With more than 20 art galleries and two museums, Rockland is now a destination for art in Maine. Credit: Lauren Abbate / BDN

ROCKLAND, Maine — An arts foundation has taken ownership of a bulk of the street where it’s headquartered in order to move forward with building a small campus where artists will live and work.

The Ellis-Beauregard Foundation has been planning the campus for nearly a year. Recently, the organization purchased about two-thirds of Knowlton Street, a short dead-end road, for about $25,000 earlier this summer. It is currently working on an ownership agreement for the last segment of roadway with the city and property owners on a neighboring street whose backyards abut a part of Knowlton Street.

By creating a space for artists in close proximity to the organization’s headquarters on Knowlton  Street — the former home of the foundation’s founders — the foundation’s director said it will help create a more defined presence.

“It will be a more defined entity when it has a campus where everything is together and not dotted [in multiple places]. People really don’t know who we are yet and because of that I think this will solidify our presence,” Ellis-Beauregard Foundation Director Donna McNeil said.

The Ellis-Beauregard foundation provides resources and financial support to artists, including a residency program through which artists receive a stipend and a workspace in Rockland. It was formed to honor the legacy of its founders, the late artists John David Ellis and Joan Marie Beauregard, whose home is now the foundation’s headquarters on Knowlton Street.

Since 2019, artists in the foundation’s residency program have been living and working in a dormitory style environment at the Lincoln Street Center, a former school that’s been converted to studio and event space.

Initially, the foundation sought to purchase that location and upgrade the facilities. But McNeil said a deal could not be reached with the property owner.

The organization pivoted to looking to build a new space for artist residency program on Knowlton Street last fall after purchasing two abutting properties — making the foundation the sole owner of the properties with addresses on the street.

The plan is to tear both homes down and construct a new building that would provide studio and living space that could house four artists at a time.

McNeil said the city would still be granted access to the road for public works purposes. However, the road will be maintained by the foundation, which plans to tear up the asphalt and replace it with more water permeable materials, like stone dust, and greenspace.

“The landscaping is intended to really define the area as a campus,” McNeil said.

In October, the foundation had asked the city for a zoning change to allow for the development of the residential building. Ultimately a zoning change was not needed though since only one kitchen will be in the residence, which makes the building a single family dwelling and therefore permitted under current zoning, McNeil said.

In addition to the housing element, the foundation is also planning to build an amphitheater and potentially an indoor performance space.

McNeil said they are wrapping up the planning phase and hope to break ground in the spring.