Wintergreen to raise funds for paid director position

Scott Mitchell Johnson, Special to The County
13 years ago

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The Wintergreen Arts Center (WGAC) is in the market for a new executive director, but must first launch a fund-raising campaign to raise money to pay for the position.

Current executive director Lara Cannon, her husband, Patrick, and their children moved to northern Maine from Seattle several years ago and her husband took a job as general counsel for Maine Public Service Co. Recently, however, Maine Public Service (Maine & Maritimes Corp.) merged with Emera, which operates Bangor Hydro, and due to the merger, his position has been relocated to Bangor.

“We’ve agreed to relocate to the Bangor area by Sept. 1, which creates an organizational hole to fill,” said Lara Cannon. “With no prospective volunteer available to serve as the executive director of the Wintergreen Arts Center, we are in need of funds to create a salary base and to hire a paid executive director.”

Cannon has been a volunteer director since the center was established in 2006. She said the family will soon put their house on the market, and the plan is to have the children finish out the school year in SAD 1.

“Then we’ll be starting anew,” she said. “I’m trying to focus all my attention right now on succession for Wintergreen so that if the house sells quickly, we’ll be ready to go and Wintergreen won’t be in crisis. I’m not going to leave them in the lurch because this is important to me, but I also need to move on. What I’m hoping to do is get some money together and find an executive director who can start while I’m still here so there’s time for me to train that person, answer questions and help them get started.”

Officials hope to raise the money first to create the paid position, and then begin advertising.

“It’s like the chicken and the egg problem,” said Cannon. “We don’t want to advertise the position until we raise the money, but we want to make sure we find the right person.

“We’re hoping we get someone whose really qualified, enthusiastic, with new ideas and new energy,” she said. “My first choice would be to find someone local, but if we can’t find someone here that’s qualified, we’ll expand our search statewide. We’ll keep going until we find the right person.”

Cannon said she – and the board of directors – are committed to raising the needed funds to make a smooth transition allowing the arts center to continue to flourish.

“I’m dividing my time right now between grant writing and preparing for a letter-writing campaign which will begin in March that we’ll send to our previous donors,” said Cannon. “There are lots of people out there who need money and I don’t always want to be the one competing for that, but we don’t have a choice; we have to start fundraising. A lot of people have helped make this happen since Wintergreen started six years ago and it’s not just my investment, it is a community investment, and we need to make sure the investment is a long-term one.”

Cannon said the art center’s expenses are modest because of a 10-year lease agreement in which Wintergreen pays no rent or utilities through the generosity of Tony Burgess and Glenn Capps.

“The rest of our annual operating expenses are our own responsibility; we have no umbrella organization to support us if we fail to meet our budget needs,” she said. “Although the Arts & Parks after-school program and Mini-Monet playgroup are funded through a partnership with the Presque Isle Recreation and Parks Department and the U.S. Department of Education, these programs do not generate profit to the WGAC. The tuition fees collected from the Arts & Parks programming pay for only one-third of the total program budget. The other two-thirds is funded through a three-year grant partnership.

“The Citadel Studio Cafe, seasonal events, and birthday parties bring in some revenue to help offset our operational costs but not enough to cover a salary for the executive director,” said Cannon. “We have been unable to find anyone able and willing to serve as the volunteer director, and as a board we have come to the conclusion that Wintergreen needs to have a paid executive director position for our long-term stability and growth.”

Cannon has “enjoyed every minute” of working at the Wintergreen Arts Center.

“I wouldn’t change a thing,” she said. “My family’s enjoyed it, we were able to meet a lot of people, and share the arts with people of all ages. It’s been fun.”

The Wintergreen Arts Center is located at 149 State St. in Presque Isle.