Originally published in Compass, July 10, 2014
Opera House campaign to complete founders’ vision
Linda Nelson to step down in 2015
The Opera House expansion project, which will include a new lobby, bathrooms and scene construction shop for the arts center in Stonington, Maine is expected to be completed in time for the 16th Annual Benefit Gala on July 6.
“After 15 years of extraordinary leadership, artistic innovation and year-round community involvement, the Stonington Opera House is set to embark on a future that will complete the vision of the founders,” according to a news release from Opera House Arts’ board of directors. The board has announced a $975,000 “Completing the Scene” capital campaign to add an urgently needed scene construction shop, additional bathrooms and a lobby space for pre- and post-performance gatherings.
The project is designed with respect for the integrity of the original, 100+ year-old historic building as well as its neighbors on Main Street. The scene construction shop fills a void for space to build sets and will create a safer working environment for actors, stagehands and volunteers. The new lobby will provide a gathering place for attendees and provide a light-filled venue for serving food and drinks on performance days. The new bathrooms, long requested by patrons, will triple the number of existing restrooms. The new plan for the Opera House has been in the works for a number of years. Earlier phases included leasing the Burnt Cove Church for performance and rehearsal space and the purchase of the Ivory Tower building just above the Opera House for office space.
The board also announced that founder Judith Jerome, who will be retiring as Artistic Director at the end of this year, will continue as Artistic Advisor on a part-time basis thereafter. Linda Nelson, founding Executive Director, will become Producing Artistic Director and serve through 2015 after which she plans to step down. Rich Howe, chairman of the Opera House Arts Board, said: “This is an exciting time of transition and development for the Opera House. Linda and Judith have been key to the 15 years of artistic and community impact of our beloved institution. Both of them will continue in important roles as we search for the next generation of leadership.”
The Opera House Board sees the proposed changes in the building to be the final phase of improvements to the venerable Opera House. The “Completing the Scene” campaign completes the vision of the founders for a year-round performing arts facility anchoring downtown Stonington and serving the surrounding communities of Deer Isle, Blue Hill and beyond. Howe reported that the board has already pledged over half of the needed $975,000 as the campaign moves into its next phase. It is expected that the project will be completed in fewer than two years.