Case for Support

Please support our Capital Campaign and help us raise the remaining $3 million of our goal. This is a transformational project for Charter Oak Cultural Center and all who benefit from our mission.

Charter Oak Cultural Center is a nonprofit, multicultural arts center and historic landmark whose mission is to do the work of social justice through the arts in the Hartford metropolitan area and beyond. Housed in the first synagogue built in Connecticut, circa 1876, and saved from demolition in the 1980s, Charter Oak serves the diverse State Capitol community and is a committed community partner.

Charter Oak provides a free, high-quality arts education to 1,000 underserved Hartford children in our City School of the Arts. Under the direction of Susan Mazer, former Dean of Students at the Hartford Conservatory, we offer year-round classes in piano, guitar, drums, violin, cello and brass instruments and founded Hartford’s first all-city youth orchestra and brass band. We also offer classes in creative writing, theater, drawing and painting all led by 30+ highly qualified instructors. Charter Oak holds performances, art exhibitions and other arts events attended by 2,000 people annually, from which no one is turned away for lack of funds. Our City School of the Arts has been recognized twice by the White House for excellence in youth programming.

Central to our social justice focus is anti-racism work, showcasing artists of color in our gallery, conducting a years-long discussion of The 1619 Project; raising consciousness in our e-blasts about how the legacy of slavery continues to impact our nation. We also provide three arts-based programs that offer educational and employment opportunities to unsheltered and formerly unsheltered people.

Under the leadership of Executive Director Rabbi Donna Berman, Charter Oak has embarked on a capital campaign with $5 million raised, thus far. In 2021, Charter Oak bought the adjacent building at 25 Charter Oak Avenue, (circa 1858). Renovation of this and our original building will enable us to serve an additional 250 students and their families who are currently on waiting lists for City School of the Arts.

Since 2019, because of supply chain challenges and unprecedented inflation, construction costs have skyrocketed, limiting Charter Oak’s ability to fully restore our original building, the first synagogue built in Connecticut.

We seek to raise an additional $3 million to fund:

  1. The building’s first HVAC system and air filtration system, giving our students and audience the dignity of a climate-controlled environment for the first time
  2. Renovating our performance space, one of the most beautiful performance spaces whose medium size is rare in Hartford. This includes enhanced stage and audience access, new flooring and risers, modernization of the sound and lighting systems, restoration of our historic stained-glass windows, replacing our ancient sound and lighting systems with state-of-the art energy saving equipment.
  3. Making our spaces ADA-compliant and accessible for all students, guests, and performers
  4. Installing a state-of the-art security system, necessary in this time of rising antisemitism
  5. Expanding our operating budget $750,000 annually for the next five years, to fund the influx of 250 additional students who are now on our waiting list.

See attached budget for details.

Capital campaign funds are carefully managed by Executive Director Rabbi Donna Berman, our Board of Directors, and Building Committee. Construction costs were gathered through a competitive bidding process from respected builders in Hartford who are aligned with our success.

We invite you to be a vital part of our commitment to the arts and the Hartford community and help us raise the final $3 million of our capital campaign. Your tax-deductible gift will bring enhance the beauty of our historic building and enable us to serve more people and realize our mission at its greatest potential.

Snapshot: Renovation Cost Increases

2019 Est.

2022 Est.

% Change

Concrete & Site Work












Elevator Lift














Cost Increase


Anticipate higher 2024 costs

All bids above reflect either the lowest bid or the average bid among over 56 bids gathered by Architectural Stone, Charter Oak’s general contractor. Electrical costs alone have doubled since first embarking on the project.

Please support the next phase of this campaign, raising $3 million to complete the renovation. This is a transformational project for Charter Oak Cultural Center and all who benefit from our mission.

Our Plans

Together with input from our community of students, parents, faculty, donors, and civic and business leaders, we have crafted a transformative construction plan with three goals.

Create State of the Art Instructional and Performance Spaces

The new campus will include a number of restored, expanded and new instructional and performance spaces including:

  • Six new state of the art classrooms and two break out rooms will allow Charter Oak to expand the number of Hartford children and youth served in its nationally recognized Youth Arts Institute from 1,000 to 1,250, upon completion of construction
  • The restored Sanctuary for The Performing Arts, the spiritual center of Charter Oak, will offer more seating, an expanded stage and state of the art lighting and acoustics.
  • The Sanctuary’s Choir Loft will be home to a new exhibition space, telling the story of the first synagogue built in Connecticut. The space will also be used for classes and lectures.
  • Charter Oak’s visual arts exhibition and instructional space, the Gallery for Visual Arts, will be expanded, fully renovated and updated with the latest technology.

Honor Our History

One of the goals of the project is to restore Charter Oak’s 1876 historic synagogue building to its original 19th century splendor; including:

  • More than 20 additional stained glass windows
  • The ceiling, trusses, cornice, and columns will be restored through the use of polychrome stenciling.
  • The exterior brownstone and brick façade will be repaired and restored to its original style, color and condition.
  • The decorative light posts and stone stairs leading to the original front entrance will also be repaired.

Strengthen Community

The new campus will include a new seasonal outdoor classroom, courtyard, and dedicated spaces for our Beat of the Street program. New handicap accessible parking will provide greater access to our programs for all members of our community.

A fully restored, thriving campus will link together many of the new developments and projects throughout the downtown area contributing to an even more vibrant community.

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