Founded in 1989 in Grafton, Massachusetts, Apple Tree Arts is a non-profit community school for the arts serving people of all ages throughout south central Worcester County. The organization began as The Apple Tree, with two early-childhood music classes for parents and toddlers taught by Donna Blanchard at a historic church facing Grafton Common. The program grew out of the belief that music and the arts enhance and expand the human experience.
Over the years, the program has expanded tremendously to include private instrumental and voice instruction, student instrumental concerts, summer programs, faculty concerts and a community concert series.
Under the direction of staff member Jan Barlow, we began offering music as an enrichment component of area preschools and daycare centers. In 1995, through the efforts of an expanding board of directors, The Apple Tree was legally incorporated as Apple Tree Arts and included articles of organization and by-laws, formal policies and procedures, and established bookkeeping practices under the direction of Kathy Vandenengel. At that time, we also became an official non-profit organization.
Currently, Apple Tree Arts is a vibrant non-profit community arts organization serving over 3,000 people each year. Our ten-member board of directors, chaired by Paul Scarlett of Grafton, is comprised of highly-educated, community-minded professionals who have brought us to new levels in advertising, grant-writing, budgeting, and strategic planning. The board’s initiatives include the formation of an Advisory Council, whose focus is intended to leverage the talents and resources of successful individuals within the community who have demonstrated an interest in and support of the mission of Apple Tree Arts.
With Donna Blanchard serving as the organization’s executive director, and with Jan and Kathy also working full-time, staff members of Apple Tree Arts now include several part-time people, including theatre arts director Lisa Scarlett, marketing and publicity manager Dana Wilson, and writer/editor Elaine Birkholz. We are also served by an ever-growing corps of willing volunteers.
Committed to cultural enrichment that meets the needs and interests of many different audiences, Apple Tree Arts provides a wide range of performances and special community musical and theatre arts events throughout the year, as well as education programs in music and movement for children from birth on up, private instrumental and voice instruction, ensembles, theatre arts classes and performances, and student and faculty recitals.
We are excited about the recent move of our business office to the Grafton Townhouse at One Grafton Common. We are even more excited about the restoration of this beautiful building and the renovation work that will create a new center for the performing arts on the second and third floors of this historic space. The central focus for our vision lies in restoring its beautiful Great Hall to its original state so it can again serve the purpose for which it was intended: as a central gathering place for the town.
Working with the Town of Grafton to secure the necessary funding, Apple Tree Arts sees the Old Grafton Town House as a future venue for community and children’s theatre productions, orchestral performances, and a platform for hosting popular music talent and other musical entertainment. In addition to the cultural enhancement this would represent, this use will benefit the local economy through tourism and associated revenue. We are most grateful to our many friends in the community who continue to pledge their support to make this historic opportunity become a reality.
Apple Tree Arts is supported solely through tuition, grants, private support, and corporate sponsorships.