NewsJun 20, 2019

Lesley awarded grant for conversion of historic Brattle Street chapel

University explores transforming St. John’s Memorial Chapel into performing arts space

Photo of St. John's Chapel with tree limbs in the forefront.

Lesley University has been awarded a $30,000 Feasibility & Technical Assistance grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund to explore the conversion of the St. John’s Memorial Chapel into a performing arts space.

The St. John’s Memorial Chapel, at the corner of Brattle and Mason streets, is located at the heart of Lesley’s recently expanded Brattle Campus. Just three blocks from Harvard Square, the chapel is a prominent landmark along the Brattle Street corridor and is well-positioned to become a versatile, community-facing performance space.

“A new Lesley University performing arts center will catalyze connections between Lesley and local arts and cultural organizations, as well as the people of Cambridge,” says Matthew Brownell, director of campus planning.

Lesley’s longstanding and growing involvement in the performing and visual arts has made performance space a high priority. Lesley’s undergraduate- and graduate-level arts coursework and programming include the university’s College of Art and Design, the MFA program in creative writing, and pioneering curriculum and research the field of Expressive Therapies, including dance/movement therapy.

“Converting the chapel to create an accessible, flexible space for theater, dance, music performances, visual arts, and literary readings is essential as Lesley continues to broaden our programming and our connections with the greater Cambridge community,” says Dr. Margaret Everett, provost and vice president of academic affairs.

St John’s Chapel was built in 1868 and is about 11,000 square feet. It is no longer an active worship space. Lesley purchased the chapel and five other buildings in the summer of 2018 that were formerly owned by the Episcopal Divinity School, making Lesley the sole owner of the 5.3-acre Brattle Campus.

Lesley has a track record for award-winning historic preservation with the 2015 opening of the university’s state-of-the-art Lunder Arts Center in Porter Square, a project that incorporated and adaptively restored the 170-year-old former North Prospect Church.