark from the Latchis family, who had built it as the crown jewel of their holdings in 1938. Federal and state grants, private foundations, and generous community support went toward the $1.6 million price.
Since that time, BAI has made impressive strides in stewarding the building as it ages, and reaching out to the greater Brattleboro community. The Latchis Theatre is used dozens of times each year for Live at the Latchis events, many of them fundraising opportunities for other not-for-profit organizations. In addition, the Latchis Hotel is a generous resource for lodging visiting literary figures, musicians, actors, photographers, dancers, and others, who come to take part in Brattleboro’s surprising, vibrant, and bighearted arts scene.
In 2011, Brattleboro Arts Initiative changed its name to Latchis Arts to reflect its dual mission of restoring the Latchis and promoting the arts in southern Vermont.