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Who Are They? Waterfall Arts – Part 5

April 24, 2017

The Waterfall Family

This is the fifth of five blog posts in a series about Waterfall Arts, located in Belfast, and are posted April 20-24. Information is provided for the Maine Arts Ed blog readers to learn about community organizations and institutions that provide educational opportunities in the arts. You will learn that they are partnering with other organizations and schools to extend learning opportunities, not supplant.

Waterfall Arts (WA) was founded in 2000 on a rustic site in Montville by a group of local artists. Seventeen years later now located in a repurposed old schoolhouse in Belfast, WA is a vibrant midcoast arts hub with over 6000 visitors per year, still committed to its mission “to create community in harmony with nature through the transformative power of the arts.” WA offers resources to artists and arts enthusiasts of all ages, including classes, exhibitions, events, open media-specific studios (clay, print, and photography), free/sliding scale arts after-school programs for 4th-12th graders, public art projects, long-term studio space, and short-term rental facilities. As the co-founders and those involved are dedicated to an accessible, environmentally-sustainable center, they have embarked on a campaign to transform their old building into a model of creative energy efficiency and ADA-compliance.  Waterfall Arts is located at 265 High Street in Belfast. Website: http://waterfallarts.org, contact: info@waterfallarts.org or call 207.338.2222.

Waterfall Arts, Belfast

It was our Facility Manager’s birthday recently. Which is an awesome thing since we love to celebrate birthdays here at Waterfall Arts. Not just any ol’ office b-day party with a store-bought cake and candles, but a party with singing, stories, baskets of trinkets and special treats. One of us bakes, another brings a card and we each share a little of our own world. Lou and her husband process huge batches of the most delicious maple syrup – we each get a jar in our birthday basket. We give souvenirs from our journeys or samples of our artistic endeavors. We all eat way too much chocolate… We’re not just a team, we’re a family.

What does it take to create this dream team? Some say diversity. Some say clear goals and strategy. A fearless leader/visionary. Individual commitment. The perfect product or idea. Certainly public interest, funding, and creative thinking. Sure, all of these contribute to creating the perfect team — and the Waterfall team can check all these boxes. In addition we have an amazing group of volunteers. An active Board of Directors, successful granting records, dedicated donors, fantastic artist educators and a talented staff. And the community that convinced Waterfall Arts to move to Belfast 10 years ago continues to jump into our innovative programs and services.

This is all great, right? But there is more.  As a non-profit organization, Waterfall’s team raises its entire budget every year. This funding — grants, business sponsors and private donations — determines our capabilities. It also means that staff positions are part-time and salaries are lower than other comparable jobs in the area. Volunteers are crucial to successful project management. Reliance on city, state and federal spending priorities affect our abilities to run certain programs. It can be quite a challenge to juggle bills, coordinate programs, and care for the building. And in the face of all of this, we keep going and growing because this team is also a family.

Staff and board getting creative during the annual retreat.

A total cliché but so very true here at Waterfall Arts. We surprise ourselves every time we open the doors to a new exhibition, workshop, artist talk, performance…WOW – we did it! And the best part, when we’re done with the to-do lists, the meetings, the calendar updates, the long nights painting walls and cleaning floors, writing grants and soliciting sponsorships, we get to start all over again to bring another amazing creative experience to our community.

The Waterfall family may not be united by genetics but we are related through our passions. We share a passion for the Arts, a passion to engage others in creative experiences, and a passion to make a difference in our community. And passion is what it takes to power a non-profit. To power any team to go beyond. It’s the gas in the engine.

I moved here about 5 years ago. Seeking out a community in the arts I found Waterfall Arts. I signed up to volunteer in the gallery and am still here, now President of the Board. Waterfall Arts is family to me. What we do is significant and makes a difference to the world around us and we enjoy being together doing it.

That is the perfect team.

Costumes happen more than once a year around here!

“How wonderful it is that nobody needs to wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” ~Anne Frank

This post was written by Karin Otto, Waterfall Arts Board Chair and volunteer Coordinator of Programs.

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