PORTLAND, Maine — The University of Southern Maine received a $5 million gift on Tuesday to build a new Center for the Arts on the University's Portland campus.
The gift comes from the Crewe Foundation, an organization named after prolific singer/songwriter Bob Crewe, whose music propelled Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons to fame. The Foundation "provides 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."
The Foundation is based in Maine, and on its website, said it would be serving organizations exclusively in the state and for its residents.
The $5 million donation will benefit the USM School of Music, as well as the visual arts program.
This is the largest gift ever given by the Crewe Foundation. It is also one of the largest cash gifts ever received by USM or the USM Foundation.
"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," USM spokespeople wrote in a statement, saying the Center would also serve as the crown jewel of the ongoing Portland campus transformation.
Dan Crewe, brother and former business manager of Bob Crewe, and co-founder of the Crewe Foundation, presented the gift. The school recognized him as a champion of the USM School of Music since he first attended a performance there 30 years ago.
"Without this the future growth of the music department will be hampered and I will say that this will make a whole world of difference and it will make such a difference to department of Art, the ability to exhibit here, the ability to have the book arts here it's a win-win for everybody," said Crewe.
University staff said the donation would increase to 250 students who can participate in fine arts programs in music, visual arts, and more.
USM officials said 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. The University of Maine System's Board of Trustees must authorize all construction projects before groundbreaking. The project must also go through a permitting process with the City of Portland.
USM staff said 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.”
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.