Manchester art tour begins without trolleys

For five years, the Open Doors Cultural Tour featured two trolleys that chauffeured art enthusiasts to many of downtown Manchester’s museums and galleries.

While the Open Doors tours’ sixth season is set to begin Thursday, April 26, it will without the iconic trolleys, at least in April.

Open Doors committee members Jan Langer of Langer Place and A. Robert Dionne of the Majestic Theatre insist that it is not a sign of a troubling trend in the closure of cultural activities in the Queen City.

“Absolutely not,” said Langer. “The tour’s numbers are up each year as well as the number of visitors at the venues.”

Dionne said much the same thing. “Everyone is doing well, and the Majestic is doing extremely well.”

In recent months, the New Hampshire Symphony Orchestra canceled its entire season and Opera New Hampshire has canceled its May 4 performance of “Manon Lescaut” — both due to lack of funding.

But the trolley trouble seems to be a bit more of a pernicious problem of giving to nonprofits in general.

“On a corporate level, the money for the arts is not what it used to be. Some businesses are no longer in the position to give large donations, or they might be giving more to civic needs like the YMCA,” said Dionne.

Attendance for the Open Doors tours, however, has been good. Last year, over 5,000 riders visited the 11 stops — including the Manchester Artists Association on Elm Street and the Millyard Museum on Commercial Street as well as Langer Place and the Majestic — during the four free event nights.

“Except ‘free’ isn’t really free,” said Dionne.

He said the trolleys cost $1,000 apiece to rent for the evening. Add to that, business owners’ costs of staying open late and staffing for longer hours, and “the entire four-evening season can cost around $15,000,” said Dionne.

The venues also contribute a fee to secure a spot on the tour, which goes toward paying for some of the costs.

“You have to remember also most of these stops are nonprofits themselves and are trying to raise money” to keep their own doors open, said Dionne.

He also said he felt some of the problem might be Manchester suffering from too much of a good thing.

“Everyone’s doing so many things, good things, but we’re all sharing the same audience,” said Dionne.

For now, it looks as if only April tour-goers event will be traveling in their own vehicles. The committee has funding for the June, September and November tours, Dionne said.

“It really is a great evening out,” said Langer. “Visitors plan on what venues to see next time on following tours.”

Open Doors Cultural Tours driving/walking maps may be downloaded at For more information, cll 669-4045 or e-mail — CINDY KIBBE

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