The Paul J. Schupf Art Center: trustee donates $2 million to downtown art center

by Sarah Warner

On April 23rd, the College announced that Trustee Emeritus Paul J. Schupf ’06 made a $2 million naming gift to support the construction of downtown Waterville’s art center, now known as the Paul J. Schupf Art Center. The arts center, which will be located at 93 Main Street, will “…be a major contributor toward establishing [Waterville] as a destination for the arts,” according to Colby’s website.

“The gift is a naming gift for the arts center,” WatervilleCreates! President and CEO Shannon Haines explained in an interview with the Echo. “What it does is really allow us to move the project into the next phase, which is a more detailed design process, so that’s the point in time when we’ll all sit down and look at the actual program that’s going into the building and really on a more detailed level design what those spaces will look like and how they will function. It’s very exciting.”

WatervilleCreates! is a local non-profit that works to support Waterville’s cultural and creative opportunities. WatervilleCreates! has been instrumental in not only the planning of the arts center but in its fundraising as well.

“I was thrilled to hear this news,” Haines said of Schupf’s donation. “[WatervilleCreates!] is responsible for raising 2 million dollars in a community capital campaign, and this gift really creates a sense of momentum for the community that the project is really moving forward, at this point. So I think it’s going to make our efforts to fundraise much easier because we can really point to something, show that we’re moving to the next stage.”

WatervilleCreates! currently owns the building at 93 Main Street and have planned ts renovation for several years now. They officially announced their plans for the downtown art center in March of 2018 and set their fundraising goal at $18 million. It’s certainly a high number, but after Schupf’s gift Haines is confident not only in their ability to reach it but in the widespread impact that the arts center will have on Waterville.

“I think it’s going to be transformative for downtown and for the arts institutions that have been here for decades. It’s a facility that’s really unmatched in the state of Maine. I can’t think of anywhere else in the state that has these kinds of assets all under one roof.”

The arts institutions Haines is speaking of that will be included in the proposed 32,000-square-foot arts center includes the Colby College Museum of Art, the Maine Film Center, Railroad Square Cinema, Common Street Arts, the Waterville Opera House, and WatervilleCreates!. There will be a contemporary gallery of work from the Museum on the first floor, along with three screening rooms, another gallery for Common Street Arts, and several multidisciplinary educational spaces that will be open to the community. The center will also tie into a proposed redesign of Castonguay Square for related outdoor programs and activities.

“All of the arts institutions that will be in the building have been serving the Waterville community for decades,” Haines said. “Railroad Square Cinema has been here for 40 years, and the Waterville Opera House has been here for 117 years, and this project will really highlight those institutions and give them a state-of-the-art, modern home.”

Haines claims that the idea of being under one roof with so many other arts institutions and creative minds is one of the most exciting things about the center, citing the “potential for collaborative programs and cooperation” as able to transform the arts scene in Waterville. She’s most excited, however, for the community it will build among residents.

“For the public, I think having this space on Main Street that’s very visible and welcoming will really make them feel like the arts are for them. It’s our job to make sure that this building is super accessible and that people of all backgrounds feel comfortable utilizing our programs.”

To learn more about the Paul J. Schupf Art Center, you can visit downtownartscenter.org.