WATERVILLE — Among the things David Greene likes the most about the news art collaborative building in downtown Waterville are its street-facing garage doors that roll up and invite the community in and encourage artists to mingle.

“The idea is to fling the doors open and tell people, ‘This is available to you. Please come in,’ ” said Greene, the Colby president. “That is essential to what Waterville and Colby are trying to create together, a sense of community and welcomeness and where the arts are at the central pillar.”

One of the things that makes him blush just a bit is that the building at 18 Main St. now bears the names of him and his wife. Principal funders Peter and Paula Lunder insisted the project be named in the honor of Carolyn and David Greene to reflect their efforts to use the arts to help spur Waterville’s resurgence.

“I am so humbled and frightened by it, to be honest with you,” Greene said in a phone call. “But I am incredibly gratified. I don’t know where to begin. When Peter and Paula said they wanted to do this project and one of the conditions was they wanted to name it for me, I said, ‘No, that’s ridiculous,’ but they said they were insistent on it.”

A corridor in the second floor, where artists studios are located, overlooks the first floor of Colby College’s new Greene Block + Studios. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

The nearly 25,000-square-foot, four-story building, dedicated Tuesday, will serve as a place for visual arts, music, and performance and as a collaborative incubator for artist fellows, who have large, light-filled studios on the second and the third floors. The top floor is home to the Lunder Institute for American Art, which operates the artist-fellows program and is affiliated with the Colby museum.

In addition to the $6.5 million Greene Block + Studios project, Colby is investing $18 million in the Paul J. Schupf Art Center just a few blocks away on Main Street, adjacent to the Waterville Opera House, and the college recently broke ground on the estimated $85 million, 74,000-square foot Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts on campus — three ambitious art projects all begun since the pandemic with a cumulative price tag of nearly $110 million.

The Greene Block + Studios are up and running. The Schupf Center, which will include the Maine Film Center and is a partnership between Colby and Waterville Creates, is scheduled to open next fall, and the Gordon Arts Center, named for college trustee Michael Gordon and dedicated to music, theater, dance and film, should open on campus in fall 2023.

Colby Museum Director Jacqueline Terrassa said the Greene Block building “is one of the key pieces of the arts ecology not only of the college, but of Waterville and how Colby is connecting to the community and downtown. David’s vision for this building was always as a place for creativity and a place for community.”

A public events space on the first floor of the Greene Block + Studios in Waterville. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

The new space joins together two existing buildings, so the ground floor is divided into two spaces. In one, Rockland artist Kim Bernard has covered one wall with her installation “Making Waves,” made with plastic that she recycled using portable machines that she designed. Working with community members, kids from the South End Teen Center, Waterville High School and Colby students, she turned the plastic that often ends up in the ocean into a doodle-like flow of circles and loops to resemble ocean waves.

Near Bernard’s installation is a piano ready to be played, and the space is being outfitted with theater-quality sound and lights to accommodate performances, Terrassa said. On the other side of the street level gallery, artist Sam Nester has created “Arcadia,” an interactive sound-and-light installation that is activated by the biorhythms of native Maine plants, which create music and light cues.

Teresa McKinney, Diamond Family Founding Director of the Arts at Colby College, at the college’s new downtown arts collaborative. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Teresa McKinney, whose responsibilities include creating integrated arts experiences between Colby and Waterville, said having artists studios in the downtown building will inspire unplanned interactions and opportunities between the artists and the community. So far, six artist-fellows from a variety of disciplines have had studio residencies: Julia Arredondo, E. Saffronia Downing, Adriane Herman and Veronica Perez, who are there through the end of this year, and Riley Watts and Jose Barrionuevo, who participated previously.

In October, the artist Dread Scott will be in Waterville and give a public lecture at the Greene Block as part of a senior fellowship at Colby that began with the current academic year.

Greene agreed with McKinney that having artists studios in downtown is key to the success of the project. Artists bring energy – and creative energy, along with collaboration, fuel inspiration, he said.

“I hope this becomes a space where artists can do their very best work. Those studios are phenomenal,” he said. “And at the same time, that first floor is basically a blank canvas that is ready to be made into something special. Whether it’s a small dance concert, a poetry reading, a party, a gathering, an art opening, that is truly a space that will always feel like something is happening that is always enriching the community and always welcoming.”

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