WATERVILLE — Waterville Creates! announced Wednesday that it has been awarded $75,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts to work with the city, Colby College and the public to plan for redesigning Castonguay Square downtown.

The grant, part of the Our Town program, comes as Colby is investing millions of dollars in the downtown as part of revitalization efforts and the college and Waterville Creates! are trying to raise $18 million to $20 million to transform The Center next to Castonguay Square into a center for art and film. The Center overlooks the square, which also is adjacent to City Hall.

“Castonguay Square is a lovely green-space located in the heart of our historic downtown district, but its current design is not particularly inviting,” Shannon Haines, president and chief executive officer of Waterville Creates!, said Wednesday in a news release. “In this time of unprecedented investment in the downtown, this project will give the community an exciting opportunity to help create a dynamic, welcoming space right in the center of it all. The process also will build community capacity for future projects and help to restore a sense of pride and civic engagement.”

A special workshop focusing on downtown revitalization and creative place-making will kick off the Castonguay Square planning process in the fall and will be followed by a series of community design and planning meetings to discuss how the park is being used now and identify the community’s collective vision for its future, according to the release. A final design concept will be presented to the City Council in early 2019.

Haines said Wednesday in a phone interview that the public is encouraged to attend the workshops, expected to start in September and continue throughout the winter. A presentation to the council would occur in February or March, according to Haines.

She said the grant will fund architects to help manage the process and help with the community’s vision for redesigning the square, which Haines sees as underutilized. The public will be asked how the square can be made more inviting and user-friendly so people will want to use it regularly.

“We are partnering with the City of Waterville and with Colby to host those conversations,” Haines said. “We want to make sure everything we do is fitting in with downtown revitalization plans.”

There is no money in the grant to fund actual construction in the square, according to Haines.

“This is just the planning process, meant to bring the community together to learn what we want to see there in the future,” she said.

Colby and Waterville Creates! announced March 3 that they hope to install a contemporary art gallery on the first floor of The Center and a relocated Railroad Square Cinema with new equipment and seating on the second floor.

The plan calls for shaving off part of the south wall of The Center to expand green space in the square and building a glass facade and atrium facing the square. At the time, Colby President David Greene said $8 million had been raised in contributions.

Haines said Wednesday it was her understanding that the amount raised remains at $8 million. Waterville Creates!’ commitment is to raise $2 million for the project. Haines’ organization is in the quiet phase of its community capital campaign now and hopes to go public with it in July, in conjunction with the annual Maine International Film Festival.

Waterville Creates! applied for the National Endowment for the Arts grant last September and recently learned it was approved. Past efforts to apply for the Our Town grants were not successful.

“I think to get the award now is really recognition that Waterville’s at a turning point and ready to receive these kinds of funds … ,” Haines said.

In the creative place-making process, public, private, not-for-profit, and community groups partner to strategically shape the physical and social character of a neighborhood, town, tribe, city or region around arts and cultural activities, according to Waterville Creates!

“Creative place-making animates public and private spaces, rejuvenates structures and streetscapes, improves local business viability and public safety, and brings diverse people together to celebrate, inspire, and be inspired,” the Waterville Creates! release says. “Key elements of this process are inclusivity, intention, and relationship building with all community stakeholders.”

The National Endowment for the Arts announced 60 awards nationwide, totaling $4.1 million for supporting projects through the Our Town program.

“The variety and quality of these Our Town projects speaks to the wealth of creativity and diversity in our country,” National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu said in the release. “Through the work of organizations such as Waterville Creates! in Waterville, Maine, NEA funding invests in local communities, helping people celebrate the arts wherever they are.”

Chu visited Waterville and Railroad Square Cinema in 2015 and praised its cultural and arts collaboration efforts. The organization awarded the Maine International Film Festival a $10,000 grant that allowed the World Filmmakers Forum to be held at that year’s festival.

An arts and cultural organization, Waterville Creates! seeks to promote awareness of opportunities and supports enhanced programs and operations for its community partners and audiences. It provides marketing, administrative and development services to arts and cultural institutions in the Waterville area.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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