Freeport’s Desert of Maine Forms New Non-Profit Organization
The Maine Desert, a Freeport tourist attraction founded in 1926, will partner with a newly formed nonprofit to deliver arts and education programming.
The Desert of Maine Center for the Arts and Environmental Education, which was formed in April, hired Hannah Gathman, former coordinating director of the Arts & Cultural Alliance of Freeport, as its first executive director.
The Desert of Maine, a commercial entity, will continue to operate a campground and tourism businesses.
The non-profit organization will organize and promote artistic and cultural programming, educational workshops and on-site school trips to the historic Tuttle Barn in the Maine Desert and its dunes.
“When we purchased the desert of Maine with the vision of restoring it, my dream was to create a place that could host immersive nature-based educational experiences and inspire artistic expression,” said Mela Heestand, who with her husband Doug, bought the desert. du Maine in 2018, and who will sit on the association’s board of directors. “By creating a non-profit organization in the desert of Maine, we can focus on delivering this type of programming and realize the enormous potential of this site. “
The volunteer board will also include Freeport residents John Albright, Tom Boutureira and Lauren Manganello as well as Anne Ackerman from Portland and Deb Perkins from Poland, Maine.
Gathman previously worked with the Heestands and the Maine Desert as a consultant through his company Promenade Projects. Gathman holds a BA in Art History and an MBA from Boston University. Before moving to Maine, she worked for the Institute of Contemporary Art in the Seaport District of Boston, where she was director of events and social programming.
“Having someone as talented as Hannah in place to lead the organization is incredibly exciting,” said Heestand. “She is passionate about the mission, brings a deep understanding of how not-for-profit organizations work, and already has a great working relationship across Freeport.”
“Over the past few years, I have been mesmerized by the desert of Maine and by Mela and Doug’s vision for how this unique place can be a sparkling gem in Freeport,” said Gathman. “I am delighted to be working with a truly impressive board of directors to create programming in this incredibly distinctive, exciting and accessible setting for all Mainers, starting with the residents of Freeport whom we have yet to meet.”
According to Gathman, the organization’s initial programs will include live music performances, an official field trip program and a showcase of local artisans. Future programming will include a year-round performance calendar housed in the Tuttle Barn for restoration, with building restoration scheduled for 2022. Programming updates can be found at desertofmaine.com.
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