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November 26, 2018

Children's Museum & Theatre of Maine receives Bank of America's 'largest ever' Maine grant

Courtesy / Bruner/Cott & Associates
Courtesy / Bruner/Cott & Associates
A rendering of the new Children's Museum & Theatre of Maine building planned for Thompson's Point. The Portland-based nonprofit announced today it has received a $250,000 grant from Bank of America Foundation in the quiet phase of its capital campaign to build the new 30,000-square-foot facility on Thompson's Point in Portland.

The Children's Museum & Theatre of Maine in Portland received a $250,000 grant from Bank of America Foundation for the planned construction of a new 30,000-square-foot facility on Thompson's Point.

It's the largest grant Bank of America has ever awarded in the state of Maine and one of the largest in all of its 43 suburban markets, according to a Children's Museum & Theatre news release.

The grant is expected to help propel the organization through its next phase of fundraising for its new facility at Thompson's Point in Portland. The grant went to the organization's capital campaign.

The grant is part of the bank's focus on community engagement through charitable giving, sponsorships and volunteerism, Bank of America's Maine Market President Bill Williamson told Mainebiz.

The grant stems from the bank's long-term relationship with Children's Museum & Theatre, he said.

"We believe in cross-sector partnerships, in connecting our company with local organizations," he said. "By doing that, we think we can have a real impact on the community."

Organizations like Children's Museum & Theatre, he said, provide "opportunities for families and children to explore and discover, to enhance their education. In addition, they create jobs. They also bring visitors to the community, which helps local businesses."

As a parent who visited the museum when his children were younger, Williamson said he experienced the organization as an important family experience that builds bonds through its educational and cultural offerings.

"At the same time, organizationally, it makes a real contribution to the local economy," he said. "It's a high-quality organization that we felt was very deserving."

The grant proposal was drafted by two Bank of America employees, Rosaleen Parsons and Jane Parker, who were motivated by personal experience with the organization, according to the release.

Parsons told Mainebiz that the children of many of the bank's associates have been impacted by the museum.

"It's been part of their kids' lives or their lives growing up, so we all have our experience with the museum," she said. "So I'm proud and pleased that Bank of America wanted to support this organization."

Big boost to capital campaign's 'quiet phase'

"It's amazing," Children's Museum & Theatre Executive Director Suzanne Olson told Mainebiz.

The capital campaign, launched in the summer of 2017 to raise $14 million, is still in its quiet phase, so no figures were yet available on how much has been raised so far, she said.

Bank of America has previously supported the organization, with an $85,000 matching grant toward a cultural exhibit called "We Are Maine," installed about a decade ago, she said.

"We decided it would be hugely helpful for the state for us to have a cultural exhibit that invited people from different backgrounds to share their traditions and stories," she said. "We wrote a federal grant for that, and the federal grant required a substantial match. So we approached Bank of America and asked them if they would be interested in what was a modest match. And they came back with a full match. That usually doesn't happen in the world of fundraising, where you get more than you ask for. That was exciting."

The goal for the new facility is to break ground next spring and open in the spring of 2020, Olson said. Some site work has already been accomplished.

Here's what's planned for Thompson's Point

It's expected the new facility, with easier access and expanded resources, will attract more than 200,000 visitors per year and expand programs for at-risk and underserved children and families, according to a news release. That's nearly double today's visitor number of more than 100,000 per year.

The new building will be nearly double the size of the organization's current home, an 18,000-square-foot space at 142 Free St. in downtown Portland where it has been for 25 years. The new location will be more accessible with convenient parking, and be near transportation and restaurants. Bruner/Cott & Associates of Cambridge, Mass., is the architect. Zachau Construction of Freeport has been contracted as construction manager.

The Children's Museum & Theatre of Maine will continue to operate in its current location until the new facility opens in 2020. The three-story building will feature exhibits that include a STEM floor and dedicated arts space. Each exhibit has been designed to allow easy access for children and adults with special needs. The 1.12 acres of land will feature an outdoor play area and community greenspace.

In a deal that closed Dec. 22, 2017, Children's Museum & Theatre of Maine purchased the land at 10 Thompson's Point from Forefront Partners LLP for an unspecified price. The 142 Free St. building was built in the late 1800s.

"So it was never designed to be a building for kids and families," Olson told Mainebiz last March. "It's been a great space for a long time, but we felt like we'd outgrown it. And the new kinds of exhibits we're eager to have won't physically fit into the space because of its layout and ceiling height."

The Children's Museum of Maine was founded in 1976 and moved into 142 Free St. in 1993. In 2008, the Children's Theatre of Maine merged with the museum. According to the organization's mission statement, the work within the museum reaches children 6 months to 10 years old. Theater productions include cast and crew members ages 8 to 17. Outreach and programming serve students and educators throughout the state, in classes from pre-K through 5th grade.

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