The University of Southern Maine announced Wednesday that an anonymous donor has contributed $1 million toward its new Center for the Arts project.

University officials referred to the donor as a “longtime friend.”

“This generous gift enables USM to take the next step toward realizing our dream of building a new Center for the Arts at USM in Portland,” USM President Glenn Cummings said in a statement issued by the school. “The time has come to create a visual and performing arts facility on our Portland campus that showcases the exceptional talents of our students and faculty, and opens the door to wider arts and cultural engagement in Maine and beyond.”

Cummings said the gift will be used to select and hire an architectural or engineering firm that will be charged with designing the new facility, which university officials last year estimated could cost about $50 million to build. The donor wishes to remain anonymous, but is described in the news release as a “passionate supporter of the arts.”

The Center for the Arts will feature a 1,000-seat concert hall – about half the size of Portland’s Merrill Auditorium – as well as a recital hall, black box theater performance and an art gallery.

USM said the Center for the Arts a key element in its master plan for the Portland campus that will meet the needs of its School of Music and Theater and Arts departments.

“The new Center for the Arts will elevate awareness of USM’s superb reputation in music, theater and the visual arts,” the school said.

Actor Tony Shalhoub, a 1977 graduate, will serve as the chairman of the Center for the Arts Leadership Committee. He is a three-time Emmy winner and Tony Award recipient for his role in the Broadway musical, “The Band’s Visit.”

“With bold and exciting initiatives such as the Center for the Arts, we are significantly enhancing the student experience at USM and growing into the great university our great city of Portland deserves,” said Ainsley Wallace, president and CEO of the USM Foundation.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]

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