Portsmouth: CFP Arts, Wellness and Community Center almost ready

‘Anybody can belong here’ CFPIA director says

By Jim Mcgaw
Posted 8/29/19

PORTSMOUTH — Nearly 30 people, young and old, hustled around the main level of the new CFP Arts, Wellness and Community Center on Saturday, wiping down tables and chairs of …

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Portsmouth: CFP Arts, Wellness and Community Center almost ready

‘Anybody can belong here’ CFPIA director says


PORTSMOUTH — Nearly 30 people, young and old, hustled around the main level of the new CFP Arts, Wellness and Community Center on Saturday, wiping down tables and chairs of “construction dust” to get the building ready for its opening — possibly as early as this week.

“That’s the thing this community knows how to do — volunteer,” said Conley Zani, president of the Common Fence Point Improvement Association (CFPIA) and the primary force behind the transformation of the old neighborhood hall into a vibrant community center for the wider population.

On Monday, Ms, Zani said the building was still waiting for railings, treads on the deck, panic bars for the doors, and completion of a new elevator — as well as final approval from the town’s building inspector, who met with her Tuesday. There’s still a small “punch list” that workers are hoping to complete by Friday, Aug. 30, she said.

“I am the eternal optimist,” she said when asked if the hall could open this week.

CFPIA has scheduled a formal ribbon-cutting celebration for Saturday, Sept. 28, but Ms. Zani said the hall will be open long before that. Some private events, in fact, have already been booked, she said.

In the meantime, she talked about the new credo for the hall, which will open its arms to the wider community.

“The biggest changes for this community, philosophically, is being a member of this CFP Arts, Wellness and Community Center,” Ms, Zani said. “It’s going to be a little confusing, because we’ve always had a Common Fence Point Improvement Association membership, which is a membership to take care of the land and all the things that were gifted and entrusted to us. Now, we’re going to be more inclusive with the community and let people feel like anybody can belong here. We’re giving a discount to residents, but anybody can belong.”

There will be a traditional annual membership for neighbors, “but now we’re going to be expanding that opportunity for people outside of Common Fence Point,” she said. Since a program guide is still in draft form, she couldn’t release any specific membership fees just yet. 

“There are different price points. We’re giving a discount to Portsmouth residents, and then we have this ‘Champion’ membership if you’re going to be an art and music lover and you want to get discounted tickets to Common Fence Music, or free art classes. Then we’ve got our YMCA membership,” Ms. Zani said.

A “YMCA/CFP” membership offers access to group exercise classes in Common Fence as well as the main Middletown Y location, plus additional benefits depending on the type of membership you choose.

“We’re trying to drive membership to the Y because they share in the membership revenue with us. If everybody in this community became a Y member, Common Fence Point would be the real winner,” she said.

Weekly schedule

The tentative weekly schedule for the hall features daily Zumba classes — CFP’s bread-and-butter offering — and “Body Pump” on Tuesdays and Saturdays, with yoga on Fridays.

The Newport County YMCA’s after-school program will be held from 3-6 p.m. on weekends during the school year.

“We’ve got art on Mondays from 1 to 3, and that takes two forms,” Ms. Zani said. “There’s going to be ‘open studio’ every week in which you can just bring in, every week, a project you’re working on and hang out with like-minded kindred spirits. Monthly, we’re going to have a guest instructor, and that will be more of a workshop format and prices will vary depending on who that instructor is and what the medium is.”

On Tuesdays, a new vocal group called The Aquidneck Singers, open to female teens and adults, will meet. A ukulele jam band will meet on Wednesdays, as well as a homeschool co-op. “We’re excited by that. It’s a statewide organization that’s never been able to serve Aquidneck Island effectively,” she said.

There will also be a homework club that will be offered to Portsmouth children. “It will probably be for elementary and middle school, but it remains to be seen; anyone could come. We’ve got a group of moms that will be overseeing and coordinating, and we’re looking for more volunteers for that,” Ms. Zani said.

On Thursdays, a culinary arts life skills group for residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities will meet. It was funded through a legislative grant from Rep. Dennis Canario, she said. 

“They did this last year and it was a wild success. They basically stay after Zumba and cook soup, or whatever. They also prepare food for the café (open to everyone) on Fridays. We’re really trying to have this space be a home for that community, and they’ve been active participants in the art on Monday as well. We’re very open to meeting their needs,” she said.

An Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous meeting, which the community hall offered in the past, will also meet on Thursdays. An AA meeting is also scheduled for Sundays.

“Friday nights are going to be a little more structured,” Ms. Zani said. “The first and third Fridays are going to be ballroom dance. The second Friday is a parent night out, which is going to be free if you’re a YMCA/CFP (family) member, and then our fourth Friday is open for rentals at this point.” 

There will still be plenty of drop-in events and programs, as well as the “the typical free things” such as the hall’s Halloween and Eastern celebrations, and the food truck nights, she said.

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