PRESQUE ISLE, Maine—Wintergreen Arts Center is moving to the Aroostook Centre Mall and is on track to open its doors at the new location on September 1, 2020.
“Wintergreen’s renovation project at the Aroostook Center Mall is a true community effort,” said Dottie Hutchins, Wintergreen’s executive director. “So many hands, minds, hearts, and souls have stepped forward and volunteered to help. It is heartwarming to see exactly what the Wintergreen Arts Center means to the people of Aroostook County.”
Support for the arts center’s renovation project is coming from longtime Wintergreen advocates and friends Rodney and Wendy McCrum, John and Heather Harvell, the Aroostook Partners in the Arts, MMG Insurance, former UMPI President Donald Zillman and Linda Zillman, and playwright and actor John Cariani.
Most of the physical work to renovate the space and prepare for the move is being provided by Wintergreen volunteers, staff, board members, family, and friends.
Over the past decade, the nonprofit arts center’s programming and determination to meet community needs have outgrown its current State Street location. Wintergreen staff often turn the space over two, three and even four times a day to accommodate a variety of activities including Under the Willow Tree, a creative preschool, Mini Open Studio (a parent-child drop-in class), group meetings and workshops, After School Arts Program, Summer Arts Camps, and evening functions such as First Friday Art Walk, Adult Art Night, Pizza ‘n Art for Teens & Tweens, fundraising events, and private party rentals.
At 5,309 square feet, Wintergreen’s new space at the Aroostook Centre Mall more than doubles its current programming footprint which allows the nonprofit arts center to better serve its mission and the people of Aroostook County.
“Over the past several years, Wintergreen has explored numerous location options with no viable results,” said Kim Guerrette Michaud, Wintergreen’s board chair. “We needed an affordable solution. So, after positive meetings with Bruce Brigman, the new Mall manager, Wintergreen’s Board of Directors decided the time is right for Wintergreen to come full circle and return to the Aroostook Centre Mall, our original home base in 2006.”
Wintergreen Arts Center’s first renovation plans came together with the help of a talented general contractor prior to the COVID-19 economic downturn and included improvements which are now being put on hold such as a kitchen and second bathroom.
Today, Wintergreen’s goal is to create a fresh, operational space on the lowest possible budget.
How is this happening? Hard-working, community-minded volunteers and supporters who are passionate about Wintergreen Art Center’s ability to thrive as a valuable community asset and partner. Wintergreen is also working with several sponsors to renovate specific areas within the 53-hundred square-foot space. To kick things off, the Aroostook Centre Mall painted the entire Main Room.
John and Heather Harvell of Presque Isle, long-time Wintergreen advocates and contributors, stepped up with the first financial support for the project. Their $1,500.00 gift was matched by the State Farm Companies Foundation.
The Aroostook Partners in the Arts joined with a $1,000.00 donation and their own Gretchen Violette of Presque Isle is serving as a true partner in steering this project from planning through construction into a functional, beautiful new space for the Wintergreen Arts Center.
Rodney and Wendy McCrum of Presque Isle are dedicated Wintergreen volunteers whose unwavering support and guidance has helped us build a solid foundation for the future. Rod and Wendy are sponsors of our Main Room, including Wintergreen’s creative preschool, Under the Willow Tree.
MMG Insurance, who has shown steadfast commitment to our youth, is sponsoring the conversion of the conference room into the MMG Insurance Technology Room. This room will serve as our digital arts classroom.
Former UMPI President Donald Zillman and his wife Linda Zillman of Santa Fe, New Mexico, are sponsoring the build-out of our Creative Space Studio Area. Don and Linda are pledging $5,000 in matching grant funds to help encourage other members of the community to donate. Dollar-for-dollar, Don and Linda will match individual contributions.
“As supporters of Wintergreen from its inception 14 years ago, we are thrilled to join so many friends and leaders in the county and its arts programs,” said Don and Linda Zillman. “The expanded size of Wintergreen will provide further creative opportunities for young people to discover the joy of the arts.”
Accomplished playwright and actor John Cariani of New York City is also lending his support to Wintergreen’s renovation project. This is the second time in as many years for Cariani, a Presque Isle native, to come to the aid of his hometown’s arts center.
In 2018, Cariani spearheaded a NYC benefit performance, The Band Visits Cariani, featuring an evening of scenes from his plays performed by fellow actors from the Tony Award-winning Best Musical, The Band’s Visit. The NYC benefit and associated GoFundMe page raised nearly $20,000.00 towards Wintergreen’s efforts to become debt free and prepare for the arts center’s eventual relocation.
Wintergreen’s new space at the Mall is comprised of several areas:
- The Main Room is approximately 3,000 square feet and houses a Reception Area, Café Area, Play Kitchen, Gallery Space, Creative Preschool Areas, a Children’s Library and Theater Area, and a Conversation Nook;
- The MMG Insurance Technology Room will serve as a digital arts classroom. This room will house Wintergreen’s MMG Insurance Tech Pod, a lock-and-charge station containing MacBook Pro laptops, and other digital devices; and,
- The Creative Space Studio adjoins the Main Room and bathroom. Fitted with washable vinyl plank flooring, the Studio is where all the messy, fun art “stuff” takes place.
“The overwhelming show of support is especially meaningful as we all continue to navigate these unprecedented times,” said Hutchins. “With no blueprint to follow, Wintergreen’s call-to-action during
COVID-19 focused on how best we could help by creating free daily online arts programming as a resource for families who seemingly overnight took on the responsibilities of homeschooling experts.”
Wintergreen’s preschool teachers also created an online presence keeping their students connected throughout the remainder of the school year, celebrating with a Parking Lot, Tailgate Party in June.
In June and July, Wintergreen’s Art with HeART Program, a free and unique children’s art program in partnership with the Presque Isle Housing Authority, and the center’s traditional Summer Arts Camps at Wintergreen were held in person using a combination of proper distancing and face coverings.
In July, Wintergreen also cohosted an online session of AR Girls, free to girls 12 to 16 in partnership with the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance, engaging girls across Maine in Augmented Reality creative experiences.
Wintergreen teachers served over 225 children during June and July. Spending the month of August, packing, cleaning, renovating, and moving, Wintergreen’s staff and board members look forward to moving into their larger, new space at the Aroostook Centre Mall for the upcoming school year.
To join Don and Linda Zillman with a matching gift in support of this project, members of the public may participate through the nonprofit’s website, wintergreenarts.org, by mail at PO Box 1252 in Presque Isle, or by calling (207) 762-3576.
More About Wintergreen Arts Center: The Wintergreen Arts Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 2006. Located in Presque Isle, Maine, Wintergreen is an organization based on the idea that creativity, advocacy, and community can produce great things. Our mission is to provide meaningful experiences that encourage an appreciation of the arts, stimulate creativity and innovation, and offer an artistic community space where all are welcome.