Mayo Street Arts (MSA) was founded in 2009 by Blainor McGough and Brian Arlet, two artists interested in creating a space for music, art, and theater. They built artist studios and began hosting music and art shows, and a puppet workshop for neighborhood kids. Soon after, the MSA board and organization was formed. Today MSA is an essential part of its neighborhood, hosting hundreds of events each year, and serving artists, audiences, and neighborhood kids and families.
MSA’s East Bayside neighborhood has historically provided a home to immigrant populations of Irish and Scandinavians, and in 1890 the Danish Lutherans built the St. Ansgar’s church now known as Mayo Street Arts. More recently East Bayside has become home to immigrants hailing from a diverse global base. East Bayside, also known as Kennedy Park, is the most ethnically diverse, densely populated square mile in the state of Maine.
Mayo Street Arts serves East Bayside and greater Portland through a yearly schedule of music, theater, puppetry, dance, and visual arts. It hosts a regular International Open Mic that draws multicultural performers from the neighborhood, and is a venue where immigrant artists and neighbors feel a strong connection.
MSA is also known for its connection to puppet theater and is a member of the International Union of Marionnettes (UNIMA) and is regularly featured on the Jim Henson Foundation ‘Puppet Happenings’ website. It plays an important role in educating about and celebrating the unique heritage of world puppetry.
In 2013, Cherie Wendelken, Jeb Brooks, and the Brooks Family Foundation awarded a major grant to MSA so that the organization could purchase the building.
Building renovations have included a new roof, renovation of the choir loft and performance space, a new stage, an outdoor classroom, and many other facility improvements. Two murals enhance the building inside and out. The organization is working to complete accessibility projects including a wheelchair elevator.
Artist Patrick Corrigan was commissioned to paint a proscenium mural in the theater Sanctuary. The mural includes trompe l’oeil detail and depicts the moons of Pluto. The cats are swamp panthers and the owl, snake, and juniper represent Maine plants and animals and the sun is rising behind the juniper bush over the sea as it does at Cadillac Mountain in Maine at dawn. Patrick also designed MSA’s logo, and outdoor sign.
The mural on the exterior of the building was painted in 2020 by artist Alexis Iammarino, with design input from neighbors and kids. The mural is connected to MSA’s Accessibility Project which aims to make the building accessible to all with improved physical, language, cultural and economic access.