History of the Organization

History of the Organization

Mayo Street Arts was founded in 2009 by Blainor McGough and Brian Arlet. Brian and Blainor met in Portland and had a band together called the Northern B Stars. They rented the beautiful Scandanavian church in East Bayside where they began organizing live music and arts events, including a puppet workshop for kids in the neighborhood.

The St. Ansgar Church has been home to many strong organizations since it was built by the Danes in 1890; including East End Children’s Workshop, A Company of Girls, the Free School, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and of course the Apostles of the North – a Danish club who originally built and supported the Danish Lutheran church.

Blainor and Brian found that Mayo Street Arts (MSA) was meeting a popular demand for artistic space and built artist studios, a stage, and made many improvements to get the building up to code.

A Board of Directors formed and MSA became a 501c3 in 2010. The building now serves as a neighborhood hub, performance center, artist studios and rehearsal space for visual and performing artists.

MSA’s artistic focus as a presenting organization is eclectic and includes international music, dance, and puppet theater. MSA serves 8,000 artists, audience members, and people from our neighborhood each year.

East Bayside is the most densely populated, ethnically diverse square mile in Maine. It is a vibrant, multicultural neighborhood with many challenges and strengths. The neighborhood was home to the Danish immigrant community when the church was originally built, and is now home to a diverse immigrant community of new Mainers, international communities, artists, and families from around the world.

In addition to live music and arts events, MSA provides free Summer Learning Programs for neighborhood kids and a Free Lunch Program, helping neighborhood kids reach school age reading levels and build community and friendships. These youth programs are free by invitation and provide tutoring, arts, and literacy instruction each summer for ELL and ESL students.

In 2013, Mayo Street Arts received a major grant from Cherie Wendelken, Jeb Brooks, and the Brooks Family Foundation to purchase the building. This was a turning point for Mayo Street Arts, and the organization has worked to improve the building and organizational capacity ever since.

A new roof, renovation of the choir loft and performance space, a new stage, an outdoor classroom, and many facility improvements have advanced the goal of providing a modern, flexible, and accessible arts center.

The Mayo Street Arts board, staff, and community are now working to make the building accessible to all – with a wheel chair ramp, a mural that speaks to all languages, and other accessibility features. We hope you will consider joining the Mayo Street Arts community of neighbors, artists, and supporters, and help us continue the story.