Renovations and construction begin at Houlton H.S.

Karen Donato , Special to The County
15 years ago
    Renovations have begun at Houlton High School for the first phase of the Houlton Community Arts Center. The project that was first introduced in 2005 has been building momentum since then. In 2007 voters approved a $5 million bond with the understanding that the arts committee would actively seek half of the amount from private donations and matching funds. Fund-raisers have been ongoing to raise the money needed.

    “The arts council has raised $800,000 so far, said Joe Fagnant, high school band director and president of the arts center council, and we have secured two grant writers to pursue possible funding through both public and private sources.”
The council has issued a Buy A Seat Campaign encouraging individuals and groups to buy one auditorium seat for $300, two for $550 or $750 for three or more. Many families, organizations and former students have purchased several for this project. Each seat will be designated with the donor’s name.    The completed facility will include improved acoustics, lighting, seating and more space for band, chorus, theatre and dance groups to rehearse simultaneously.
Prior to the construction and demolition staff and students had a major job of relocating the contents of three offices, a band room, two storage rooms adjacent to the stage and open storage above each of them. They moved furnishings, instruments, props, costumes, books, and anything else that had found a home in the music department since 1965. The small gym is filled as well as a trailer truck.
Both side storage rooms have already been demolished; the sound room in the back of the auditorium and all of the seats have been removed.
Local contractors are putting in long hours to have the common areas ready for school the first of September. Once school begins students will have only one room to practice in during school hours. They will use additional rooms after school for rehearsals with hopes that construction will be more complete for the first concert in November.
The electrical, lighting and ventilation system were already part of the bond issue. Since this phase of construction tied in with the expansion of the arts center, its construction date was pushed ahead to incorporate all of the updates for classrooms, cafeteria and kitchen areas.
The interior color scheme of the performing arts center was selected by popular vote and will be a rich red hue. There will be seating for approximately 600 with a balcony and a portion called loose seating around the periphery. This will allow events with smaller audiences to concentrate their patrons into the center rather than spread out in the entire room. It will also allow musical programs to feature entertainers in the wings. There will even be special listening devices for the hearing impaired.
The cafeteria wall dividing the hall and cafeteria has been removed, the large trophy case and the ticket booth are gone. The back entrance and steps will have a new rounded entry with more doors for easy access for handicapped patrons into a vestibule. There will be a new ticket booth. Once inside the auditorium there will be a back walkway behind the seating area so that doors will not open into a brightly lit hallway. There will be theater lights installed in the auditorium and the sound booth will be located at the lower level.
Also redesigned is the history department. Gone are the offices adjacent to Room 32 with three classrooms off to the side. It has been replaced with a wider hall and four separate classrooms. This redesign was a result of the latest need to meet accreditation standards.
There is also a new area for Kevin Kimball the district’s computer technician. This will provide a place to fix the district’s computers and to also store the 600 student laptops being delivered for the upcoming school year.
The current project is keeping local contractors busy. The electrical work is being completed by Swallow’s Electric, J. H. McPartland is updating the heating and ventilation system, assisted by Ross Sheet Metal, and Buildings Etc. is doing the construction of the classrooms, auditorium, hallway and back entrance area.
Donations can be sent to Houlton Community Arts Center, Bird Street. For more information call 888-422-1278 or e-mail HCAC@houltonarts.org. The Web site is www.houltonarts.org. The arts committee is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization.