Gardiner’s Johnson Hall takes on fundraising challenge and gets closer to $ 5.5 million goal

Johnson Hall fundraising director Carrie Arsenault, left, and executive artistic director Michael Miclon unveil the Raise the Curtain campaign for historic opera with a $ 250,000 donation from Peter and Sandra Prescott and the ‘EJP team on July 9 at Gardiner’s Johnson Hall. Authorities announced this week that the challenge was met. Dossier Jessica Lowell / Kennebec Journal

GARDINER – The Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center took on a fundraising challenge launched in July, attracting donations from individuals and businesses to raise $ 500,000.

With the gift of challenge from Peter and Sandra Prescott and the EJP team, the state’s oldest opera house is now about $ 500,000 away from reaching its goal of $ 5.5 million.

“The community seems to really come together,” said Peter Prescott. “It could always be better, but boy, it’s better than before. It’s going to be a good thing; it’s going to bring in a lot of foreigners, which will help everyone.

Michael Miclon, executive artistic director of Johnson Hall, said the Prescott Challenge donation means more to the performing arts center than the money raised.

“The generosity of Peter Prescott and his leadership – to have his seal of approval is as precious as the dollars we have been able to raise,” said Miclon. “When Peter believes something, people believe it’s going to happen.”

The challenge was announced in July at the same time as Miclon announced that construction of the historic upper theater of the opera house will begin in April.

This 400-seat theater has been closed for decades. Johnson Hall has put on shows and performances in its Studio Theater, which seats around 115 people, and it has hosted free summer concerts at Gardiner’s Waterfront Park.

“That means we’ve only raised around $ 1 million this year,” Miclon said.

The Prescott Challenge game received a donation of $ 55,000 from Pine State Trading Co., in addition to a donation of $ 45,000 the company had previously made.

“We’ve always been thrilled to be a part of this,” said Gena Canning, one of the owners of Pine State Trading. “We’re a bit more of it now. “

Pine State focuses its charitable giving on projects that will have an impact on education, children, and child care. The company is supporting the Johnson Hall project, she said, because of its artist-in-schools program and Spark, its children’s summer theater camp.

“The message from us is that we feel very lucky to have our business in the greater Kennebec Valley and we believe Johnson Hall is a really important part of the strategy to improve the quality of life in the region,” Canning said. “We are very committed to being the stewards of this community. “

Pine State’s gift comes with naming rights for the theater’s new concession stand.

To meet Prescott’s challenge, funds were raised through four different fundraisers, donations from foundations and businesses, and donations from 26 people.

As part of the challenge, the Creativity Fund for Gardiner launched its own challenge to the southern Kennebec County creative community by matching each artist’s contribution dollar for dollar up to $ 25,000.

“Every dollar counts in fundraising and we encourage everyone to participate, whether it’s part of the sale of one piece or all of the proceeds from the sale or a particular item – regardless of the artist’s choice, ”said Phyllis Gardiner, Henry’s niece. Gardiner who started the Creativity Fund. “Our goal is to celebrate and bring attention to the incredibly talented and creative artists of this region, while helping to raise the curtain as a major venue for high quality entertainment and arts education.”

To encourage artists to participate, Johnson Hall is exhibiting work in its Studio Theater and the Lobby from September through March, ending just before construction begins. Thirty percent of sales, plus dollar-for-dollar consideration, will go directly to theater renovations.

Johnson Hall also seeks federal funds through the Community Projects Funding program, which allows congressional delegations to seek funding for projects in their districts.

U.S. Representative Jared Golden included Johnson Hall’s request on the list of projects he submitted for review, and the project also got approval from the Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King.

In August, the request for $ 411,710 was approved by the United States House of Representatives as part of its appropriation process. He then went to the Senate for review. If this proposal survives the congressional budgeting process, only about $ 100,000 remains to be raised.

Miclon has been working on this since he was first hired at Johnson Hall over eight years ago, although it has been around three decades in the works.

Once the challenge is over, Miclon said the focus is now on hiring a construction manager to lead the upper theater renovation process.

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Corina C. Butler

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