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CUMBERLAND — The Greely Center for the Arts auditorium was standing-room- only as the lights dimmed and Jeff Porter took the stage under a spotlight.
“What do you think so far?” the School Administrative District 51 superintendent asked.
An enthusiastic burst of applause was the answer.
Monday night’s grand opening marked an important step in a long and sometimes painstaking process, as the Cumberland-North Yarmouth district added a performing arts center to Greely High School.
“Somebody told me it’s actually been three decades that the dream of an arts center … has been in the works,” Porter said during a 6 p.m. ribbon-cutting in the lobby earlier that evening.
The crowd afterward gradually flowed throughout the 26,000-square-foot, two-story building on self-guided tours, ending up by 6:30 p.m. in the 510-seat auditorium. There, for the next two hours, they enjoyed performances by the various school choruses; student poets; a ukulele ensemble; the Greely High Drama Club, and the high school band.
Stephen Blatt Architects designed the building, which Ledgewood Construction built at the rear of the high school at 303 Greely Road.
“This is a building, and an arts center, that we can all be proud of,” Porter said. “And it reflects the very character of the people of Cumberland and North Yarmouth,” destined to become “the crown jewel of this community.”
“West Side Story,” one of the center’s first major offerings, will be held at 7 p.m. March 28-30, and 2 p.m. March 31. Other events in the coming months include choral and band festivals, a naturalization ceremony, and a documentary about youths and screen time, according to center manager Jen Segal.
She will be establishing the process for area organizations to use the space when it is not occupied by district activities.
A center website is due soon to go online, linked off msad51.org.
Voters in 2001 approved a smaller, 475-seat facility for $5 million, but the bond ended up being insufficient to cover construction costs. A follow-up referendum for an additional $1.5 million failed, which killed the project.
Segal, who served on the center’s building committee, and fellow SAD 51 parent Mary George in January 2015 pitched a new version of the arts center to the School Board.
The project’s up-to-$9.5 million price tag was contentious, and support from Cumberland and North Yarmouth voters in November 2016 came by a margin of only 2 percent, 4,149 to 3,953.
The project was completed on time, and $200,000 under budget, Porter said.
Cumberland and North Yarmouth residents packed into the new Greely Center for the Arts on Monday, Jan. 28, to watch a variety of performances by School Administrative District 51 students.
School Administrative District 51 Superintendent Jeff Porter, left, and School Board members Gigi Sanchez and Kate Perrin wield giant scissors during a ribbon-cutting Monday, Jan. 28, at the Greely Center for the Arts in Cumberland. Jen Segal, the center’s manager, stands between Porter and Sanchez.
The Greely Center for the Arts was built at the back of Greely High School in Cumberland.