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August 10, 2018

USM seeking design teams for 'transformational' arts center on Portland campus

Courtesy / University of Southern Maine
Courtesy / University of Southern Maine
An early conceptual rendering, by Scott Simons Architects, of the new Center for the Arts at USM in Portland.

An anonymous $1 million gift will enable the University of Southern Maine to begin the selection process for an architectural/engineering team to design a new arts center on the Portland campus.

University of Southern Maine President Glenn Cummings announced the $1 million gift in a news release that noted the donor is a long-time friend of the university and a passionate supporter of the arts who made the contribution as a memorial honoring Dr. Alfred Osher.

"This generous gift enables USM to take the next step toward realizing our dream of building a new Center for the Arts at USM in Portland," Cummings said in the release. "The time has come to create a visual and performing arts facility on our Portland campus that showcases the exceptional talents of our students and faculty, and opens the door to wider arts and cultural engagement in Maine and beyond."

1,000-seat concert hall

A key element in the university's master plan for the Portland campus, the Center for the Arts will meet the academic programming needs of USM's School of Music and departments of theater and art. It will feature a 1,000-seat concert hall, recital hall, black box theater and art gallery. A concept plan and cost estimate were developed for the project last year.

The new center is designed to elevate awareness of USM's reputation in music, theater and the visual arts, the release said.

Celebrity alumni include Tony Shalhoub '77, who serves as the honorary chair of the Center for the Arts Leadership Committee. Shalhoub is a three-time Emmy winner and recent Tony Award recipient for his role in the Broadway musical "The Band's Visit." Co-chairing the Leadership Committee are Kate Cheney Chappell '83, Bonnie Porta '80 and Larry Rubinstein.

"This inspirational leadership gift is the catalyst for transformational changes on our Portland campus," said Ainsley Wallace, president and CEO of the USM Foundation.

Gifts boost efforts to modernize Portland campus

The gift follows the substantial donation in June of a private map collection from Dr. Harold Osher with a monetary value of $100 million as well as a new endowment to provide ongoing support for an expanded permanent map collection at USM. The $100 million was the largest in USM's history and the largest ever to the University of Maine System, according to a USM news release at the time. The endowment will be combined with funds currently held by the USM Foundation on behalf of Harold and Peggy Osher to support the new USM-Osher Map Library Foundation.

The gifts are in keeping with USM's master plan, approved by the University of Maine System Board of Trustees in early 2017, to modernize its Portland campus, including initiatives like a new dormitory, a bigger, brighter student center, and a green hub of activity surrounded by modern buildings.

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