SOUTHINGTON — When Lori Holm decided to teach art and music classes out of her home five years ago, she wasn’t sure enough people would be interested to keep it going.
Now she has several children’s summer programs with up to 30 children, a black box theater converted from her garage, art classes and music lessons. Most of her Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike home does double duty during theater performances or summer camps and has been transformed over the past five years.
“It’s rewarding to know I’ve helped some people in their art journey,” Holm said. “It’s a special thing that Arts at Angeloria’s can bring to the community.”
She got her home business approval from the town five years ago. Late last year she received approval after building a barn that’ll be used for performances during warmer months and for children’s camps in the summer.
The steady expansion has drawn opposition from Holm’s neighbor, who objected to the town granting her more leeway to run the school, Arts at Angeloria’s, from her house.
Holm, who teaches the academically gifted program for Cheshire public schools, was prompted to start her school after an arts program in the district was canceled.
Giving children opportunities to practice art, music and theater is still a large part of the business, she said, but she also wants to give adults those same opportunities through beginner music classes and performances in the theater.
The black box theater has just a few rows of seats, no curtain and little space between the audience and the actors on stage. That makes guests feel that they’re in the story, Holm said.
“People do want to come here because it’s a very different experience,” she said.
The black box theater inside the expanded The Arts at Angeloria's, 223 Meriden Waterbury Tpke., Southington, Thurs., Jan. 9, 2020. Dave Zajac, Record-Journal
Peter Picone, a Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike neighbor, said he’s looking forward to attending the upcoming production of “On Golden Pond” and described previous performances as “phenomenal.”
"It’s a great place, their facility, what they do, they have great vision. She’s a very dynamic person."
Picone, a wildlife biologist with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, has been teaching about nature and wildlife at Holm’s summer camps since she started.
“It’s a great place, their facility, what they do, they have great vision. She’s a very dynamic person,” Picone said.
Some neighbors object
Holm’s property, about two and a half acres at 223 Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike, borders commercial property at the corner of Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike and Meriden Avenue as well as residential properties on both roads. The growth of her school, such as the addition of a large lighted parking lot and the removal of trees, has frustrated neighbors Christopher and Christine Ward, who live next door on Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike.
Christopher Ward said he’s not opposed to some classes at the house but that he doesn’t like the increased activity, noise and property encroachment in a residential area.
“It just snowballed. This isn’t going to be the end of it,” he said.
When asked about any future expansion plans by the Planning and Zoning Commission last year, Holm said she’s out of money.
Holm teaches nearly all the classes herself. Her full time teaching job in Cheshire and classes at Angeloria’s have maxed out her time. She’s not thinking about taking on any more.
“It’s where I hoped it would be,” she said.