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Anonymous $500,000 matching donation boosts Johnson Hall’s theater renovation effort

Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 6:54 PM EST
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GARDINER, Maine (WABI) - An anonymous, six-figure donation is pushing a theater renovation project in Central Maine closer to the finish line. TV5 stopped by Johnson Hall in Gardiner Friday to find out how far $500,000 can go, and how much money is still left to raise

First built in 1894, Johnson Hall in Gardiner has survived fires and floods. Starting this spring, the top two floors of the performing arts center on Water Street are getting a long-awaited overhaul.

“We’re going to be receiving state and federal historic tax credits, and there’s sort of a timeline. Once you start your project, you have to complete it by a certain time,” explained Michael Miclon, executive artistic director of Johnson Hall. “So, June of 2023 is the target to have this project completed. In order to make that deadline, we have to start in April. So, we’re probably going to be fundraising throughout the entire project.”

That is the main thing Miclon wants people to know: fundraising won’t stop when construction starts.

As a boost to that fundraising effort, Johnson Hall recently received an anonymous $500,000 matching donation.

“The cool thing is that anything that comes in from now up to $500,000 will be matched by this gift. So, that’s really the key thing. However, and whatever reason why people want to donate, it gets doubled,” Miclon said.

Johnson Hall renovation renderings
Johnson Hall renovation renderings(Johnson Hall)

The campaign to rehabilitate Johnson Hall has so far raised $5.6 million dollars, which far exceeds their initial goal of $4.3 million set many years ago. However, due to rising inflation and labor costs, they’re still not exactly sure where that final cost figure is going to wind up.

“It’s still a moving target, so I’ve had a lot of people say, ‘Well, what is the cost now?’ and for us, it’s still moving. It’s still developing,” Miclon said.

If all goes according to plan, Miclon anticipates raising the curtain on the first performance in the new, 400-seat third floor theater in Fall 2023.

“It’ll just be a really big, beautiful venue,” Miclon said. “We’ll have two theaters. Right now, we do about 50 shows a year in here. Our plan is after about three years of operation when the theater’s open, we’re doing about 125 shows a year in this building. So, it’ll really bring in a lot of people to the community.”

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