Students and faculty arrived at Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield this year to find the new Visual & Performing Arts Education Center in J.R. Cianchette Hall.

The school’s award-winning music, visual arts and drama programs and Bossov Ballet Theatre were all under one roof, thanks to the Founders Campaign to strengthen academics, arts and athletics and boost the school’s endowment.

With about 300 donors having given $5.37 million so far, MCI is in the final stretch of raising $6.5 million. Headmaster Christopher J. Hopkins said Monday that the school is deeply grateful to those who have given to the effort and he is confident the goal will be reached.

“Absolutely we will reach it,” he said, “and we still are in full gear with great momentum and numerous other donors and foundations who we are approaching.”

The Founders Campaign, launched last year as part of the school’s 150th birthday celebration, represents the first comprehensive campaign in MCI’s history, and the $5.37 million raised so far is the largest amount ever contributed to the school.

The campaign included a $500,000 challenge gift from New Jersey residents Tom and Anne Koester, who are friends of MCI, and their gift was matched by donations received through May 4 last year. The campaign also included MCI’s first-ever $1 million pledge given by a person who wishes to remain anonymous.

MCI enrolls 450 students and is the secondary school for Pittsfield, Burnham and Detroit. It counts day students from 12 Maine communities and boarding students from 14 countries.

The Bossov Ballet Theatre, a performing company and international pre-professional ballet school, has instructors who are former and current members of the Moscow Ballet. Natalya Getman is artistic director and teacher, and three visiting teachers arrive for the summer program.

Hopkins said 70 percent of MCI students are involved in the arts.

J.R. Cianchette Hall was a 59-room science and math classroom building. A lot of thought and planning went into the use and redevelopment of the first floor, according to Alicia J. Nichols, campaign manager for the Founders Campaign. She said the space was reconfigured so it houses the music program, with a large vocal and instrumental center, choral and piano center, digital media lab, a recording room, practice room, chorus library/office and director’s office. The Bossov Ballet can use the large space as a fourth dance studio to accommodate its growing and intensive summer program.

The second floor is now fully dedicated to the fine arts, with theater and ballet programs, studios and classrooms. The entire building is now climate controlled, Nichols said.

“We’ve had alumni come back for two events in the building,” said Nichols, who also is senior adviser at MCI and interim dean of advancement. “Their eyes just open wide, and they say this is like a college campus. We’re very, very proud of the space and what’s going to happen there.”

Construction and renovations started at the hall in mid-December 2016 and were completed at the end of August this year, Hopkins said.

“It is fabulous,” he said of the center, “and certainly our goal throughout the campaign is not necessarily to build new buildings but carefully analyze use of each of our existing buildings and re-purpose as necessary.”

MCI officials plan to renovate Founders Hall, the original campus building built in 1869. A new corridor will be developed that runs north to south in the building and new restrooms will be built, a new elevator installed and architecturally significant details including the antique tin ceiling, floors and stairwells will be refreshed. The first floor will be renovated to house headmaster and academic and business offices.

MCI’s athletic fields were enhanced in 2015 with campaign funds, with $700,000 used to create three new multipurpose fields and renovate existing fields. The work allows all outdoor field sports teams to practice and play on campus for the first time in MCI history, Hopkins said.

The school’s endowment is expected to receive $2 million as part of the fundraising effort, the headmaster said, increasing it to $6.5 million.

“This investment will put MCI on stronger financial footing, safeguard the school’s future and enable it to be more competitive when recruiting teaching staff and students,” he said.

At reunion weekend in early August, contributors to the Founders Campaign were invited to a donor’s reception where Norbert W. Young Jr., president of MCI’s board of trustees and a graduate with the class of 1966, spoke.

Young said in a recent statement that the generosity of donors who contributed early in the campaign verifies that “together, we make MCI stronger. Since reunion weekend last year, alumni and friends have given $1.66 million to this historic, comprehensive capital campaign. The momentum created by Founders Campaign contributors is palpable. We have more to do to reach the goal. The campaign represents the promise the Board of Trustees made to MCI’s future. We look forward to keeping that promise.”

Nichols and her 14-member campaign team are working hard to reach the Founders Campaign goal and she said donors continue to contribute funds.

“We will stop when the campaign is complete – when we reach the $6.5 million,” she said.

Amy Calder can be contacted at 861-9247 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: AmyCalder17

filed under: