Waterville Creates

Category: Youth & Community Development
Year of Last Grant Award:2023

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 Waterville Creates, “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 Maine Film Center, Waterville Opera House, and Common Street Arts (now known as Ticonic Gallery + Studios), enabling the coordinated leadership of arts and cultural institutions in the city and spurring numerous operational, programmatic, and financial synergies and accomplishments.

Today, Waterville Creates presents a variety of year-round arts and cultural programs across three divisions:

  • Maine Film Center (MFC) hosts daily screenings of first-run arthouse films and also presents the annual Maine International Film Festival, a ten-day event in July that exhibits approximately 100 independent, international, and Maine-made films and features visiting filmmakers from across the country and the world.
  • Waterville Opera House (WOH) presents four community theatre productions annually. WOH also produces 14-20 live concerts and comedians per year and hosts 10-12 community event rentals, including local dance recitals and the Bossov Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker. WOH also hosts two-three weeks of theatre camp and four touring theatre productions for schools each year.
  • Ticonic Gallery + Studios (TGS) presents six-eight exhibitions per year, featuring a range of local, emerging, and established artists. TGS operates a vibrant clay studio that offers regular pottery classes and an open studio membership and an active education program that presents a wide range of classes and workshops for youth and adults, from one-day artmaking workshops in specialized media to the weekly After School Art Club and week-long artist and maker camps during summer and school vacation weeks.

In addition to the division-specific programming listed above, WC’s Education + Outreach staff coordinate numerous collaborative programs and events throughout the year to ensure access to the arts for audiences of all ages, including:

  • SLICE (Students Learning Innovative Creative Endeavors), a program for teens that centers career paths in the arts;
  • Art Kits for All, a program that distributes free art supplies and activities to area families; and
  • Joy to the Ville and Arts in Bloom, events in December and May that offer free, seasonally-themed arts and cultural activities for families.

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.

In December 2022, Waterville celebrated the opening of the new Paul. J. Schupf Arts Center on Main Street. The 32,000-square-foot art center now serves as the home of Waterville Creates and its year-round film, visual, and performing arts programming. In acknowledgement of Waterville Creates’ contributions to the city, the Foundation awarded Waterville Creates a $3.2 million grant in 2022 to fund its ongoing programming and operations. This grant also supports a marketing campaign tied to the Schupf Center’s opening, including blockbuster events designed to bring new audiences to Waterville.