The Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockland will be closed at least another three weeks as it recovers from significant damage caused by the failure of a compression coupling in the main water line. When the coupling failed, water under high pressure gushed from the water line inside the mechanical room, flooding the heart of the building but causing no damage to artwork or the center’s primary galleries.

All the artwork was removed from the building soon after the flood was discovered early in the morning of Jan. 19. The CMCA Biennial, which was scheduled to be on view through March 3, will be not be reinstalled, said Suzette McAvoy, the CMCA’s executive director. Other biennial-related events also have been canceled, including a performance by artist Eleanor Kipping that had been scheduled for Sunday.

Designed by architect and part-time Maine resident Toshiko Mori, the center opened in June 2016. The flood and the damage are a blow to the forward energy of the art center, as it will lose more than a month of admissions to the biennial. McAvoy wouldn’t estimate how much money CMCA will lose during the closure. The arts center has business insurance to help cover those losses, she said.

But McAvoy said damage could have been much worse, and she credited the quick response of the Rockland Fire Department, utilities and a team of volunteers who within a few hours removed the artwork to safety.

The staff of the nearby Dowling Walsh Gallery and its art-storage team “were champions,” McAvoy said. “They immediately came to our rescue on the Saturday of a long holiday weekend and professionally and carefully and methodically removed every piece of art and packed it and moved it to an off-site climate-controlled storage. Our fear was that once the heat came back up, all the moisture would turn into a steam bath and affect the art. Our goal was to get the art out as soon as possible.”

McAvoy said a mechanical failure caused a compression coupling to burst just below the main shut-off valve, inside the mechanical room. “It was an unfortunate occurrence, a part failure more than anything else,” she said. “Why it failed, we are still discovering.” A mechanical engineer is coming next week to investigate, she said.

When McAvoy got a call about the flood, she assumed the cold weather caused a pipe to burst. “That was the first thing that came to everybody’s mind, but it was not that at all,” she said. “It was a fluky accident. A part failed that should never have failed.”

The flooding was reported to the Rockland Fire Department shortly after 7 a.m. Jan. 19, when a passer-by noticed water pouring from under a door on the lower Winter Street side of the arts center. The building contractors and subcontractors came out on Saturday to inspect and assess the damage and failure. The building is fully insured, McAvoy said, and insurance adjusters also have done their inspections. Restoration specialists are taking moisture readings to identify areas where drywall and insulation need to be removed and replaced. She guessed that 25 percent of the building sustained damage. Neither of the building’s two largest galleries was damaged, and neither were the art labs or gift shop.

The most extensive repairs are needed in the areas closest to the mechanical room, which includes the men’s room, the main corridor and a portion of the Hughes gallery. “One saving grace was our poly cement floors. They got the water out pretty quickly,” McAvoy said. “So I would say things are moving along as well as could be expected. We are proceeding smoothly at this point, but it will be three weeks for the repairs that are necessary, and then painting, repainting and cleanup.”

The next series of exhibitions are scheduled to open in mid-March.


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