The Harold Alfond Foundation helped found and continues to support Waterville Creates!, a collaborative consortium of multiple community arts, creative, and cultural institutions active in Waterville’s revitalization. Along with grants to Colby College and Thomas College, those to Waterville Creates! represent a key component of the Foundation’s strategy to help revitalize Waterville’s downtown.
According to WC!, “With generous support from the Harold Alfond Foundation, Waterville Creates! (WC!) was established in 2014 under the nonprofit Waterville Regional Arts and Community Center (WRACC) to unify and strengthen Waterville’s arts and cultural resources through collaborative programming, enhanced and strategic marketing, and—where possible—consolidation of operations and systems. Since its formation, Waterville Creates! has transformed WRACC into a high-profile organization with an active and engaged board, a talented staff, and a program of work that has firmly established WC! as the coordinating entity for arts and culture in Waterville.
In 2018, WC! merged with the Waterville Opera House and Maine Film Center, enabling the coordinated leadership of arts and cultural institutions in the City and spurring numerous operational, programmatic, and financial synergies and accomplishments, including the following (as provided by WC!):
- WC! has raised the profile of Waterville with national funders, receiving, in 2018, the largest National Endowment for the Arts grant (a $75,000 Our Town award) and being selected by the Kresge Foundation, in 2018, as one of three communities nationally to participate in the prestigious EmcArts’ Arts in Complex Community Change workshops.
- WC! oversaw the development of a cultural plan for the Waterville community, the ‘Waterville Cultural Blueprint,’ which was presented to and endorsed by the City Council in May of 2017.
- WC! has collaborated with Colby College to develop a design concept for the Paul J. Schupf Art Center. This vibrant center for the arts, to be located at 93 Main Street, will house Railroad Square Cinema, Common Street Arts (CSA), a new contemporary gallery of the Colby College Museum of Art, rehearsal space for the Waterville Opera House, a shared box office for the Maine Film Center (MFC) and the Waterville Opera House (WOH), and shared office space for the creative team.
- WC! has worked with fundraising consultants to develop a comprehensive development plan that includes a 3-year plan for building the annual funds of MFC, WOH, WC!, and the Waterville Public Library, a grant application calendar for programmatic and operating support of WC! and its partners, and a capital campaign plan for WC!’s $2 million commitment to the Paul J. Schupf Art Center.
- In September of 2017, WC! launched a new website with a user-friendly, comprehensive arts & cultural community event calendar resulting in a 366% increase in website visits over the previous year; 78% of those visitors are new visitors to the site.
- WC! has managed marketing for WOH on a fee for service basis for two years. During that time, annual attendance has increased by 35%.
- WC! assumed the operations of Common Street Arts, formerly a stand-alone 501(c)3, in 2015 and hired a full-time education and outreach coordinator in the fall of 2017. Attendance at CSA has increased over 250% from 2015 to 2017. As of May 2018, educational program participation for 2018 has surpassed the total for all of 2017.
- WC! has worked with various arts partners to develop and promote numerous free, accessible, high-quality community arts events, including Waterville Rocks!, Joy to the Ville, and Art in the Park.
In 2020, the Foundation announced continued grant support of the Waterville Creates! mission, with a $6 million challenge grant to support the construction of the Paul J. Schupf Art Center, in partnership with Colby College. This effort, along with those of Colby in Waterville more generally, is designed to help attract students and families to an economically vibrant Central Maine.