Havertown’s Kelly Center Aims to Develop Local Arts and Culture

The venue will host a grand opening week starting Sept. 21.

The pursuit of any altruistic goal requires both sacrifice and risk. For civic-minded brothers Paul and Tom Kelly, that risk was their homes, which they put up as collatoral to create the Kelly Center, a Havertown facility designed to develop local arts and culture. After six years of hard work, the center’s grand opening will feature a week of events beginning Sept. 21, including a performance by Jill Sobule, a comedy night and other themed shows.

The Kelly brothers are no strangers to the music industry or local arts scene. They’ve both been involved in running the popular Haverford Music Festival which takes place each September. Fittingly, their new Kelly Center will have no shortage of musical performances and special arts-related events for adults and children, including afternoon storytimes. Starting in October, there will even be an after-school open mic for middle and high school students. The program is aimed at giving young performers an outlet for their art and a productive and fun after-school hangout spot.

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The brothers have also partnered with the Springfield-based New Avenue Foundation, a nonprofit that creates meaningful employment for those with disabilities. Jim Wurster, one of the organization’s founders, runs New Avenue Cafe, a coffee shop and juice bar located in the Kelly Center. It’s his first time overseeing a business, which he says has its challenges. “It’s also really rewarding because everybody that’s been a part of this is just so happy to be out and about and in a place like the Kelly Center,” Wurster says. “I feel the love and happiness from parents who come in and who tell me that they appreciate the opportunity for their loved one to have a place where they can volunteer or be employed and that they can be respected for who they are. That’s really what drives me.”

The entire center and its focus on community harkens back to Kelly Music for Life, a nonprofit Paul and Tom established with their spouses. It works to support music education, arts, culture and community, filling a void for such programming in Havertown. Wanting a true gathering space, the idea of a brick and mortar venue became increasingly appealing as their venture grew. Several years ago, Paul and Tom drew up a business plan and began looking for funding and spaces. “Raising money has definitely been the biggest challenge,” Tom says. “Because Paul and I feel so strongly about this, we signed for the mortgages ourselves and put our own houses up as collateral.”

That gamble seems more than worthwhile. “It’s a wonderful thing to see this place finally open and people coming in and enjoying the space,” Tom adds. “We put a lot on the line, and our thinking was, to steal a line from Field of Dreams, ‘If we build it, they will come.’ We have built it. We hope that people come.”

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