The Star-Herald

Wintergreen Arts officially opens for classes at Aroostook Centre Mall

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The Wintergreen Arts Center officially reopened its doors at the Aroostook Centre Mall this past week, welcoming back preschool students for a new school year.

On Wednesday, Sept. 9, Wintergreen and mall staff members and staff from the Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting in conjunction with the first preschool class.

The 5,309-square-foot space, located in the former Rent-A-Center store, includes a 3,000-square-foot “main area” for classes, gallery showings and children’s toys, an art studio and a technology room, all sponsored by community members and local businesses.

Wintergreen announced in August that it was in the process of moving from its former State Street location in order to offer more space for classes. Executive Director Dottie Hutchins noted that the arrangement will be especially beneficial for the after-school arts classes held during six-week sessions.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — September 9, 2020 — Wintergreen preschool students Haven Rae Smith (front, left), Madeline Swanberg, NIcholas Hopkins, Andi Kelley and Owen Nadeau color pictures during the first day of school. (Melissa Lizotte | The Star Herald)

“We’ve never been able to have visual arts and digital arts happening at the same time,” Hutchins said. “But now we have the space to spread everybody out.”

The extra space will prove helpful during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. For now Wintergreen will use its new MMG Insurance Technology Room to store student laptops and supplies and teach classes in both the main room and Creative Space Studio. All students, except preschool students under the age of five, are required to wear face masks.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — September 9, 2020 — Wintergreen preschool students Reed Shaw, left, Finn Beltran, middle, and William White color pictures during the first day of school.  (Melissa Lizotte | The Star Herald)

Currently after-school classes in visual and digital arts are expected to begin Sept. 21 and end on Oct. 29. But with SAD 1 unable to transport students to after-school activities, Wintergreen will be in contact with parents to discuss whether transportation will be a major obstacle. Classes will have a limit of 16 students each.

Though there have been discussions regarding a class for homeschoolers, Hutchins said that the status of that class will depend on whether transportation becomes a major issue for after-school arts. They are also limiting the number of activities going on at a time due to pandemic precautions.

“We’re focusing on one program at a time,” Hutchins said.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — September 9, 2020 — Wintergreen preschool students, from left, Adam Hunter, Finn Beltran, Nicholas Hopkins, Andi Kelley, William White, Owen Nadeau and Charlotte Stanley help cut the ribbon on the first day of classes at Wintergreen’s new Aroostook Centre Mall location. (Melissa Lizotte | The Star Herald)

This week marks the first time that preschool children have been at Wintergreen since the pandemic began in March. Families have enjoyed the new space so far, Hutchins said, and are excited to see how Wintergreen grows as a result.

“Many people are sentimental about our State Street building, but we’ve received nothing but positive comments since we started this process,” Hutchins said. “They like the extra space and the greater access to parking.”

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