ROCKLAND, Maine — When Edna St. Vincent Millay’s birth home was bought for preservation early last year, it was nearly condemned. Now, with a new nonprofit at the helm and renovations expected to be finished by the fall, the 19th-century duplex is slated to become home to a second branch of the Telling Room.
The Telling Room, a Portland-based nonprofit organization founded about a decade ago by a group of writers, exists to teach a range of students how to find their literary voices and harness confidence as storytellers in a variety of mediums. The nonprofit offers day summer camps, afterschool programs, in-school lessons from artists, field trips and residency and fellowship programs. Students also have the opportunity to be published in the organization’s annual anthology of student work.
The two-story home near the corner of Broadway and Limerock is now owned by the literary nonprofit group, Millay House Rockland, who acquired the house from the Rockland Historical Society earlier this year.
Beyond just preserving the 1891 home as a structure, board member Lisa Westkaemper said she and others wanted its purpose to align with the legacy left behind by Millay, a renowned 20th-century poet who spent much of her life in Maine.
That’s why Westkaemper said members of her group are “thrilled” that, after renovations, the nonprofit will be part of a literary collaborative with the Telling Room, the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, and the University of Maine Humanities Center.
“It’s one of the things I’m looking forward to the most,” Westkaemper said.
RSU 13 Oceanside High School Principal Jennifer Curtis said in an email Friday that her school welcomes the future collaboration with the Telling Room.
“The growth of Rockland’s artistic community has provided unique, meaningful and inspiring opportunities for our students, and with the Telling Room’s newest location at the Millay house, this further underscores the power of our school’s community resources,” Curtis said.
The burgeoning partnership “will allow our young writers to work alongside renowned artists, teachers and acclaimed writers, strengthening their individual needs as writers,” she said.
In addition to bringing in the Telling Room, which will start by occupying office space and eventually offer room for students to gather, the Millay group hopes to host one or two writers-in-residence who will live in the north side of the house, where Millay slept as an infant.
The Telling Room will start out in the area with a handful of program offerings on North Haven and Vinalhaven in the fall, and RSU 13 in the winter, Nick Schuller, program director, said Wednesday.
New Telling Room Executive Director Celine Kuhn said the organization’s board has been thinking about expanding to the midcoast for the better part of a decade. To be able to partner with the an already anchored nonprofit like Millay House Rockland is “serendipitous,” Kuhn said Thursday.
Schuller said it is imperative that the Telling Room’s expansion will not only have student involvement, but support from the community as well. Rockland’s robust community of artists and writers will help provide that support, he said.
“It does make sense to go to a place that has enough of a population to sustain our work and to have people excited about what we do,” he said. “Rockland is definitely that.”