PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Downtown Presque Isle is in the midst of a massive revitalization effort. As part of that effort, the downtown committee is working hard to garner grant money to fund projects that will spruce up the facades of buildings, beautify the shopping center and lure new businesses into the area.
In late September, city officials, education leaders and members of the community unveiled a new mural downtown that showcases the city’s educational opportunities.
Now, officials from a local nonprofit organization, which first set up shop in the Aroostook Centre Mall in 2006, announced Monday they would be moving downtown.
The Wintergreen Arts Center works to provide artistic enjoyment and creative fun for children, teens and adults, including offering art classes, performances and popular seasonal events. The facility has been a magnet for children and parents who have flocked to the facility to draw, paint, make gingerbread houses and decorate pumpkins.
Tony Burgess and Glenn Capp recently purchased the building and have offered Wintergreen Arts a 10-year lease agreement. Under the proposal, the WGAC will not have to pay rent for 10 years and the building owners will pay the utilities for the entire term of the lease.
Lara Cannon, president of the WGAC, said the proposal was “an amazing opportunity.”
“We have always wanted to be in the downtown,” Cannon said Monday. “The downtown is growing and we feel the arts center will be a great addition to it and will bring more people downtown.”
The Wintergreen Arts Center operates on a small budget that comes largely from donations, fundraising activities, birthday parties and donated labor.
Burgess said in a written statement that when he and Capp met Cannon, “she was so enthusiastic that it captured our imaginations.”
“When we became fortunate enough to help in some way, we decided that the building on State Street would be the perfect location for them,” he said. “Our building reflects the history of this community, and the arts center is a perfect match. We hope that the Wintergreen Arts Center will continue to grow and thrive in this new environment so that it can bring enjoyment to many in Presque Isle and attract more businesses downtown.”
Cannon said the center would close in December and begin renovating and restoring the State Street building.
In addition to landscaping the grounds on the side of the building to provide a safe passageway from the front of the building to the parking area behind it, volunteers and center officials also will work to renovate two floors of the building. The project has an estimated $50,000 price tag.
“The building needs a lot of work,” Cannon said. “We would like to renovate the first floor so that we can have our children’s programming there. On the second floor, we’d like to offer dance and gymnastics classes and other programs. We’ve always wanted to offer such programming, but we just didn’t have the space at the mall.
“This new location will allow us the ability to offer more programs simultaneously and provide exhibition space for local artists and performances,” she added. “Our future plans also include creating an elegant setting for events, receptions and celebrations.”
Cannon said the facility would be closed during the renovations, and the WGAC hopes to reopen in August. The center will conduct numerous fundraisers to secure money needed to complete the work.
Cannon said that when the center reopens, it will offer a wider range of programs and family-friendly activities in a spacious, sunlit space.
“It is going to be fantastic,” she said.
The first fundraising event for this project will be a magic show presented by Abracadabra Productions from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 15, at Presque Isle Middle School. Tickets are $5 and may be purchased at Wilder’s Jewelers in downtown Presque Isle.
For more information, call Lara Cannon at 551-0936 or visit www.wintergreenarts.org.