Arts foundation family disputes city case

Staff photo by Don Himsel Nashua's arts center is calling it quits and is looking to send what is left of its available funds to Manchester.

NASHUA – Members of the Carter family want Nashua to stop blocking the wishes of their father, who supplied most of the close to $1 million in funding for the Nashua Center for the Arts.

“Dad didn’t want his money squandered on studies and proposals,” said Steve Carter, son of John Carter.

John Carter, who passed away in January at 92, effectively was the Nashua Center for the Arts, according to his children, Steve and Robin Carter. The center is petitioning the Hillsborough County Superior Court to be allowed to dissolve as a nonprofit entity and send its assets of money and paintings to the Currier Museum in Manchester.

The Carter siblings say their father tried to resurrect the idea of an arts and science facility in the city with the Nashua Center for the Arts. John Carter’s mother and father, Edith and Elliott Carter, donated $300,000 to the Nashua Arts and Science Center, in their wills. That center went out of existence in the 1990s, but John Carter started the Nashua Center for the Arts using the money his parents left in trust. Steve Carter said his father wanted to lay low and see if the city could develop an organization to handle the money and fulfill his family’s vision of an organization that taught the arts and science through programs and exhibits in the city.

In the past few years, Robin Carter said she raised concerns with her father about the future of the Nashua Center for the Arts. Despite the money he put into it every year, the organization did not function as a nonprofit should – the center did not have a board that met regularly and there was no plan for what to do when John Carter dies, she said.

“It would have been like a ship without captain,” Robin Carter added.

Steve Carter said his father would have given the money to an organization that promoted the fine arts in Nashua, but there isn’t any with a track record of stewardship the Carters wanted.

“He just straight up wasn’t comfortable with any of them,” Steve Carter said.

After speaking with the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office, John Carter and his family decided to have the money sent to the Currier to be used for the benefit of Nashua residents.

Steve Carter is angry the city, along with Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, City Arts Nashua, Symphony New Hampshire and the Nashua Choral Society, for opposing the petition, calling it a slap in the face to the wishes of his father and grandparents.

“It’s disgraceful and deeply disrespectful,” he said.

City Corp. Counsel Steve Bolton said Friday the family’s version of events surrounding the history of the Nashua Center for the Arts differs from the histories found in the center’s own court petition and the filings done by the attorney general’s office. If it can be shown the Carter family, and specifically John Carter, were actually in control of the trust, that ought to carry more weight in the discussions.

“If what they allege is true, certainly more attention should be paid to the wishes of John Carter,” he said.