November 11, 2013

CMCA inches closer to Rockland move

Art center has raised about half of its $4M goal

By Bob Keyes
Staff Writer

An architectural sketch of the proposed new Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockland features a reflective metal and glass exterior shell, a tree-lined courtyard and more than 5,000 square feet of exhibition space on a single floor.

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The Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockport will be moving to Winter Street in downtown Rockland.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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The Farnsworth Art Museum on Main Street in Rockland has already established the midcoast city as a magnet for the arts.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

As proposed, the center would be constructed at 21 Winter St., just off Rockland’s Main Street, enhancing the city’s reputation as a midcoast magnet for arts and culture.

Suzette McAvoy, CMCA’s director, said she hopes to formally present plans for the new building to Rockland officials as soon as December.

The arts center opened in Rockport in 1952, and is Maine’s leading gallery for contemporary art. In May, McAvoy and board president Marilyn Moss Rockefeller of Camden announced plans for a $4 million capital campaign to relocate seven miles south to Rockland in 2015. At the time, it intended to purchase and renovate an existing building at 21 Winter St., but McAvoy said CMCA now intends to take down that building, which is home to several art galleries, and erect a new structure.

“The advice that we are getting is that it would be more cost-efficient and more time-efficient to take down what is there and build on slab using the foundation that is already there,” she said.

Arts leaders, Main Street boosters and town officials said they welcome CMCA’s proposed move to Rockland.

“We’re glad to have them as neighbors,” said Christopher Brownawell, executive director of the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, which is just a block from CMCA’s proposed new home. “I’m very positive and supportive of this. CMCA does a great job, and it will concentrate the arts activity in Rockland. We’ve been gravitating toward that for some time, with all the commercial galleries and restaurants that we have in town already. Rockland is the center of the cultural community, and this enhances that reputation.”

Lorain Francis, director of Rockland Main Street, said CMCA’s move represents the latest significant arts development in the coastal city in the last decade.

With the Farnsworth as anchor, the city’s arts scene has benefited from the renovation and revitalization of the Strand Theatre and the evolution of the Island Institute as an exhibition space.

Many art galleries and restaurants have opened downtown, creating economic diversity and cultural vitality that appeal to both residents and visitors, she said.

CMCA will add to the vitality and make Rockland more appealing, she said.

“I think what’s noteworthy is that we are (a) four-season arts community. This is not something that we are talking about as a summer activity for tourists. We do not roll up our sidewalks as a seasonal community, and that is important to Main Street merchants,” Francis said. “If your downtown is vibrant, your whole community is healthy.”

McAvoy said CMCA is about halfway to its $4 million fundraising goal, which will pay for the purchase of the existing building on Winter Street, the construction of a new building, architectural fees, legal fees and related costs.

The purchase price is $700,000 and the construction cost is estimated at $2.5 million, she said.

CMCA will launch the public phase of the fundraising campaign early in 2014, she said.

CMCA hired New York-based architect Toshiko Mori to design the new building. She has an international reputation, and is familiar with Maine. She and her husband, the artist James Carpenter, own a house in the area, and she helped design the interior spaces of the Farnsworth. McAvoy worked previously at the Farnsworth, and consulted with Mori on that project.

McAvoy said Mori is working on final plans for the building, which she hopes to present to Rockland officials soon. The planning board meets the first Tuesday of each month, said Rockland’s codes enforcement officer, John Root. As of Wednesday, Root had not received an application from CMCA. Until that happens, he said he could not comment on the art center’s plans.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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The Center for Maine Contemporary Art has released an artist’s rendering of its proposed facility on Winter Street in Rockland.


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