Firehouse Arts in Yarmouth at a turning point, seeks new blood

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YARMOUTH — Directors of Firehouse Arts are trying to find new people to run the center.

Whether it will remain focused on the arts is unknown.

The nonprofit in the former Winslow Fire Station at 20 Center St. is run entirely by volunteers, who said they no longer have the time or energy to dedicate to the operation.

The converted fire station is owned by the town and has been leased by Firehouse Arts for the past four years. The property and center aren’t for sale; a $1-a-year lease will be passed on to the successor organization.

Mardie Weldon, a Firehouse Arts board member, said she and the rest of the seven-member board hope the next occupant will “stay within the realm of what we do.”

“We’re looking for new energy and a new vision to take some of what we’ve done and make it work for the community,” Weldon said.

The board is accepting project proposals, which can be found on Firehouse Arts’ website, through Oct. 1. Weldon said the board originally considered just finding new people to take over Firehouse Arts, but decided to go after a wider range of possibilities.

“We thought about recruiting new board members, but what we really need are new leaders, perhaps with a different vision for enriching our community,” Weldon said.

According to Weldon, the center has about 150 students a year, ranging in age from toddlers to adults. She said programming started dwindling in the spring, when the board realized it couldn’t continue. There was very little summer programming, which is typical for the center, but there will be no classes this fall.

There will be one special painting workshop on Sept. 19 in conjunction with Yarmouth Arts’ celebration of painter Alfred Chadbourn. Other than that, there will be no offerings until the new operator is in the space.

Weldon said in addition to leading the organization, board members have also done much of the day-to-day work of running the center.

“It’s a lot of work for a few volunteers,” she said. “We never had enough money to hire staff.”

State Rep. Janice Cooper, another board member, said it’s been difficult for the board to maintain Firehouse Arts because everyone has other responsibilities outside of the center.

“We had to do everything ourselves,” she said. “It’s a model that’s not sustaining. You can’t keep doing that without new people to keep it going.”

Aside from the board members, Firehouse Arts has other volunteers who help run art classes. They include the center’s Youth Advisory Board, which is part of an art club at Yarmouth High School. Weldon and Cooper said they hope the high school students can continue to be a part of Firehouse Arts, if it remains an art center.

Weldon said the board will choose the “most viable” proposal, but it is looking for an art focus or for someone to maintain Firehouse Arts.

“It has been a really wonderful resource for the town and we hope it’ll continue that way,” she said.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

Mardie Weldon, left, and state Rep. Janice Cooper, board members of Firehouse Arts, are looking for someone to take over the Yarmouth community arts center at 20 Center St.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.