River Tree Arts Center finds itself at the crossroads

KENNEBUNK — As late spring turns to summer, the River Tree Center for the Arts in Kennebunk finds itself in a period of transition as well.

RiverTreeEntrance

As recently as last fall, Maureen DiGiovanni, the president of the board of directors, wasn’t sure the nonprofit community arts center would be able to stay in its building at 35 Western Ave., where it has been since 2005.

“We were certainly at a crossroads,” she said. “As an organization, we had borrowed a large amount of money from a private investor, and the terms of that debt required us to make a balloon payment this spring, May 1,” DiGiovanni said. “We weren’t sure how we were going to be able to do that and operate as we had in the past.”

The organization and its supporters looked for partners who might be able to help them continue to operate.  MaureenGrace

“We are just starting to build on that momentum, and we have some big decisions ahead of us,” DiGiovanni said. “We’ve been around for 30 years, but in some ways, we’re in a new infancy stage.

“Camden National Bank has been a great partner for us, and they helped us find a creative solution to our financial issues. Prior to this, we really did not have any financing, so this is a new frontier for us. … We are looking at our future in a way we never have before. We now have a mortgage and other financial considerations to be aware of, some significant responsibilities.”

DiGiovanni is trying to make sure River Tree Arts operates in a prudent and financially responsible way while at the same time offers programming and services that are in line with its core mission and values.

In January, the organization began a fundraising campaign in hopes of raising $500,000.

“The campaign is ongoing, and initially, there were some questions from donors about our future,” she said. “But now that we have secured our financing, I believe we have those answers and can move forward. … We are updating our website, our wish list and our programming.”

The organization has a number of faculty members who come to the center to teach classes in dance, visual arts, music and other performing arts programs. One of the most successful of these has been the Craft Nights program.

Offered Thursday evenings, the program is led by Megan Holtham, a 32- year-old Kennebunkport resident and graduate of the University of Southern Maine in art education.

Holtham spends part of her time at River Tree Arts teaching classes in ceramics and pottery, but now also spends a portion of each week marketing and promoting the school.

“Every week now is something new,” Holtham said. “We teach adults and teens, but mostly the Thursday night program has been adults.”

RTA-Potter

The program is organized to give prospective students a taste of the arts in a short, two-hour class.

“Sometimes, it is geared toward a social event as much as it is an art event,” she said. “Recently, 11 ladies booked the night for a private party and lesson, and that was a lot of fun.”

DiGiovanni smiled as Holtham spoke about the changes that are taking place at River Tree Arts and the new programming it’s trying to implement.

“Right now, we are working hard to have the right programming in place this summer – programming that people want and programming that will help us move forward,” DiGiovanni said.

 

David Arenstam

About David Arenstam

Originally from away, but here to stay - Maine is my home and I love writing stories about the people and places from my end of the state. I am a teacher and writer and my first novel, "Homecoming: A Soldier's Story of Loyalty, Courage, and Redemption" is available now at www.BrysonTaylorPublishing.com