Community arts center proposed for Portland's East Bayside

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PORTLAND — A former church on Mayo Street, vacant for more than two years, may once again open as a community and arts center.

Local artist Blainor McGough has applied to the city for permission to turn 10-12 Mayo St. into Mayo Street Arts, which would include a gallery, performance space and artist studios.

The Zoning Board of Appeals will take up the request to waive parking and lot size requirements Thursday, Jan. 7. Conditional use approval is also needed for a community center in the neighborhood.

According to the application submitted by McGough, Mayo Street Arts would provide rehearsal and meeting space for local artists and groups and six artist studios for sublet, along with the gallery and performance space.

McGough, who could not be reached for comment this week, would serve as executive director. She has been involved in the local arts scene for several years, including creating the Hurdy-Gurdy Puppet Show. Deirdre Nice of the St. Lawrence Arts and Community Center and artist June Fitzpatrick are among the list of others who would be involved with the center.

The building has served as a church, a school and a community center since being built more than 100 years ago. In 2007, Roxanne Quimby – founder of Burt’s Bees – bought the building. At the time, A Company of Girls and other theater and community programs were using the space owned by People’s Regional Opportunity Program. They were asked to vacate after Quimby bought the property.

At the time, Quimby said she had not determined how she would use the former St. Ansgar’s Church.

Mayo Street Arts would pay $965 per month to lease the building. In a letter of support, The East Bayside Neighborhood Organization said the center is “magnificent news for our neighborhood.”

In the application, McGough says the aim of the arts center is to “serve the people and the creative economy of Portland by adding a unique and exciting venue to the arts scene … (and) provide local residents a much needed center.”

The ZBA meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in room 209 at City Hall.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or