FORT KENT, Maine — A group working toward establishing a performing arts center in town is one step closer to its goal with the conveyance of a piece of land by the local school board.
“We have the talent and the people with the drive here,” Carolyn Bouchard, chairwoman of the Northern Aroostook Center for the Arts council, said. “It can be a reality, but it needs a home.”
A viable performing arts center coupled with a strong core of area performers and artists could make Fort Kent a destination for the arts much the way the 10th Mountain Ski Lodge has made it a destination for biathlon.
“The council’s end goal is a physical building,” Bouchard said. “But we also feel it is important to have a name recognition as an entity and as a promoter of artists in the community.”
In addition the center would serve as a ticket outlet for performances throughout Aroostook County.
In conveying the parcel to the arts council, the SAD 27 board of directors placed a five-year timeline on the project
The council must have all permitting, zoning and architectural plans in place by 2014 or the land reverts back to the district.
The parcel in question is located behind the high school and would take up a yet to be determined space on what is now a parking lot adjacent to Armory Street and the school’s track field.
“The size of the parcel will depend on the building’s actual footprint,” Bouchard said.
Preliminary plans call for a 25,000-foot, two-story structure with seating for 500, a fly-loft for painted scenes, dressing rooms, storage and a lobby with space for artist exhibitions.
Now that the council has the needed land, Bouchard said, efforts have turned to grant writing to secure funding.
“We are packaging ourselves as a clearinghouse for artists and events in northern Aroostook,” she said. “We are in the process of compiling a list of those artists and performers.”
The group is also developing a Web site to include a calendar of events and information on area artists and performers and is working with representatives from SAD 27, the University of Maine at Fort Kent and the community.
A local arts center not only will enhance performance opportunities at the high school and university, Bouchard said, it also will allow Fort Kent to host large events requiring space and equipment not currently available in the area.
With the northern Maine area co-hosting the 2014 World Acadian Congress, a performing arts center could also target some of the smaller-scale activities of that event.