Business center wants to engage Presque Isle community through art

11 months ago

When Ignite Presque Isle CEO LeRae Kinney envisioned turning part of the Northeastland Hotel into a community space, she had no idea what shape that would take.

Then she realized she couldn’t stand the plain walls in the lobby anymore. Several months and much hard work later, the hotel will debut its art and creative space on Friday.

Non-profit Ignite PI runs the hotel, a restaurant and a co-working space at the building, which has been part of Presque Isle’s landscape for more than 90 years. It’s a project the city has supported as part of its goal to revitalize the downtown, draw businesses there and make it a community hub.

Businesses have flowed into the area, and an ongoing project with the Maine Department of Transportation will redesign the downtown to make it more of a community center. A space to showcase local art and music will make the Northeastland a place where travelers, shoppers and residents can congregate, Kinney said.

“It gives Ignite PI a role and a purpose in the community,” she said. “The lobby will be a destination, not just a pass-through place.”

Cass Mapley, reception agent, and Bob Lavoie, assistant hotel manager, work at the Northeastland Hotel desk. In the background is a painting that is part of the hotel lobby’s new cultural space. (Paula Brewer | The Star-Herald)

Kinney began her role as CEO on Nov. 7, 2022, after the departure of predecessor Clint Deschene. Amid ongoing renovation, the hotel lobby opened the next week, and restaurant Rodney’s at 436 Main the week after. The Innovation Center business space opened in January. The months have flown, she said. 

This spring, Kinney wanted the Ignite PI space to be part of Presque Isle’s First Friday Art Walks. 

She reached out to gallery people, like Sonja Eyler at the Mark & Emily Turner Memorial Library and Shelby Pelletier of The Common Gallery. She learned not just about art and local creators, but the details like how to display pieces. 

The maintenance team worked with Kinney to design a track hanging system for artwork. She and the Ignite PI board came up with a concrete plan to feature not only visual art, but live music, art-themed restaurant items and more. 

Filomena Irving of Washburn will be the space’s first featured artist. Kinney chose Irving because she is familiar to many in the area, and her floral paintings are timely for summer.

A Toronto native and former teacher in Washburn, Irving is well known locally and has exhibited her work throughout Maine.

Ignite Presque Isle CEO LeRae Kinney finishes hanging a painting in the Northeastland Hotel’s newest addition: a gallery space in the lobby. (Paula Brewer | The Star-Herald)

The cultural space fits in well with Ignite PI’s desire to be a community anchor — a place everyone can come and find something to do or see, Kinney said.

Ignite PI’s goal is to be part of every First Friday Art Walk, she said. Art will rotate every few weeks.

“Everything about this entire project has been done with purpose and intent,” she said. “This will be an all-around win for the community, artists and the hotel traffic.”