LEWISTON—The board of directors unanimously voted to the use of “Franco Center” as the name of its building during its March 23 meeting. “Performing Arts & Events” will be used to provide information about what goes on inside the building.   


“Over the past three months, dozens of logos have been designed by staff with board input after the community’s outcry over the building’s name change,” said Penny Drumm, Franco Center administrator. The winning logo design was selected during Wednesday’s board meeting.   


The Maine 501(c)3 nonprofit organization was established in 2000 with the legal name of Franco-American Heritage Center at St. Mary’s. In its 23 years, multiple logos and names on the building have been used, but the nonprofit’s name and mission, vision, and values have remained the same.  


We realize that some were worried about a loss of their Franco American heritage due to the building’s name, so staff and board members want to reassure the community that the exact opposite is occurring in its building. “Please join us at an event or take a tour, scroll through its blog posts and website, and read its social media posts to realize that the staff and board take the Franco American heritage very seriously,” said Denise Scammon, marketing/development director.   


We also realize that some people do not agree with the connection of the Franco Americans to the river.  Here is some history we found in our archives; Lewiston has been called River City in previous documents we found from years ago. The city of Lewiston continues to discuss a long-time plan to call the neighborhood bordered by the river and canals, “Riverfront Island.” Also, the former St. Mary’s Church was dubbed the “church on the river” in a 1982 Sun Journal article.   


We believe there is a link between the French Canadian immigrants who came to Lewiston and the river that powered the mills they came to work in. That river and its power supported their families because they worked in the mills. When St. Mary’s parish was established in 1905 and then again as other parishes were established and parish boundaries were declared, St. Mary’s was bordered by the riverfront. Its parishioners were referred to as the people living on the banks of the river.   


The former St. Mary’s church building was saved from destruction in 2000 by a group of Franco Americans who bought it from the diocese after the last Catholic mass was held. “As the number of Franco Americans who live in the community and support the nonprofit’s mission has declined, staff and board were acting progressively hoping to reach a wider audience that will attend our events and donate to the Center,” remarked Drumm.  


Adding to a declining Franco American audience, a common theme among arts and culture organizations across the nation, backed up by statistics, is the loss of in-person audiences which started with the pandemic and hasn’t returned to pre-COVID-19 numbers.  


“Staff and board members would like to thank those who felt so passionately about the name change on the building. We encourage everyone to make a donation, attend an event, and schedule a tour to  support the nonprofit’s mission work,” commented Drumm. 


Donations are greatly appreciated and can be made safely online at www.francocenter.org/donate , by phone at 207-689-2000, in person when the box office is open or box office staff are available during events. Donations can also be made by mail by sending your check made out to: Franco Center and mailing it to: 46 Cedar Street, Lewiston, Maine 04240. 


The nonprofit’s mission: We strive to honor and preserve our Franco-American heritage, and welcome our neighbors from diverse cultures through live performances, celebrations, and education. 


Board and staff would like to thank everyone who took the time to participate in the Franco Center’s recent survey.  It has given us more insight about our supporters: age groups, preferred events, interest in and attendance at French heritage programs, willingness to donate financially or through volunteer work, and preferred time for Saturday events (matinee versus evening).  

Stay tuned as we prepare the results to share through our emailed newsletter which was listed as the preferred method of communication and distribute Survey Part 2 so we can fine tune our questions and get more information. These surveys really help us to understand those interested in our mission and events.