HOULTON, Maine — School is out but fundraising for an arts center in the community continues, and some renovation work connected to the project already has begun.
“Fundraising is going well,” Joe Fagnant, president of the Houlton Community Arts Center Council, said Thursday. “Construction crew already have begun renovating the auditorium and the seats have been taken out. Construction and renovations to the entry area also have begun, and new lights and ventilation are being in-stalled.”
In 2005, officials with the district’s music department debuted a proposal for a fine arts wing at the high school. Since then, school officials and community members have worked diligently to secure the $5 million needed to expand and renovate the school to create the arts center.
The 13,000-square-foot arts center will have its own entrance with a marquee above to welcome visitors. The existing 552-seat auditorium will be renovated and expanded to seat 600 people. The facility will feature more storage space, improved acoustics and separate band, chorus, theater and dance space, so rehearsals and activities for several groups can be conducted simultaneously.
The council is working to raise half of the $5 million needed to create the arts center. The arts council is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a nonprofit, charitable organization.
The other half of the arts center money will come from a $5 million bond proposal voters approved in SAD 29 in the fall of 2007. The remaining $2.5 million from the bond will pay for renovations at the high school.
Taxes in the district will not increase as a result of the bond being passed. Funds allocated for annual renovations at the high school will pay the annual interest and principal on the bond.
The council has raised more than $800,000 of the necessary $2.5 million in private funding thus far, according to the president.
Fagnant said that construction crews are aiming to finish work in the auditorium by November, which is when the school puts on its fall musical. Just recently, the council hired two grant writers to secure as much public and private funding as possible.
“We have raised about $800,000 so far,” Fagnant said Thursday. “We have put some of that money toward architectural costs, and we also have invested in grant writers. We also have sent out a promotional DVD to our alumni and others to let them know what we are doing.”
With the end of the first phase of the project in sight, phase two is on the horizon, including the formation of a new band room, separate chorus room, new offices and new practice rooms.
The council is conducting a “Buy A Seat” campaign. Donors may purchase seats in the auditorium to replace the ones that have been ripped out. Donors may bestow $300 for one seat, $275 each for two, and $250 each for three or more.
“Things are going well so far,” Fagnant said. “People have been very generous and we know it will continue.”