AUGUSTA — Inside the century-old Colonial Theater, a downtown building neglected and vacant for years, something unusual happened Friday night. For the first time in nearly a half-century, the public visited the theater to see a film.

The film, a 10-minute documentary, was part of a multimedia installation focused on the stories of two Augusta women in their 90s who were part of the last group of residents at St. Mark’s Home for Women in Augusta, which closed last year.

The documentary of the women, Nona Treworgy and Ruth Barnhart, preparing to leave their home of nearly a decade played multiple times during the evening as dozens of people filed through the theater to see the exhibit, titled “Home/Resilience.”

The three Portland artists who created the exhibit, Caroline Losneck, Kelly Rioux and Chris Byron, collaborated to create a small house within the theater, featuring furniture, portraits of Treworgy and Barnhart, and audio recordings of interviews with the two women.

A goal of the exhibit is to create a dialogue about what it means to age in a community and the country, said Losneck, who made the documentary with two others, Betsy Carson and Kate Kaminski, who operate Gitgo Productions in South Portland.

“What we’ve learned in working with this project is everyone seems to relate to the story of aging, or aging in place, and parents who are getting old,” Losneck said.


Losneck was inspired to tell the story of Treworgy and Barnhart after reading a Kennebec Journal article last year about the imminent closure of St. Mark’s Home for Women. One thing that surprised her while making the film was the resilience of the two women, she said. The filmmakers created the film as the women were being forced to leave St. Mark’s Home, she said, but “both women eventually really took it all in stride and with great strength.”

The two women later found new homes elsewhere in the city. In the film, Treworgy was more apprehensive about the move, saying she was she was afraid of being the last resident left at the home.

Barnhart, after watching the film at the theater with former staff members from St. Mark’s Home, said she’s happy in her new home at Howell House, a seniors’ residence.

“I don’t live in the past. I live in the future,” Barnhart said while standing in the theater lobby. “It was part of my past, but that was a page in my book.

“It was sad to see it, but I have no feelings about it.”

Barnhart, 91, said she was impressed with the film and the exhibit. The portrait of her was “very realistic,” she said.


“I saw myself. I recognized myself,” Barnhart said.

For the local nonprofit group that owns the theater and is trying to restore it, the exhibit served as a reintroduction of the building as a cultural resource to the community.

A historic preservation consultant is in the process surveying the theater find out what can be restored. A year from now, the group expects be requesting bids for the construction work, said Richard Parkhurst, president of the nonprofit group, Augusta Colonial Theater.

The group sealed the roof last year to prevent further deterioration and heated the building over the winter, Parkhurst said.

The theater, first opened in 1913 and rebuilt and expanded after a fire in 1926, was used for storage for about three decades after it closed in 1969, then was vacant for several more years.

The short documentary, “A Home for Women,” shown at the exhibit also will be screened at 6:30 p.m. June 20 at the theater, along with two other short films as part of the Camden International Film Festival’s Aging in Maine program.


The exhibit installation at the theater will be open to the public free for a month, probably during the regular Saturday tours at the theater, Losneck said. The times will be posted on the “Home/Resilience” website when finalized.

Exhibit organizers also plan to do a special showing of the film at Treworgy’s new home, the Inn at City Hall in Augusta, Losneck said.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

Twitter: @pdkoenig

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