New downtown arts center eyes January reopening

15 years ago
By Scott Mitchell Johnson
Staff Writer

    PRESQUE ISLE – While Lara Cannon, president of the Wintergreen Arts Center, doesn’t want to wish away her summer, she is very much looking forward to next year. In January, officials hope to reopen the arts center in its new downtown location. 

    The non-profit organization offers art classes, performances and many seasonal events – including its Gingerbread Festival and Artful Egg activities – for children and adults alike.
    “Overall things have been pretty successful,” she said of the new 149 State St. location. “We launched a capital campaign to secure $106,834. The money will go toward electrical improvements, a new bathroom, floor and ceiling restoration, lighting, signage, furnishings, and landscaping.
    “We’ve reached our halfway point financially which is a big landmark,” Cannon said. “We were holding off doing any construction until we were at the halfway point, so now we have contractors lined up and are getting some work done.”
    Originally housed at the Aroostook Centre Mall, Wintergreen received an offer last year from Tony Burgess and Glenn Capp, who purchased the former Wight Furniture building.
    “We’ve been given a 10-year lease free of charge with the utilities included … no overhead,” said Cannon, noting that the arts center will occupy the first floor only. “We are very grateful to Tony and Glenn, and we can’t thank them enough.”
    The new facility will include a children’s studio. The front seating area, named “The Poet’s Corner,” will provide caregivers and children a quiet place to relax. An oversized story time rocker will fit an adult and child to rock and read together. A magnetic board with inspiring words and images can be used to create poetry. The block area will be a fun place to play and create with architectural pieces and blocks from all over the world.
    “The Poet’s Corner” will be named after Donald and Linda Zillman, who pledged $5,000 for the area.
    A “PlayHouse” will be used for small theatrical and puppet show performances.
    “We had a marionette performer come two years ago and it was really fun,” said Cannon, “but we had to do an ad hoc stage with sheets and pipes. This will be a nice area to do small performances and when it’s not used for performances, it will actually be a play house where kids can put on costumes and make up their own plays and skits.”
    The children’s studio provides two private nooks for drawing on a chalkboard or white board, child-sized tables and chairs, a children’s gallery with window seat and plenty of storage. The art studio is fully furnished with an adult and child utility sink, dishwasher, two easels, a drying rack and creative supply unit, ample storage and 20 washable smocks.
    Cannon said plans also call for a juice, coffee and snack bar.
    Phase Two of the project includes a landscaped walkway and a new storefront.
    With fund-raising more than halfway complete, Cannon said a number of grants have helped push the project forward.
    “We recently received news that Wintergreen will be awarded a matching grant of $25,000 from the Cultural Facilities Accessibility program of the Maine Arts Commission, an independent state agency supported by the National Endowment for the Arts,” she said. “The doors, outlets and bathroom will all be handicapped accessible, and this grant offers the community a unique opportunity to double the dollars they give to the Wintergreen Arts Center.
    “For every donation people make this summer and fall, Maine Arts Commission will match their contribution dollar for dollar with money going directly to constructing our new arts center and making it fully accessible,” she said.
    In addition, Seacoast Security will donate time and materials to make the necessary fire improvements.
    “While we enjoyed being at the mall, we’re really looking forward to having our own facility,” said Cannon. “Being in the mall was a great learning experience. We got to figure out what worked and what didn’t, so this space is going to reflect our knowledge gained from previous years.”
    Cannon said she’s excited about the new arts center and hopes people will come check it out.
    “We’ve already seen a ground swelling of enthusiasm from people beyond our regulars,” she said. “I think this building is going to be really attractive, and by being downtown and having the natural light, it will make it feel more inviting.
    “I think the permanency is also key. Now that people know we’re here for 10 years, hopefully they’ll take some ownership of the arts center,” said Cannon. “We’re not going anywhere which is a nice feeling.”
    Anyone wishing to make a donation online can log onto or mail donations to Wintergreen Arts Center at P.O. Box 1252, Presque Isle, Maine 04769. For more information, log onto


Photo courtesy of the Wintergreen Arts CenterImage
    THIS ARTIST’S RENDERING shows what the first floor of the new children’s studio at the Wintergreen Arts Center will look like. The front seating area, named “The Poet’s Corner,” will provide caregivers and children a quiet place to relax, while the “PlayHouse,” located on the left, can be used for small theatrical and puppet show performances. The fully furnished art studio is located to the rear of the building. Located at 149 State St. in Presque Isle, officials hope to reopen the new facility in January.