New Downtown Arts Center Announced, Gift for Schupf Gallery

Colby Echo (Charlotte Marratta)

A rendering of the new arts center

With the Dare Northward Campaign in full swing, Colby and Waterville Creates! recently announced their collaboration on a Downtown Arts Center to be built in the heart of Waterville. The building, located at 93 Main Street, is one of the only intact historical buildings on Main Street. “We want to preserve a portion of this history and honor its civic purpose,” Vice President of Planning Brian Clark said.

The arts center will house Waterville Creates!, Common Street Arts Gallery and Programs, the Maine Film Center and Railroad Square Cinema, as well as connect to the entrance of the Waterville Opera House, effectively bringing the Opera House right onto Main Street. Thanks to the $2-million gift of Colby College Trustee Emeritus Paul J. Schupf, LL.D. ’06, announced last week, the center will also serve as an expansion of the Colby College Museum of Art. The gallery, to be named in Schupf’s honor, will be dedicated to contemporary art. “We’ve been talking to Paul for a while about how we can leverage our contemporary collections in a much more effective way. The vision, and what we’re going to be able to do, is to display some edgier, more contemporary, and possibly even experimental, art,” Clark said. “It’s going to be the quality and caliber of the Colby College Museum of Art right in the heart of downtown.”

President and CEO of Waterville Creates! Shannon Haines is excited to bring the Colby Art Museum downtown, as well as create a building in which all the arts can come together in a multidisciplinary way. “I think it’s incredibly exciting for Waterville and for Colby. We’ve always dreamed of having some annex of the Colby museum in downtown,” she said. One of the major hopes of the downtown gallery is to emphasize the accessibility of the Colby College Museum of Art, and encourage Waterville residents to come up to campus to check out more of the museum.

The structure of the building is deliberately designed to revitalize downtown. Located in the center of downtown, the building will be equidistant to the locations of the hotel and downtown dorm, and is intended to provide stronger visibility for the Waterville Opera House. On the ground floor, along with the Schupf Gallery, Common Street Arts, a program of Waterville Creates!, will provide a gallery space, a pottery studio, an educational space, and continue its community programming. A shared box office between Railroad Square Cinema, the Maine Film Center and the Waterville Opera House will greet visitors in the lobby surrounded by glass walls facing Castonguay Square. The glass walls will enable warm sunlight to illuminate the lobby’s café and study space, where students and Waterville residents can do work, grab a bite to eat after visiting the galleries, or chat with friends in between show times. At night, the glass façade will light up Main Street. “We want it to be glowing. Presently, it’s a little dreary on Main Street at night and this project would literally glow and be a beacon for activity,” Clark commented.

Heading up the stairs of the arts center, one arrives at the entrance for the Waterville Opera House and three state-of-the-art movie theaters, enhancing and improving the viewing experience of the Maine Film Center and Railroad Square Cinema. “The location and improvement of facilities is very important. It’s going to bring a tremendous amount of energy to downtown. We already know when the Maine International Film Festival is in town that it has a huge impact on businesses. I think this will bring a lot more life to Waterville,” Haines said.

With all of Waterville’s strongest art programs under one roof, Waterville Creates! will be able to work on enhancing collaborative programming between disciplines. “I think the success of this project is rooted in Waterville’s strength as an arts and cultural destination. We’ve long been known for the film festival, the Opera House, the Colby Museum. It’s this existing strength that I think can really take us to the next level,” Haines said. Currently in the fundraising stages, the project will require about $18 to $20 million in order to begin about nine months of design work and construction documentation, and a subsequent 18 months of construction. If everything goes as planned, the arts center should open in 2021.