PHOTO CAPTION: The Franco Center’s Performance Hall was visited by 260 Lewiston school children in grades Kindergarten through 2 on April 7, 2023 to see Silver Circus perform magic, juggling, and circus-type acts. This is just one of hundreds of events held at the Franco Center each year with a focus on access to the arts for everyone. Franco Center photo.
LEWISTON—The Franco Center has received $51,000 in grant money from four separate foundations/ organizations for general operating and program support. “This support is greatly appreciated and much needed as we look to replace sources of revenue that have ended since the pandemic,” said Penny Drumm, Franco Center administrator.
In mid May, Franco Center staff report that a $10,000 general operating grant was received from the Community Building fund of the Maine Community Foundation for the FC to act as a public resource for performing arts and heritage programs that provide patrons with access to engaging cultural events. This was followed the next week by a $5,000 general operating grant from Maine-based Narragansett Number One Foundation for the Franco Center’s use as a resource for the creative economy and as stewards of diverse cultural stories from our past and of today.
“The Narragansett Number One Foundation is excited about the opportunity to help fund an organization that benefits the community and state in so many wonderful ways. The BOD loves supporting an organization that works to preserve the rich Franco-American culture as well as being so welcoming to other cultures,” said Angie DesRuisseaux, board secretary of Narragansett Number One Foundation.
These two grants were followed a week later in June with a $35,000 grant from the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation and a $1,000 Arts & Humanities grant from the Maine Arts Commission and the Maine Humanities Council. The STK Foundation grant is for support of the Franco Center’s performance series and the Arts & Humanities grant is for a new program of author talks and book signings called “Books and Stories.”
“The Franco Center is in one of Maine’s most low-income neighborhoods as well as in Androscoggin County of which 14 percent of its population is classified as low income. Grants are important for covering our operating costs so that we can continue to bring access to the arts in our community,” said Denise Scammon, development and marketing director at the Franco Center.
“The very existence of the Franco Center and its renovations and activities within the neighborhood improve the conditions in this part of Androscoggin County,” said Scammon.
The Franco Center, like other arts organizations, contributes to Maine’s creative economy. Americans for the Arts studies show that the average patron of the performing arts spends $32 above the ticket price at local businesses such as restaurants and other retail shops. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that the arts and culture sector contributes $1.55 billion to Maine’s economy, representing 2.5% of the state’s Gross Domestic Product and 16,876 jobs.
“The Franco Center’s programming is an economic driver for the regional economy. Each performance that draws crowds circulates dollars through local restaurants and lodging, and serves as a reminder of the vibrant performing arts and cultural scene in this area,” said Shanna Cox, president and CEO of Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.
The Franco Center was established as a Maine 501(c)3 non-profit organization in 2000 to save the historically significant St. Mary’s Church from demolition and preserve the culture of the French Canadian immigrants for whom the church was built in 1907. The original vision was to rehabilitate the former church into a performing arts and events center featuring Franco American educational programs. These activities were expected to generate revenue to support the building’s preservation and educational outreach.
Fast forward 23 years and Franco Center board members and staff say its mission work is just as important to Maine today as it was in the organization’s early days. The performing arts center hosts a variety of events and rents its building for weddings, comedy shows, fundraisers, musical theater, celebrations, workshops, awards ceremonies, and similar.
“Each year we host events for Midcoast Symphony Orchestra, Maine Music Society, The Dance Center, Auburn Community Band, local high schools, Androscoggin Hospice, Bates College, Tri-County Mental Health, SPRQ Burlesque, Maine’s Got Talent (nonprofit Sandcastle for children), and other organizations and municipalities,” said Scammon. “By hosting our own and others’ diverse events and inviting people into our building, we are able to provide access to live performances to thousands of people each year.”
The Franco Center is at 46 Cedar Street, Lewiston. Its events calendar and staff contact information can be found on its website at www.francocenter.org.
The Maine Community Foundation brings people and resources together to build a better Maine through strategic giving, community leadership, personalized service, local expertise, and strong investments. To learn more about the foundation, visit www.mainecf.org.
The Narragansett Number One Foundation is a Maine nonprofit corporation established by Patricia and Erwin Wales on September 7, 2001, thirteen days after winning the Powerball. Patricia and Erwin formed the Foundation to share their good fortune with others and to encourage other possible donors to help their community and state. More information about the focus of their grants can be found at www.nnof.org.
The Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation is a private non-profit organization that promotes strengthening and supporting communities and draws upon the values and spirituality of the founders. The Foundation has a special interest in organizations and people who have less recourse to usual channels of resources, focusing on community-based initiatives in the state of Maine only. To learn more about the STK Foundation, visit www.stkfoundation.org.
“Books and Stories” program abstract: To bring people together of all ages and backgrounds to explore and share ideas about culture, heritage, and historical identities through book signings and author talks and storytelling events with authors and storytellers. The Arts and Humanities Grant offered jointly by the Maine Arts Commission and the Maine Humanities Council supports organizations in Maine that present stories and cultural expressions of the state, its communities, and its people. These grants support innovative community projects that have both arts and humanities components. For more information, visit www.mainehumanities.org or Maine Arts Commission.