Since 1870, the Cambridge Center for Adult Education has been dedicated to providing the widest range of high-quality, low-cost learning opportunities for the diverse adults of greater Boston.
Our two historic buildings, both of which are on National Register of Historic Places, are an essential part of our success. The William Brattle House (1727) and the Dexter Pratt/Blacksmith House (1808), are home to our classes and special programs, including The Blacksmith House Poetry Series, which has featured both nationally known and emerging writers for 40 years; Community Supported Art, which connects local artists directly to shareholders, following the model of community supported agriculture; Home Run in Harvard Square, a series on the art, history and science of baseball; and free, accidental learning events, including New England's largest Ukulele Jam.
Founded in 1870 as the Cambridge Social Union, we officially became the Cambridge Center for Adult Education in 1938. In 1889, the Cambridge Social Union purchased and moved into the home of Loyalist William Brattle at 42 Brattle St., which was built in 1727 and served as headquarters for the quartermaster of the Continental Army from
1775-76. From 1831-33 it was also the home of feminist and author Margaret Fuller. CCAE operates this extraordinary building for the full enjoyment of the general public through its classes and special events, using all the rooms year round for classrooms and performances.
After making 42 Brattle Street its home for 83 years, CCAE accommodated increased enrollment with the purchase of the Blacksmith House at 56 Brattle St. and the three-story house at 5 Story St. The Blacksmith House is the location where poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow observed the blacksmith at work under the "spreading
chestnut tree," a scene immortalized in his famous poem in 1839. It later became the home of escaped slave Mary Walker and her family, and in the mid-20th century was the location of The Window Shop, a cafe and educational center for recent refugees from Eastern Europe. The building now houses several classrooms, an auditorium, and art studios in both the original structure and a 1973 addition.
In 2009, CCAE appointed Susan Hartnett the first new executive director in 23 years, and the organization began significantly increasing fundraising efforts, retiring an operating debt, building reserves, streamlining the online registration system, improving both instructor evaluations, and programming. A property inspection report and an Historic Structures report revealed significant deterioration of the
facilities, and after consultation with an engineer and historic
preservationist, CCAE developed a capital budget to address urgent historic preservation, energy efficiency, and classroom use, which we hope to accomplish by the end of 2013.
1) Financial stability: Within the last two
years, CCAE eliminated a long standing operating deficit and
established an operating reserve through aggressive cost controls,
increased tuition revenue (for the first time in more than a
decade) and expanded contributed income. We are now able to cover annual
operating costs and allocate approximately $100,000 to our capital
budget each year.
2) Improved student and teacher interaction: Over
the past year, CCAE has streamlined the on-line registration process, and
improved the student and teacher evaluation process, working toward assisting
teachers with some training and responding to student needs with both new and
modified course offerings, including more weekend workshops, intensives and
shorter term offerings.
3) In 2011, CCAE launched Community Supported
Art, an opportunity to connect artists directly to shareholders in a program modeled
on community supported agriculture. With seed funding from the Mass. Cultural
Council, CSArt generated lots of publicity and goodwill for the artists, CCAE
and our partners – the Cambridge and Somerville Arts Councils, Cambridge and
Somerville Local Firsts – and the program will be repeated and expanded in
Goals: Continue to work toward the right
size for the organization with regard to fundraising, program development, and marketing.
1) During 2011, CCAE developed a $1.5 million capital plan to
address accessibility, historic preservation, energy
efficiency and building system upgrades in our two historic buildings. As of
Dec. 1, we have raised $400,000. Our goal is to raise the remainder of the
funds and complete the work by 2013.
2) Since 1973, The
Cambridge Center for Adult Education (CCAE)’s Blacksmith House Poetry Series has been connecting audiences to
poets and novelists. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the
series, CCAE is working to raise $40,000 to allow us to add a new element – weekend
residencies for three nationally recognized poets.
3) In the fall of 2010,
CCAE consolidated and its daytime lecture series to serve our older students
more effectively. We offer 60 lectures each year on topics relating to health,
arts and ideas at a cost of $10,000. With local partners in the health care and
academic fields we engage our audiences socially and intellectually, which
studies show have a critical health impact as we age.
4) We are taking a
holistic approach to teaching both foreign languages and English as a Second
Language with a new series of immersion days that allow participants to experience
language through movement, music, theater, and task-oriented exercises, such as
cooking and art-making.
Letter from Executive Director Susan Hartnett, September, 2011:
I am delighted to report on the Center's core work: our public programming - specifically the extraordinary work that goes on in our classrooms every day of the week.
This past year, we offered over 2,000 classes that were taught by 400
professionals and reached 14,000 people. Many of these students returned
for multiple classes, for a total of more than 17,000 registrations.
Another 3000 people attended our lectures, exhibitions, and performances.
We are listening very closely to what our students have to say about their
experience with our teachers, staff, and facilities. We hear a strong request
for more weekend classes and intensive workshops - designed to support our students' increasingly busy lives. We are learning about important distinctions among our students - the manner in which cooking students interact with us and what they want is very different from visual arts students, who are in turn quite unlike writing students or language students. These differences manifest in the classes they desire, the times they attend classes, and their patterns of engagement.
One of the most powerful results of our strategic planning work is the decision to organize our education program in a new way. We are creating Centers of Learning that will help us:
* Develop a clearer sense of each program area's strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for growth.
* Foster a shared understanding of professional standards, best practices, and technology across all program areas.
* Experiment with new ways of convening our teachers, sharing wisdom, and supporting outstanding teaching.
* Allocate our limited resources (time, money, and people) to support the most valuable programs.
We expect it will take the next three years to fully construct our Centers of Learning, but already we can feel new energy and expanding imaginations as we move ahead.
I look forward to sharing our progress with you in the coming months.
Board Chair Statement
From the board chair, Bill Polk, September, 2011:
The fall marks the beginning of another year of adults learning and growing at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education - a tradition begun over 140 years ago.
Important things happen here every day: some among us learn new skills like using Excel or keeping bees or - in my case - singing! Others write
books, develop new ideas, create art, or learn to speak a new language.
Our students, faculty, and staff at the Center are hard at work on the new
Our annual report represents an opportunity to share our work from the recent past and to acknowledge the many people who have helped us.
Most striking perhaps is our strategic plan, which will help us align our great ambitions with our resources, both those we have and those we will need to capture. We have reaffirmed our shared vision for the Center, while articulating our plan for retaining and increasing the Center's preeminence as the leader in informal adult learning.
The Board has set two goals to drive this effort: to deliver excellent programming in the classroom; and to ensure the strength of our finances, our facilities, and increasingly, our use of technology. Early response to our plans for achieving these goals - from teachers, students, and staff - has been very positive.
I will share a few more highlights from the past year, an extraordinary one for the Center:
* We witnessed an 8% increase in registrations from the previous year, the first increase in more than a decade.
* We cut operating costs by reducing utility costs, securing pro bono legal help, and increasing our use of technology
* We increased contributions across all segments: individuals, foundations, corporations, and governmental agencies.
I am very proud of all that we have done to prepare CCAE for the future.
I thank our supporters including our donors, the Board of Directors, our
teachers, students, and staff. Everyone has been an important part of this
We still have much to do, and with your help, we will succeed.