ROCKLAND, Maine — “It could’ve moved anywhere,” Suzette McAvoy said, standing before Rockland’s gleaming, newly constructed Center for Maine Contemporary Art.
The June 26 opening of the new facility returns McAvoy, the center’s executive director, to familiar turf. The former chief curator at the Farnsworth Art Museum, located a two-minute walk away, charted the course that kept CMCA in Penobscot Bay.
“We wanted to stay in the midcoast and create that energy here so that there was more balance in the state,” she said.
Brunswick and Bangor were possibilities for the reimagined center, founded in Rockport in 1952, that showcases artists working in Maine today. But for a number of reasons, Rockland won out.
“It was conscious on our part. We wanted to stay in the midcoast. We are the Center for Maine Contemporary Art,” she said. “But our roots are here in the midcoast.”
The museum, built for $3.8 million from the ground up, is designed to “reflect the change in contemporary art,” McAvoy said.
From the public courtyard, designed by the project’s architect Toshiko Mori to feel like an embrace, a great deal of art will be on view.
“We are going to be showing work that is very new to Maine audiences and outside of Maine. We will be able to feature artists in a way that has not been done,” McAvoy said.
The 16-foot high main gallery has the proportions to handle installation work from large-scale sculptors, such as Jonathan Borofsky of Ogunquit. He told McAvoy, “there has not been a venue to show the kind of work that I do” in Maine until now. That was just what she wanted to hear.
“It think it’s really important that CMCA always keeps its mission of supporting artists with a tie to Maine,” McAvoy said. “Many people have asked me, ‘Are you going to broaden your mission?’”
She is firm on that one.
“When people come to Maine, they want to see something that is about Maine,” McAvoy said, but not necessarily framed lighthouses and seagulls. “It shows that Maine is much more diverse than what the typical tourist might see. The center shows authentic art of this place.”
And when the new and improved CMCA ushers in a new chapter for Maine art, “it will be inspiring for the artists that are here as well. It’s here to serve all of us.”