Freeport as 'art hub'? Advocates believe it's possible

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FREEPORT — Local artists hope to shed some light on their work and show residents and tourists alike that there’s more to Freeport than just good shopping.

The Freeport Players and the Freeport Economic Development Corp. will host a meeting on April 28 to discuss the idea of creating an arts and cultural center in town.

“Freeport doesn’t have an art hub identity, but it should,” FEDC Executive Director Keith McBride said. “Part of the reason it doesn’t have that identity is because it already has an identity: shopping.”

McBride said he’s not yet sure what the arts center will be like, but that the goal will be to engage people in Freeport’s art community.

“Diversifying the experience for people who live in Freeport and who come to Freeport will improve our image as more than just a place to shop,” McBride said.

Elizabeth Guffey, the managing/artistic director of Freeport Players, said having an arts and cultural center will hopefully make people want to spend more time in town.

“The arts is something for people to take advantage of and stay in Freeport longer,” she said.

Guffey said it would financially benefit the town, too.

“For the community as a whole, it can be a economic driver,” she said. 

Guffey said she hopes members of the public come to the meeting to share ideas about the arts center.

“We think there’s just tremendous potential for this idea and it’s the kind of idea that should happen with the community,” she said. “We want people to be engaged in the process.”

Guffey said the arts center could involve any type of art, and there’s also the possibility of performance space, classes and lectures.

“We’re looking for it to be very inclusive,” Guffey said. “There’s a very broad spectrum of what it could be.” 

McBride said there’s also the possibility of there not even being a building or physical center. He said an organization with the responsibility of making the arts community more visible could be developed instead.

“There’s a lot of different ideas,” McBride said. “We don’t have a solution. We’re hoping the community will tell us what they think will work.”

McBride said the idea of an arts and cultural center has been “batted around” for about 20 years, but FEDC and a group of 20 to 25 local artists took solid steps forward last August. He said the group started by conducting interviews with around 40 people in Freeport’s art community to see what they thought of the idea.

McBride said the results were mixed, with some saying they would love to see an arts center and others saying they had concerns about funding.

The group then began researching arts centers in other communities. They looked at how they were structured and funded, and how they’ve managed to be successful.

The next step is the public meeting, but McBride said he’s not sure what will happen after that.

“The time-line will kind of be dictated by what we get out of this meeting,” he said. “We’ll report back to people after the meeting about moving forward.”

The April 28 meeting will be held at the Freeport Community Center from 6-8 p.m.

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

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.