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May 26, 2021

With fundraising goal met, Children's Museum sets an opening date in June

Courtesy / DAVID PRATT PHOTOGRAPHY The Children's Museum & Theatre of Maine, more than four years in the making, will open on June 24.
COURTESY / CHILDREN'S MUSEUM & THEATRE The team that led fundraising for the new Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine, from left: Executive Director Julie Butcher Pezzino, Honorary Campaign Chair Maddy Corson, Campaign Chair Barbee Gilman, board President Kristin Valdmanis and Corporate Chair Michael Bourque.

 A highly visible new children’s museum on Thompson’s Point in Portland now has an opening date.

The Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine announced Wednesday it will open to the public on June 24.

The museum said it surpassed its capital campaign goal of $14 million, raising $15 million from more than 500 donors. A late surge in donations helped the museum restore aspects of the project it had previously tabled.

The new 30,000-square-foot museum is expected to attract 200,000 people a year, double that of the previous location in downtown Portland. 

The museum is on a prominent spot at Thompson’s Point, highly visible from I-295 and, potentially, carloads of visitors — though it will open with limited capacity and other protocols in place to protect visitors and staff during the pandemic.

The opening next month will cap an effort launched in 2017 by former director Suzanne Olson, who retired in 2019 after leading the museum for two decades. The effort included selling its previous location on Free Street in downtown Portland, buying the Thompson’s Point site and raising the funds.

In addition to the colorful new building itself, the museum will have a state-of-the-art Maddy’s Theatre, a STEM science center, and a floor devoted to arts, culture and community. 

A key grant of $500,000 from the Lunder Foundation will anchor the endowment and help pay for ongoing initiatives to ensure that children of all backgrounds will have access to the museum’s educational programs and exhibits. 

Donors included foundations, but also corporations (including leading corporate sponsor Poland Spring), families and “philanthropic individuals,” the museum said. Many donors will have their gifts recognized with named exhibits, theater seats, benches or granite pavers. Maddy’s Theatre is named for the mother of the honorary chair of the capital campaign, Maddy Corson, who was chair of Guy Gannett Communications and shares her birth mother’s name. 

Midway through the campaign, philanthropist Dorothy Suzi Osher’s gift "acted as a catalyst," the museum said, when she named the entire facility after her parents, Joseph A. and Anna Marie Petrin of Biddeford.

“I wish to extend my sincere gratitude to the board and campaign volunteers, particularly the campaign leadership team, who worked tirelessly to share the vision for this project and its impact on children of all backgrounds. All of the attention to the universal design of our new building and exhibits provides access for people with many different kinds of disabilities and, in many cases, goes beyond the guidelines to uphold our philosophy that every family deserves a safe place to play and learn in our community,” said Executive Director Julie Butcher Pezzino.

MEMIC President and CEO Michael Bourque, who served as corporate chair of the campaign, said, “The business community in Maine turned out in full force to show their commitment to children and families in Maine, and to build the Museum & Theatre our state needs and deserves. Our leading corporate sponsor, Poland Spring, along with 35 other companies elected to support this effort. We are grateful they have recognized the value of this project for their employees’ families and its impact on workforce development.”

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