The Monson Community Center was one of the buildings that the Libra Foundation purchased in Monson The Libra Foundation has purchased a farm and close to 12 buildings for $500K. Credit: Ashley L. Conti

The town of Monson was among nine municipalities and community organizations in Maine to receive a grant from the Maine Community Foundation to enhance its broadband internet connectivity.

Monson, with a population of 654, received a $7,000 grant from the foundation’s Broadband Initiative to equip its downtown area with free public Wi-Fi.

“As Monson continues to see growth and revitalization, having something like downtown Wi-Fi will set us apart and make us more of a destination than a rest stop or pass-through town,” Town Manager Daniel Swain said.

In 2016, the Libra Foundation purchased Monson’s former elementary school, as well as 12 other buildings in its downtown, with an aim of revitalizing the area and creating Monson Arts, an artist’s colony that would operate in the warmer months. Stuart Kestenbaum, former director of the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, has designed the Monson Arts program, which had a pilot season in 2018 and its first full season this year.

Monson Arts has already attracted artists, writers, filmmakers and other creatives from across the country, who each spend a month living and working in those recently purchased properties. Its third season will start in April 2020.

In a 2018 interview with the Piscataquis Observer, Kestenbaum said Monson Arts wanted to be vital not just for visiting artists, but for the Monson community as well.

“We want this program to not only be for people from around the country and abroad but for local people too,” Kestenbaum said.

Other towns and cities in Maine with free public Wi-Fi include Waterville and Biddeford.

Grants for the Maine Community Foundation Broadband Initiative were also awarded to 3 Bridged Islands Broadband Company in Georgetown, Arrowsic and Southport; the Bucksport Regional Health Center; the city of Portland; the Intercultural Community Center in Westbrook; the Island Commons Resource Center on Chebeague Island; the Monhegan Island Sustainable Community Association; Our Katahdin in Millinocket; and the West Kennebec Lakes Community Broadband Association in rural Kennebec County.

Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.