The University of Southern Maine Foundation has received a $5 million gift from the Crewe Foundation to support construction of a future Center for the Arts on the University’s Portland campus. The gift will benefit a signature program of excellence, the USM School of Music, as well as the visual arts program. This is the largest gift ever given by the Crewe Foundation, the legacy foundation of singer, songwriter, and producer Bob Crewe. It is also one of the largest cash gifts ever received by USM or its Foundation.
Dan Crewe (far right) and his daughter, Reid Crewe (second from right), who co-lead the Crewe Foundation, provided University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy a $2 million "downpayment" on a $5 million gift to support the construction of a future Center for the Arts on USM's Portland campus today. At left are University of Southern Maine Foundation President and CEO Ainsley Wallace and USM President Glenn Cummings.
The long-awaited Center for the Arts, a decades-long dream of the University and arts communities, would provide space for the visual arts and a new home for USM’s renowned School of Music, moving both academic and performance programs from the Gorham campus to a prominent location in Portland. The Center would also serve as the crown jewel of the ongoing Portland campus transformation, bringing students and the community together in a celebration of the arts. Dan Crewe, brother and former business manager of Bob Crewe, and co-founder of the Crewe Foundation, has been a champion of the USM School of Music since he first attended a performance there 30 years ago.
Members of the Crewe family joined University leaders on June 22nd for the announcement held on the Portland Campus quad, accompanied by music students who played selections from Bob Crewe’s extraordinary music catalog. The event, which also included displays of artists’ renderings, was held only a few dozen yards from the center’s eventual location near the intersection of Bedford Street and Deering Avenue.
“Just a month ago, we began to dig ground on what will be one of the largest development projects in our history,” USM President Glenn Cummings said. “A $99 million project that will forever transform the landscape of USM. It will provide affordable housing for our students. It will support the Career and Student Success Center, and it will create a dynamic and inviting entryway into our academic community. Another long-awaited dream is taking shape today. This gift from the Crewe Foundation will support the construction of a new Center for the Arts, the crown jewel of our Portland Campus transformation.”
“I came to Maine in 1991 as this rock and roll hotshot from California and was blown away by the first performance I saw at the Gorham campus,” said Dan Crewe. “The students in the music program have done so well with what they have, even though it was not a space designed with performance in mind, and they deserve a facility that will do justice to their talent.”
The planned venue would feature flexible spaces for visual art exhibits and performing arts events for students, visiting artists, and audiences throughout southern Maine, including a 200-seat recital hall, rehearsal rooms and learning studios.
The project is still in the early planning stages. All University of Maine System construction projects must receive authorization from its Board of Trustees before breaking ground and go through a permitting process with the City of Portland. If fundraising momentum continues, the project could break ground as early as spring 2023.
“The vision of a Center for the Arts on the Portland campus takes a major leap forward with this pacesetting gift from the Crewe Foundation,” said University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy. “The foundation’s generosity puts USM on a path to bringing a world-class facility for learning and performing to their Portland campus, supports USM’s School of Music and visual arts students and contributes to a thriving arts scene that attracts visitors and jobs to the region. We are deeply grateful to the Crewe Foundation for making the University of Southern Maine and the success of our students a philanthropic priority.”
The USM School of Music is a premier public university music program in Northern New England. It offers 14 degree and certificate programs and is home to at least 12 performance ensembles every semester including orchestra, band, vocal and jazz.”
“The School of Music is one of USM’s signature programs of academic excellence and it is also one of our best-kept secrets. This gift from the Crewe Foundation will help us change that,” says USM President Glenn Cummings. “Our graduates have gone on to win Grammy Awards, perform at the Metropolitan Opera, attract hundreds of thousands of followers on Youtube as music educators and influencers, and serve in elite national music ensembles. In fact, School of Music alumni have won the Maine Outstanding New Music Educator of the Year Award every year for the past five straight years.”
University of Southern Maine President Glenn Cummings and Reid and Dan Crewe, co-leaders of the Crewe Foundation, applaud ceremony attendee Erin Morrison ’16, the Maine Music Educators Association’s 2021 Outstanding New Music Educator of the Year.
“When you have something excellent you can’t help but become a proponent,” said Crewe. “I’ve long wanted to see this happen and now is the right time.”
Founded in 2009, the Crewe Foundation was created by Dan and Bob Crewe to support the arts and LGBTQ communities in Maine. Bob Crewe was a prolific songwriter, best known for his work with The Four Seasons. His life and musical influence were featured prominently in the 2005 Broadway show and film “Jersey Boys.” It was Bob’s wish that the Foundation provide support in the fields of fine arts and music by empowering aspiring artists and underserved youth to pursue, develop and realize their talents and goals. Today, the Bob Crewe Foundation is co-led by Dan Crewe and his daughter, Reid Crewe.
Following remarks by Dan and Reid Crewe, students from the School of Music presented a version of one of the most iconic Bob Crewe songs, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.” As Brandon Wong, a Musical Theater Performance major, sang the familiar song, Dan Crewe stood behind the podium and sang along.
Adam Tuchnisky, the dean of USM’s College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, watched the performance and beamed as the students performed.
“It’s just spectacular,” Tuchinsky said. “A lot of times getting support for the liberal arts can be a challenge because people have the perception that the arts don’t contribute to the economy and the direct needs of the community.
“This is the biggest investment USM has made in an academic building in our lifetime,” Tuchinsky said. “I think it will benefit the arts, the entire institution and our neighbors as well.”
Beginning this project with funding from the Crewe Foundation feels perfect, said Alan Kaschub, the director of the School of Music.
“Kicking this campaign off from money that came from music itself is such an auspicious beginning,” Kaschub said. “It tells the world that no only is USM about the arts, but the arts are about people making a living and making peoples’ lives better.”
To learn more about a future USM Center for the Arts, visit: foundation.usm.maine.edu/cfa
To learn more about USM’s Portland Campus projects visit: usm.maine.edu/portland-campus-development-project
Corey Hascall, USM Foundation
About the USM Foundation: The USM Foundation is an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with the University to support the aspirations of our students and the strategic vision of USM. Now in our third decade of service, the Foundation is raising the critical funds needed to support scholarships and achieve ambitious goals, as we help to catalyze transformation at the University of Southern Maine.