This year marks 20 years of programming at the Milford Center for the Arts, and on this 20-anniversary, a number of upgrades and improvements are planned at the center.

The Center for the Arts is run by the Milford Arts Council, which has existed more than 40 years. When the Center for the Arts opened in 1995 at the former eastbound train station, it was celebrated as a true jewel of the Milford downtown and an example for arts organizations across the state.

However, due to the downturn in the economy and continued money-saving efforts, the center has not had a renovation or major improvements to its space in these 20 years, council leaders explained.

The Milford Arts Council was recently selected by the state Department of Economic and Community Development to receive funding as one of 20 cultural and historic organizations throughout Connecticut as part of the Good to Great Program, created in 2014 to fund improvements that will enhance cultural and historic sites and the way people enjoy them.

With the $60,000 Good to Great funds and $15,000 in matching funding from area business and community leaders, a host of improvements are planned at the center.

“Our plan for these funds includes artistic signage, new carpet, interior painting, extensive interior renovations to our concessions area — to be re-envisioned as a speakeasy — improvements to our patio and the design and installation of pedestrian wayfinding kiosks which will not only highlight the Milford Arts Council’s upcoming events but promote downtown and community events, festivals and more,” said Paige Miglio, executive director since 2012.

“It is amazing to staff and the Board of Directors to talk about the Milford Arts Council and have people respond that they’ve never been here or never knew we existed,” Miglio said. “The potential for this space to be enjoyed and shared by our residents, visitors and performers is only hindered by its size. We are an intimate space, seating 80-120 people in our theater space; but the acoustics are naturally great and the interior design (by local architect Ray Oliver) is charming and in total keeping with the historic nature of our building.”
A host of offerings
Founded in 1971, the Milford Arts Council is a non-profit 501c3 and provides artistic opportunities that support and foster art appreciation and cultural experience through education and entertainment. The council oversees programming at the Center for the Arts and its satellite building, the Firehouse Gallery in the Walnut Beach area of Milford.

The programs presented by the Milford Arts Council range from community theater with Eastbound Theatre (in its 22nd year), concerts and master classes featuring internationally renowned classical guitarists presented by the New England Guitar Society, Performance Coffeehouse presenting regional singer/songwriters, folk/bluegrass, blues and jazz concerts; art exhibitions, classes, film and yearly visiting performers such as ACB Dance troupe every summer from New York City.

The Milford Arts Council has recently begun to host Pantochino Productions and their season of “home-grown” family musicals. Pantochino also runs Milford Arts Council’s summer theater camps and this year began collaborating with the council to bring New York Broadway performers and cabaret acts to Milford with Nite Spot Nights.

“The notion many have that the Milford Arts Council is here only for artists is incorrect,” said Miglio. “Without art enthusiasts, theatre buffs and music lovers there would be no art. Our programs exist because of the passion brought here by volunteers including our Board of Directors and committees. Bringing art into one’s life feeds you; mind, body and soul. Our motto says it all: Be a Part of Art.”
History and location
The Center for the Arts is located at the former eastbound train station. Built during the Civil War era the building is listed on the National Historic Register. Although it was the only train station for many years, once the tracks were flipped and the new station built for the New York line, the eastbound station became abandoned by the state. Like other communities along the train line, cities and towns reclaimed these buildings for restaurants, museums — and in Milford’s case an arts center.

Situated directly downtown, the  Milford Arts Council Center for the Arts is only a two block walk to City Hall, Parson’s Government Complex, downtown restaurants, shops, town green and harbor.

“The walkability of Milford’s downtown makes the  Milford Arts Council and the Center for the Arts a real destination for visitors — and residents; to linger, enjoy a meal, meet friends and enjoy its beauty, before and after attending our programs. We just want more people to know we are here and what we have to offer,” said Miglio.

The council has partnered on many projects with the City of Milford including MilfordViews, the photographs by local artists that now line the train platforms, welcoming travelers to Milford.
Membership information
Membership is open to everyone and includes discounts to local businesses as well as to most Milford Arts Council events. For more information go to milfordarts.org or call 203-878-6647.