Community asked to kick in, kick back

Posted Oct. 05, 2009, at 8:49 p.m.

PITTSFIELD, Maine — Supporting the arts can be hard work, but the Pittsfield Community Theatre and longtime Bangor Daily News reporter Sharon Kiley Mack have hatched a plan that combines philanthropy with finding an exceptional place to rest.

On Friday, 18 Adirondack chairs decorated by local artists will be sold to the highest bidders, with every penny benefiting the theater’s efforts to renovate its building and transform itself into a more integral part of the community.

“There’s a lot of buzz about the potential of the theater,” said Jason Judd, a volunteer who is helping organize the chair auction. “What we’re trying to do is make it the center of the community.”

But that comes with a hefty price tag. To address a host of issues ranging from handicapped accessibility to refurbishing more than 200 seats, the town-owned theater is struggling against a slack economy to raise at least $700,000. With $80,000 banked so far and several grant applications pending, Judd doesn’t seem worried.

“This is not something we can do piecemeal,” said Judd. “We want to have the majority of the money before we start so we can do everything at once.”

Use of the Main Street theater is limited mostly to showing movies, but Judd and others see the potential for live productions and concerts as well as a training and conference facility for local businesses.

The chairs, which are alike in construction but worlds apart in appearance, were on display at Pittsfield-area businesses for most of the summer. They’ll be moved to the First Congregational Church Friday, and from there they’ll go home with the top bidders. The minimum bid is $75.

“It’s a really good deal,” said Judd. “To buy one of those chairs, even without it painted, costs more than $75.”

Mack, who worked as a reporter in the Pittsfield area for 25 years — 22 of them for the Bangor Daily News — said the fundraiser is her way of thanking the community. Mack relocated to the newspaper’s Machias bureau last spring.

“The people of the Greater Pittsfield area certainly made me feel comfortable and continued to welcome me into their lives, their homes and their businesses,” said Mack. “I came up with the idea as a goodbye gift to Pittsfield.”

Mack credited several local businesses, the artists and especially Walpole Woodworkers, which donated most of the chairs or provided them at cost, for making the project a success.

Photos of the chairs, along with statements from the artists, are available for viewing at the Pittsfield Town Office. Silent bids are being accepted at the town office all this week. The auction begins at 6 p.m. Friday at the First Congregational Church at 132 Somerset Ave. Bidding will close at 7:30 p.m., when the winners will be announced.

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