First look at CMCA on Winter Street
Rockland — The one-time Fireproof Garage Co. building at 21 Winter St. was filled with people including the mayor of Rockland, local gallery owners, artist and other community members Oct. 22 as the Center for Maine Contemporary Art held its first event at the eventual site of its new home.
The gathering, complete with wine, hors d’oeuvres and live jazz, was the culmination of two years work by the CMCA Board of Trustees — and the beginning of new journey for the 61-year-old arts organization, according to director and curator Suzette McAvoy.
She was introduced by Charlotte Dixon, co-chairman of the Building Committee, in the presentation portion of the event, which was opened by artist Eric Hopkins, who had used the reception space as a studio and gallery in recent years.
“Hundreds of thousands of people have visited this building in the last seven years. We’ve got the Farnsworth across the street and the Strand around the corner. This is the center of the universe,” he said, giving Bob Liberty, current owner of the property, kudos for seeing the site’s possibilities.
The celebration was supposed to be presided over by Marilyn Moss Rockefeller, chairwoman of the CMCA Board of Trustees, but an unfortunate dog-walking fall forced her to bow out. McAvoy began her remarks with the historical perspective, reminding attendees that the arts center, originally Maine Coast Artists, was founded in 1952, making it the longest-running organization dedicated to contemporary art in the state.
CMCA — which took its current name in 2000 — is committed to exploring the idea of “what art is and can be, what materials it can be made from and what form it can take,” McAvoy said. Maine is remarkable for fostering a new generation of young artists, and CMCA created the ArtLab in response to the surge. The nonprofit’s current location, a 19th-century livery stable that later served as the Rockport firehouse, has become a constraint to 21st-century art that can take the form of large-scale sculptures, video works and installations.
“We need a new home,” said McAvoy.
A study conducted in April by Shrum Associates projects that CMCA’s move to Rockland will increase yearly attendance from 9,000 to 35,000, resulting in a marked revenue increase.
“And every dollar spent on art results in two dollars to the local economy,” said McAvoy.
She said that what CMCA is planning is a landmark building for the city, designed by award-winning international architect Toshiko Mori, who did the museum shop and Crosman Gallery addition to the Farnsworth Art Museum. There will be 5,000 square feet of flexible exhibition space, not a huge increase but all on one level; a gift shop; the ArtLab; and a lecture hall inside, as well as a courtyard outside. North-facing skylights should bring in natural daylight and provide much of the gallery’s lighting.
“One of the biggest expenses in any gallery situation is the lighting,” McAvoy said, adding the proposed building will be very energy efficient with an open steel construction, metal cladding on the outside and passive solar panels on the south-facing side.
“We want to keep the industrial feel,” she said.
There will be no archival storage, as CMCA is not a collecting institution, but there will be prep and temporary storage space. Mori has a personal connection to the project in that her husband went to the Rhode Island School of Design with Hopkins.
“We are so fortunate to be working with her,” said McAvoy.
A $4-million capital campaign is well under way. CMCA does not yet own the building, but hopes to close on it in January. Construction is expected to begin in April — McAvoy said the existing building will be taken down to the slab — with a goal of opening the 2015 season in the new building. McAvoy said the design as revealed this night is not necessarily what the final building will look like.
“This is a concept, a beginning of a journey,” she said.
For more information on CMCA’s planned move to Rockland, visit cmcanow.org/about/vision-statement.
Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A&E editor for Courier Publications, LLC
(207) 594-4401/4407, ext. 115
Dagney has been providing Courier coverage of the local arts scene since 1985 and has helmed the multi-paper A&E section since it debuted in 2003. She has been a local performing artist, community and professional, for almost 30 years and spent a decade writing, producing and announcing on-air for several Midcoast radio stations. When not in the NewsNest, Dagney likes to be in motion.