Surprise Donation Pays Off Mortgage for Children’s Arts Venue

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May 31, 2013; Portland Press Herald

It’s the kind of donation we would all welcome, providing security and leverage and confirming credibility.

In Portland, Maine, the Brooks Family Foundation surprised Mayo Street Arts, which operates on $100,000 annually, with $250,000, enough to pay off the mortgage on its historic building. Mayo Street Arts is a neighborhood arts group for children and families. The grant means that it will be able to restore the building and plan long-term.

“Mayo Street Arts is a unique place,” Wendelken wrote. “Its small scale is what makes it so important. This town has a nationally recognized art museum, a fine symphony orchestra, institutions of higher learning and research, all elements of high culture that make a great city. But the cultural life of great cities also includes things that are finer grained, that are experimental or extremely meaningful and important to a small audience.”

Cherie Wendelken and Jeb Brooks, who made the grant decision, live in Portland, and they recently attended the performance of a Bulgarian musical ensemble at Mayo. “It was an unforgettable evening with people from all walks of life in the audience,” wrote Wendelken. “We realized interesting things were happening all the time at Mayo Street, everything from the traditional to the avant-garde. We met Blainor and were so impressed with her creative energy and commitment to the community.”—Ruth McCambridge