Lewiston: Firm chosen to design high school arts wing

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LEWISTON — The School Committee on Monday night approved hiring a New Hampshire-based architectural firm to develop a concept plan for an arts wing at Lewiston High School.

At this point the arts wing is just a proposal. The goal is to find out how much it would cost, and what it would take, to add an arts wing to the high school. 

The committee voted unanimously to hire Lavellee Brensinger. The firm is based in New Hampshire and has an office in Portland, Superintendent Bill Webster said. Lavellee Brensinger, the architect for the Sanford High School under construction, will also come up with a plan to provide more parking at Lewiston High School.

The firm was the recommendation of the Facilities Committee, which heard formal presentations from six companies.

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Lewiston High School music teacher Darren Avery, who is on the interview team, said one of Lavellee Brensinger’s visions he liked was that every space in an arts wing would have a purpose.

Hallways would not just be for students to get from one class to another, “but spaces for students to meet, collaborate and work together,” he said. Their ideas showed class space where teacher and student artwork is on display, or a pottery wheel visible to all. “They had a lot of open concept designs, which is really exciting,” Avery said.

The company’s presentation included a civil engineer who suggested a reconfiguration of the high school’s parking and traffic flow that could eliminate the need to use open space for parking. They brought an expert who talked about what kind of theater an art wing could have. “These guys brought it all,” Avery said.

The next step is a public meeting Dec. 7 at the high school’s multi-purpose room. The meeting is to gather input and identify stakeholders who should be involved in the concept design and budget, to brainstorm on what ought to be in the center.

The goal, Webster said, is to have a concept design and budget by the end of March.

When the high school was built it didn’t have an auditorium or space for art or music so basement space was turned into classrooms, which is where the art wing remains.

Problems with having art classes in the basement are inadequate space, ventilation and light; noise from delivery trucks and the kitchen; no room for storage; and no space to showcase work or performances.

An arts wing has much community support, as evidenced by a meeting in September when residents and former students asked the City Council to allow the concept design study.

If the project is approved, it would be paid for with local dollars, Webster has said. 

bwashuk@sunjournal.com

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