Developing a Community Center
REM is exploring the possibility of community development of a regional community center as a stand-alone building or as the expansion of an existing organization. There is NO intent for REM to be the sole developer of such a project but we would be willing to help create a powerful regional collaborative partnership involving all 72 REM Partner organizations, private individuals and regional businesses. The intent of this survey is to find out if there is an interest in developing a regional community center and to gather ideas from the public about what they would like to see there (both presently existing projects or events or those which could exist if we had a space to accommodate them.)
REM’s Work to Provide Public Spaces at The Center:
REM convenes community for all of the work you see here and much more that you don’t. We have spent our first 21 years at The Center in downtown Waterville. We rented spaces there and made them available for community use at prices everyone could afford. Over time, community use has increased. Presently it is not unusual for three different events to happen in a weekend. Those who brought their events there had to deal with inadequate heating, lighting, and a floor that is falling apart.
When REM explored the possibility of renovating REM Forum and Lounge to create a more useful and comfortable space the fact that REM did not own the building discouraged community investment in REM’s renovation plans. In addition, REM was concerned that even renovated the facility would not meet the needs of many of the needs arising such as more room for larger events and the ever increasing parking problems. Many of the people we serve are older. This will only be increasing over the next decade.
For years our Dream Catcher, Faye Nicholson, has been urging WRACC, the managing Board of The Center of which she is a member, to bring the arts to the Waterville Regional Arts and Community Center. Most of the people then on that Board were leaders of very large organizations and had time to meet to discuss The Center three or four times a year with the in-between time meeting the demands of their organizations.
When Bro Adams, then President of WRACC and Colby College, decided to retire from Colby he enlisted the help of the Unity Foundation to explore the possibility of creating a coalition of local arts organizations. Bro, who is now the Chair of the Arts and Humanities division for the United State of America left an arts legacy to Waterville as well. Waterville Creates! is the name of the coalition and it is the new d/b/a of WRACC. Faye is the only remaining member of the WRACC Board on the new WC! Board.
Faye relates the change: “Waterville Creates! has a powerful new President, Larry Sterrs. Larry is also President of the Unity Foundation which brought together the collaborative arts partnership. The new board is made up of the leaders of the arts coalition plus leaders of community with experience establishing strong organizations. The Board has hired a talented team of arts managers which daily create an active and strong presence in The Center developing good management of the building while at the same time building the arts coalition programs. It is obvious to me that what The Center has needed all along is here. The work that REM has done to sustain the building and bring community to the building has paid off. The building is a perfect place for the arts. It is not now and never was perfect for community. It’s now time for REM to find an existing space that is or build a new space that will be…perfect.”
REM Plan…Develop a planning process that involves the entire regional community.
REM is working carefully with Waterville Creates! to transfer its spaces into WC! spaces. This needs to be done carefully so as to maximize the success of the transition to an arts focus for the building. To that end, we have already moved out of REM Lounge, REM Forum and the REM Craft Room. By the end of summer we will be all moved into the basement. Waterville Creates! will continue to welcome the public to their arts spaces for events that will work in an arts environment. The schedule of pricing associated with use of the space will be different. REM is referring all calls received to rent the space to WC! Those interested in renting space may call Marie Sugden, Office Manager, at 616-0292, ext. 2.
REM has chosen to move the REM office and all activities to the space in The Center formerly occupied by Women’s Initiative as they work to develop their new space on the West River Road. The community has been most gracious to offer us alternative spaces and we deeply appreciate those offers and that concern. In the 21 years REM has worked to build community the community has built REM in return. Furniture, art and craft supplies, decorations to celebrate the seasons together, office equipment and supplies, and even dream catchers on Faye’s wall. All are cherished gifts. It would be most difficult for REM to move all of these things. We choose to move them once…into the new space which we hope will be REM’s little corner of the world for a very long time. This may be a move into a space which already exists. If the community chooses to establish a community center, REM would be interested in establishing a home there.
REM’s goal is to involve the entire regional community in this process. REM will be asking the REM Partners to distribute a survey asking people what they would like to see happening at the community center. REM has already begun to “dream catch” with people and has developed a survey to include all of the ideas presented so far.
REM will keep adding all of the new ideas to the survey providing an opportunity for people to gather to develop the individual initiatives. For example, one person’s idea was to have a Senior College at the new community center. Others have agreed that this is something they want for our community. REM will convene this group and help them develop the initiative. For REM, the purpose of establishing a center is to house in one place community initiatives that improve the quality of life for our people. Our intent is to make this process as open to community as is humanly possible. REM believes our people represent a very rich diversity of experiences, knowledge and creativity and that involving everyone will bring that richness to our community center.
For the sustainability of the newly created center there is nothing to beat the power of the protection of those who have invested in it.
If interested in creating a regional community center, click this link.