“We do need a bit more,” she says.
The Collaborative, in the former post office building, includes exhibit space and a shop selling locally produced art. The structure was donated by Northeast Arc, and some of the artists are people with disabilities, but it is open to artists in general, and the hope is that it will have an impact downtown.
“People are starting to see there is potential in the downtown,” says Merritt Kirkpatrick, the director. Young artists, she adds, have found downtown Peabody’s second- and third-floor apartments.
To help things along, the Collaborative has made a point of hiring local bands to entertain for exhibit openings. In addition, board members, including Susan Ring Brown and Deanne Healey of the Chamber of Commerce, are beginning to inquire about the theater now hidden behind Maki Sushi and Peabody Estate Buyers.
The city’s community development director, Karen Sawyer, also a member of the Collaborative, is quick to note that the downtown already has City Hall’s amazing, Victorian-era Wiggin Auditorium.
Sawyer, while eager to bring more cultural spark to the area, acknowledges that the obstacles are not insignificant. In addition to the lack of a great museum or college, the downtown is plagued by periodic flooding.
Recent efforts have eliminated some floods, though, she points out, and lessened the impact of others. The days when kids could dive into the floodwater on Foster Street from the mailbox in front of the Collaborative seem past.
One surprising element of the Collaborative effort is that Zaido is now sharing some of the ideas that have helped bring Salem to life. She recently took a guided tour of downtown Peabody.
“They’re doing some good things there,” she concluded.
Among Peabody’s assets, she says, is architecture, including elaborately ornamented buildings, some of which date to the 19th century.
“As I was going through,” she says, “I looked up. They really are wonderful.”