The Franco Center in Lewiston was renamed a few months ago to Riverfront Performing Arts and Events, as seen on its sign Jan. 10. The announcement has drawn mixed reactions and center officials are considering holding a public forum to air the issue. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — Officials at the Riverfront Performing Arts and Events are giving strong consideration to holding a public question-and-answer session to address the concerns raised about the center’s new name.

Elaine Roop, president of the board that oversees the center, said Wednesday that she is weary of the “verbal bullying” and nastiness directed at decision-makers who, in her view, did nothing wrong.

“We’ve been slapped around,” she said, by people who should know better but haven’t even taken the time to seek explanations for what’s happened.

The board agreed a few months ago to change the name of the nonprofit, located at the former St. Mary’s Church on Cedar Street, from the Franco Center to Riverfront Performing Arts and Events, Founded by Franco Americans. It attempts to unite the French-Canadian immigrant heritage of the former church with the nearby Androscoggin River.

She said that despite “all the stomping and the banging,” the legal name of the nonprofit has never changed. It was, and is, the Franco-American Heritage Center at St. Mary’s.

Critics of the rebranding, including the consul general of France in Boston and two former mayors, urged the center to retain its former appellation.


But Roop said the switch honors the people who lived along the river in Little Canada and takes advantage of the city’s efforts to pump life into the neighborhood with riverfront-related development and programs. Riverfront also fits on a sign a lot more easily, she said.

Though some insist the former church has no relation to the riverfront, Roop scoffed at their criticism.

“The building is 620 feet from the river,” she said. “Any closer and the facility would sink.”

Roop said she is disappointed at the relentless and growing attacks on nonprofit leaders who are struggling to make sure the center remains successful for years to come.

Her inclination, she said, is to hold “a good, old-fashioned, sit-down question-and-answer” session where people can query board members.

“We’re planning on doing that,” Roop said.

She said the center will let the public know when and where the session will be held.

She joked that it ought to charge $10 admission to help fill the nonprofit’s coffers.

While the board is scheduled to hold a regular meeting on Wednesday, March 22, any Q&A session will take place on another date.

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