BELFAST —Clint Burbridge, visiting artist at Waterfall Arts, knows just how special the organization is.

“I hope people in this area understand how incredible a place like this is,” he said. “The energy and collaborative synergy is amazing. It’s attractive to artists from everywhere and, with all the outreach and community involvement, it’s unique.”

Burbridge, a multimedia artist, was recently at Waterfall Arts preparing glass pieces for an exhibition at Mainely Gallery along with glass artist Brian Frus, the gallery’s co-owner. “The creative process is so often a solo venture,” Burbridge said. “I think it’s important for artists to collaborate, to have a space where they can discuss and share ideas. This place provides that.”

Attracting visiting artists and collaborative efforts is just one part of a much larger effort by Waterfall Arts. The facility offers educational services of all types to local schools, community programming, studio space, outreach services to rural communities, children’s and youth programming, and community events.

Conceived in Montville in 2000, the Waterfall Arts Center was a collaborative effort by local artists to provide space, ideas and education to the community. In 2006 the organization moved to its Belfast location at the old Governor Anderson School on High Street.

One might say the seed planted in Montville is in full bloom in Belfast. The premise behind all the center’s work is simple. “Everyone is an artist,” said Waterfall Arts Program Director Amy Tingle. “Everyone is creative and our programming is designed to engage as many people as we can in the creative process.”

Tingle, an artist herself, has a background in art center management and found Waterfall Arts unique. “There’s really no place like it,” Tingle said. “Begin with the four public access studios. I don’t know of any other place that offers four public studios in four different disciplines.”

Waterfall Arts offers public access studio space in printmaking, darkroom, clay and glass. The center also rents studio space and spaces for discussions, classes or workshops. It also houses a gallery.

“We want everyone to know this is their community center,” said Executive Director Kim Fleming. “We want people to come in and participate or give us ideas on ways we can connect creatively.”

Waterfall Arts Executive Director Kim Fleming, right, and Program Director Amy Tingle pose in the gallery. Photo by Jim Leonard

While the center’s expansive programming keeps the High Street location humming, a majority of its work is performed outside its building in community outreach programs. One of the most significant and popular of these outreach programs is directed at youth and families.

Bridget Matros, the kids and family outreach director at Waterfall Arts, is responsible for a steady stream of after-school programs, workshops and weekend community activities. Matros came to Waterfall Arts in 2013 after 11 years as a teaching artist at the Boston Children’s Museum.

“I offered to run a couple after-school programs,” Matros said. “It kind of grew from there.”

Today Matros oversees programming that touches thousands of young people, their families and the community.

Waterfall Arts Kids & Family Outreach Director Bridget Matros,seated, greets young artists at a recent Arts in the Park event. Photo by Jim Leonard

“It’s about inspiring people to make creativity a part of their everyday lives,” Matros said.

Both Fleming and Tingle agree that Matros is perfect in her role. “She’s the pied piper,” said Tingle. “She’s everywhere and she knows everyone and she can really inspire kids.” Fleming added, “I’ve never seen anyone better at connecting with a child or family member on their terms.”

Waterfall Arts is currently in the midst of renovation work designed to make it more accessible and efficient. That work will not diminish the ever-expanding programming offered by the center.

“This place is a real treasure,” Burbridge said.

One might say Waterfall Arts is the crown jewel of the Museum in the Streets.

 

 

 

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