WATERVILLE — Waterville Creates! announced Monday that it will merge Nov. 1 with the Maine Film Center and Waterville Opera House, ensuring long-term sustainability as the three organizations plan for shared operations in a future art and film center downtown.

The organizations have been collaborating for years on programs and projects and share a common goal of making Waterville a destination for the arts and culture, officials said Monday. Joining forces will create operational efficiencies, provide shared staff in key areas of development, marketing and administrative support and ultimately expand offerings, they said.

“This is really a natural progression for us,” said Shannon Haines, president and chief executive officer of Waterville Creates!.

Haines met Monday with Film Center Executive Director Mike Perreault, Opera House Executive Director Tamsen Brooke Warner and Waterville Creates! Vice President Patricia King at the Hathaway Creative Center, the temporary home of Waterville Creates!.

While the three organizations have different areas of expertise, they said that they work to ensure arts opportunities are available and accessible to people of all ages and income levels, and they regularly share resources, host special events and provide arts education and programming. They also share some administrative and marketing resources to help increase efficiency and reduce costs.

The Opera House and Film Center will become divisions of Waterville Creates! which will hold the formal 501(c)(3) status, but they will maintain their own programming autonomy and staff, according to Haines. Grant application efforts will be streamlined through Waterville Creates!, she said.

UNDER ONE ROOF

Colby College and Waterville Creates! announced in March that they are working to raise $18 to $20 million in the hopes of transforming The Center at 93 Main St. downtown into a thriving center for art and film.

The project will transform Main Street at a time when the college and city continue to revitalize the heart of the city with an eye toward creating a vibrant downtown and making it a destination place. Plans call for shaving off part of the south wall of The Center building to expand green space in Castonguay Square and building a glass facade and atrium facing the square.

Haines and Colby President David Greene said in March that $8 million had been raised so far for the effort. Haines said Monday that an additional $200,000 has been raised as part of a community capital campaign that started in the spring and will continue through Dec. 31, 2019. She said officials hope the center will be ready in 2020 to move into, but more likely that will happen in 2021. Architects GO Logic, of Belfast, and Susan T. Rodriguez, of New York City, already have spent time designing the art and film center project.

Waterville Creates! moved its offices and its Common Street Arts gallery into the Hathaway Creative Center and will remain there until the center is completed. King controls programming for galleries and arts classes.

Meanwhile, the Maine Film Center, which owns Railroad Square Cinema, is currently housed partly in an office on Main Street downtown and partly at Railroad Square, but will move to the Hathaway Center Nov. 1, according to Perreault.

Nathan Towne, marketing director for Waterville Creates!, said that Waterville Creates!, Opera House and Film Center staff and board members all have contributed to the campaign to build the art and film center.

Leadership teams from all three organizations have been meeting every week to discuss the merger plans.

The three organizations will share ticketing systems and a website. Haines said that a development director, marketing coordinator and administrative assistant will be hired and will start working Jan. 2, 2019.

Perreault said the Maine Film Center does not yet have plans for the current Railroad Square building once it is vacated. The Maine Film Center owns the building and leases the parking lot from Richard Parkhurst.

Perreault noted that most people will not see immediate changes as the three organizations merge, but ultimately it will result in better programming for all three. Haines said the programs people know and love will continue and not change.

Meanwhile, Towne said that in the new art and film center on Main Street, the elevators will be larger and better so people who are older will have easy access. Haines said parking is a priority and Waterville Creates! will be working with the city on parking issues.

Waterville Creates!, the Opera House and Film Center collaborate on annual seasonal programs including Waterville Rocks! Joy to the Ville and Arts in Bloom and will continue to do so, they said.

“AN EXCITING DEVELOPMENT”

Haines said in a press release that, like many arts organizations nationwide, less than 50 percent of the merged organization’s revenue will come from earned income including ticket sales, memberships, workshop fees and so on, with the majority of funds contributed by individuals, foundations and corporations. The Film Center and Opera House in the short term will continue to manage independent annual appeal campaigns and membership programs, but for the long term, Waterville Creates! will examine opportunities for shared donor and membership programs that will offer patrons opportunities to continue to designate contributions to individual programs as well as new opportunities to support the arts.

Warner said in the release that the merger feels like a positive, logical, natural move for the organizations, which are beloved in the community.

“We all believe that providing access to art and opportunities for creative expression is important for everyone, and our collaboration will increase those opportunities for our region,” she said.

Perreault said the merger represents “an exciting development.” The Film Center, he said, has collaborated with the Opera House and Waterville Creates! for years, and they host many prominent events at the Opera House during the Maine International Film Festival, of which Perreault is director. The Film Center has enjoyed partnering with Waterville Creates! on programs such as MIFFONEDGE and the Maine Student Film and Video Conference, according to Perreault.

“Our impact, reach and programming strength will only continue to grow through our collaboration and sharing of resources and talent,” he said.

Colby is investing some $65 million in the downtown with projects including a $25 million, 103,000-square-foot residential complex at 150 Main St. that now houses about 200 students, faculty and staff involved in civic engagement curriculum. Colby renovated the former Waterville Savings Bank building at 173 Main St. and is planning to build a boutique hotel at the south end of Main Street downtown.

Housed at the new art and film center will be the Film Center, art classes, Waterville Creates!, including Common Street Arts and a contemporary art gallery that will be an extension of the Colby College Museum of Art.

The mission of Waterville Creates! is to promote, support and expand arts and cultural assets, increase access to creative opportunities and strengthen economic and community development. It also coordinates arts and cultural programming by working with Colby, the Film Center, the Opera House, Common Street Arts and Waterville Public Library.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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