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Updated: December 21, 2022

Waterville's Schupf Center celebrates the season, city, art scene

Jim Neuger Exterior view of the $18 Million Paul J. Schupf Art Center in Waterville.
Jim Neuger The ``Common Threads’’ exhibition showcasing connections within the community at the Paul J. Schupf Art Center in Waterville.
Jim Neuger Studio 1902, used for rehearsals and other events.
Jim Neuger The largest of the three cinemas at the art center.
Jim Neuger The upper level of the Paul J. Schupf Art Center in Waterville connects directly to the Waterville Opera House.
Jim Neuger Colby College President David Greene at the Paul J. Schupf Art Center in Waterville. Colby has contributed almost $100 million for redevelopment projects in Waterville, including the Schupf Center.
Kate McAleer in chocolate shop File photo / Jim Neuger Kate McAleer, founder of Bixby Chocolate, at the Bixby Chocolate Café.
Glazes on the shelf in the Ticonic Gallery and Studios. The studio has eight pottery wheels and three kilns.

Waterville's long-awaited Paul J. Schupf Art Center — an $18 million project that has been in the making for several years — opened its doors Dec. 17 just in time for the annual Joy to the Ville, the first in a series of events to celebrate the city's revival.

The 32,000-square-foot center, a partnership between Colby College and Waterville Creates, is the new home for Waterville's visual and performing arts, arts education and film, and will serve as the headquarters of Waterville Creates. It will also include the Colby College Museum of Art's Joan Dignam Schmaltz Gallery of Art. 

"This is a historic moment for Waterville, a remarkable city that has reimagined itself time and again," said Colby College President David Greene in a prepared release on Dec. 16. "Colby and Waterville have a history that spans more than two centuries. We could not be prouder to call Waterville home and to be in partnership with a community that is strong, welcome and resilient."

Brian Clark, vice president of planning at Colby College, said the new art center has been connected to the 800-seat Waterville Opera House on Main Street, which was built in 1902.

"The Paul J. Schupf Art Center is the embodiment of Waterville's belief and investment in the arts as core to our community's identity and an essential part of civic life," said Shannon Haines, president and CEO of Waterville Creates. "Bringing together Waterville's most beloved art institution in the heart of downtown, Schupf Arts will create a sense of vibrancy year-round, day and night. It will attract artists, performers, filmmakers, and patrons from near and far and, most importantly, ensure that all community members have access to outstanding arts experiences for generations to come."

The center will also house three state-of-the-art cinemas operated by the Maine Film Center, which brings independent film to Maine and is the only Sundance Art House project cinema in the state. It will also be home to the Maine Film Centers' annual Maine International Film Festival, a 10-day celebration in July that attracts filmmakers and film lovers worldwide. The festival was split between two places and will now be held under one roof. 

The center has a 24/7 clay studio with eight pottery wheels and three kilns that are part of the Ticonic + Gallery Studios. Membership for the pottery studio is $130 a month; this includes all supplies but the clay. 

Studio 1902 is a rehearsal space for the Waterville Opera House and a flexible space for programs and receptions. 

The Ed Harris Box Office will enable patrons to access information and tickets for all Schupf Art programs and activities and is named after actor and former Maine International Film Festival guest and honoree Ed Harris. Harris contributed to funding for the building.

Exhibitions include "Light on Main Street" at the Joan Dignam Schmaltz Gallery of Art; "Common Threads" at Ticonic Gallery; Karina Steele's site-specific installation in the Maine Film Center lobby and a display of costumes from the Waterville Opera House. Admission to the galleries, open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, is free. 

The art center features Bixby Chocolate, a Rockland chocolate company that imports its beans and makes products in-house. The chocolate company, owned by Kate McAleer, a Mainebiz 2022 Women to Watch, said the chocolate counter would offer grab-and-go options ranging from Bixby's "Bixenta" brand of coffee and chocolate drinks along with winter bon bons and toffee. Hours of operation for the Café will be 11 a.m. to  6 p.m. Wednesday through Monday. 

The project was completed by Susan T Rodriguez | Architecture Design of New York City in collaboration with OPAL / Architecture Research Design of Belfast. The general contractor was Landry/French Construction of Scarborough.

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