The Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center on Water Street in downtown Gardiner, seen in July 2021, will receive a more than $400,000 grant through the congressional Community Project Funding Program. Renovations are set to begin next month at the historic opera house. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

GARDINER — With less than a month to go before the start of construction, the Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center has secured another chunk of funding.

On Friday, Maine’s congressional delegation announced that 92 projects across the state are receiving funding totaling $136 million through congressionally directed spending requests as a part of the federal budget.

And 14 of those projects, with $17.5 million in funding requests, are in central Maine.

For Johnson Hall, the state’s oldest opera house, the $411,710 in federal funds will be used for its long-anticipated project to renovate the building’s 400-seat theater and make other improvements to the 160-year-old building.

Johnson Hall was one of three Gardiner organizations to request federal money through the Community Project Funding Program in April 2021, through the office of U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, D-2nd District, and it was the only one to move forward.

Under the program, every congressional office could submit up to 10 grant requests for consideration to any one of more than a dozen federal agencies.


The project also received support from U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Angus King, I-Maine, who announced the funding awards on Friday.

Michael Miclon, artistic executive director at Johnson Hall, said he’s thankful for the belief that Golden, Collins and King have in the performing arts center and for the work they have done in securing the funds.

Johnson Hall Capital Campaign Director Carrie Arsenault, left, and Executive Artistic Director Michael Miclon unveil the Raise the Curtain campaign for the historic opera house last July. Maine Congressional delegation recently announced the nonprofit will receive a more than $400,000 grant through the Community Project Funding Program. Renovations are set to begin next month at the historic opera house. Jessica Lowell/Kennebec Journal file

“The confirmation of the this funding is critical at this point in our campaign,” Miclon said. Although it was factored into our current (fundraising) numbers, it was not guaranteed, so we are thankful this money is secured.”

Even as the start of construction draws near, Johnson Hall continues to raise funds to pay for the multi-million dollar project.

In January, Johnson Hall officials announced a $500,000 gift with a match challenge from an anonymous donor. The goal of the Punch List Challenge is to raise $1 million to meet the fundraising goal for the project.

When the capital campaign was announced in 2016, the initial fundraising target was $4.3 million. But over time, routine inflation caused the target to increase to $5.5 million. Now, after a pandemic-fueled delay, it’s not yet clear what the final price tag will be, as earlier cost estimates are being revised for both construction and the equipment and technology to be used to outfit the space.

In announcing the award, Collins, King and Golden noted the historic nature of the Gardiner building and the importance of the arts and Johnson Hall as a place that brings people together.

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