ADAMS — The Berkshires Academy for Advanced Musical Studies is the proud owner of two churches; the problem is, it only needs one.
So, the academy, which was given the former First Baptist Church this summer, has put its current home, the former St. Mark’s Church, on the market.
Don Sommer, one of the organizers, emphasized that the academy was not closing; activities eventually will move to the new space just down the street.
“The Baptist church is much more conducive to a performance and music venue,” Sommer said. “It’s going to make a perfect concert space.”
The academy purchased St. Mark’s, at 39 Commercial St., in December 2019 for $150,000, and then spent an additional $125,000 on refurbishing the structure and renewing the heating system.
“It’s in perfect shape right now,” Sommer said.
But, last summer, the few remaining congregants of the First Baptist Church at 13 Commercial St., realized they no longer were able to sustain the building financially, so they offered to give it, and the rectory, to the academy.
The academy accepted.
Richard Boulger, executive director of the academy, said the Baptist church is much bigger, with more classroom space and a circular sanctuary with more seating and a movable wall to allow even more space for performances.
The antique organ even works.
Boulger said the new space will allow them to have their six teachers in separate classrooms. He also is eying space for recording and/or broadcasting studios.
Currently, the academy is offering free online music lessons at berkshiresacademyams.org.
Sommer noted the building still needs a lot of work. To raise enough money to do that, they will sell the former St. Mark’s.
“We really don’t need two churches,” said Sommer, who is also the co-owner of the restaurant Haflinger Haus next door to the Baptist church.
The church structure, he said, “really needs a lot of work to get fixed up. Now we’re trying to button it up to keep the elements out until we have enough funds to get it going.”
With that in mind, they have listed St. Mark’s for sale with an asking price of $300,000.
In the meantime, they have begun looking for grant funding to help in the effort.
The church building is in rough shape, with some broken windows, roof leaks, water damage and the brick facade needs some repair work.
When that’s all done, Sommer said, “it will make a wonderful arts center for the town of Adams.”
Timing of the project is unsure, with so much riding on the sale of St. Mark’s. But the intention is to get enough work done by the summer that they can get a permit to partially use the building for lessons and rehearsals, with the heavier work happening gradually as more money becomes available, Sommer said.
In the meantime, until it’s sold, the academy will continue developing young local musicians at St. Mark’s, he said.
“I imagine it will take a couple of years for the whole thing,” he noted.