ROCKLAND— Lincoln Street Center, which was at one point the Rockland High School, is brimming with new energy and talent. On Friday, November 22, a number of artists currently renting studios and living at the Center in residencies opened their doors to allow the public to view their work.
Participating artists included Vincent Carducci, Amy Files, Ariel Hall, Karen Jelenfy, Justine Kablack, Madeleine Morlet and Anna Queen; On the Round and White Dog Industrial.
Lincoln Street Center, which once had a hard time filling its studios, no longer has that problem. The repurposed building is a hive with sculpture artists, photographers, painters, a yarn store and even a sewing machine repair shop in the basement. The revival of this building on Lincoln Street is largely due to the investments made by the Ellis-Beauregard Foundation, based in Maine, which provides resources for artists. Executive Director Donna McNeil, along with the support of her board of directors, can be credited for spearheading the forward momentum.
In February, 2019, PenBay Pilot reported that Rockland City Councilors were considering a petition by Donna McNeil to alter the conditional use clause of Lincoln Street Center. A “Live/Work” ordinance would allow artists to live temporarily in residencies at Lincoln Street Center.
“The petition garnered the unanimous support of the City Council and Mayor Lisa Westkamper, who sponsored the zoning change,” said McNeil. “Further, without the willingness of the owner of Lincoln Street Center, Erez Ram, to support artists live/work space, the project would not have gotten off the ground.”
Thanks to the Ellis-Beauregard Foundation, an ADA-compliant bathroom and kitchen was installed in Lincoln Street Center in 2019. The foundation’s support also converted four classrooms into four light-filled studios with partitioned sleeping space for residencies. In addition, the Foundation also offers a stipend of $1000.00 a month per resident.
What a Residency Is Like
Anna Queen is one of the artists in residency at Lincoln Street Center. She opened her studio during the Open House to visit with the public and answer questions about her artistic process. An interdisciplinary artist working in sculpture and video, Queen is originally from Richmond, VA and moved to the Midcoast in 2014. She had been living in Rockland for the several years when she applied for a six-month residency.
Even though she lives in her own apartment in Rockland, the studio has been crucial to her creative process.
“I think having people who are invested in this space, living here and working here is incredibly important, because they become your community,” she said. “Any building, such as this school that is currently laying dormant in any city can be repurposed this way. Creating affordability for artists is what needs to happen. The other part of it, the stipend, is not something other residency programs do. It literally allows me to buy materials, take time off work to create. What this foundation is doing is not the norm at all.”
She is a big proponent of not only what Lincoln Street Center has accomplished, but the message that the Live/Work ordinance has sent to the artist community.
“In any city, to assume that a working artist can pay both the rent for an apartment and for a studio from any wages you’d make as an artist is insane; it’s unrealistic,” said Queen. “So, it’s amazing that the town of Rockland was receptive to this [ordinance change] and supports artists here.”
“There’s really no other place in Rockland with concentrated and still relatively affordable artist space as Lincoln Street Center,” said artist Amy Files who rents a studio there. “I feel like there are a lot of folks in Rockland who enjoy having a thriving local arts scene, but don't understand or make the connection of how important it is for local artists to have space to work in. Some think that having studio space is a luxury/hobby/fun item when it's really an integral/necessary item for artists to work."
McNeil has worked hard to see this dream realized in Rockland. “Years ago we tried to do this in Portland,” she said. “When public buildings were released from their original usage, we tried numerous times to turn them into Live/Work spaces, but the city never supported it. I have to thank Lincoln Street Center’s landlord, in particular. Most landlords want to get the most money they can out of a building, which usually means renting them out as offices. But he was very happy to rent it out to artists and now the entire Center is filled to capacity.”
An artist’s residence vary from one months to six months. Applications for the residency program have just been expanded nationwide and submissions are accepted twice a year for the six, two and one month slots. The Foundation is currently accepting applications for the summer session, April-September 2020. Information can be found on their website, www.ellis-beuregardfoundation.org.
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org