Friday, January 18, 2019

Raymond Arts Alliance celebrates one year of community connections, serving as a reminder to never give up on a dream

By Lorraine Glowczak

It began as The Raymond Hill Community Center (RHCC) a little over two years ago with a few Raymond individuals who came together to offer a space of gathering for the Raymond and Lakes Region communities. The goal and mission were to provide an open and welcoming space for people of all ages and backgrounds, sharing thoughts, ideas and/or creative projects; and to promote community connections.

Qigong is offered every Saturday
Challenges were faced in the beginning, but due to a dedicated few who embraced a stick-to-it attitude, the RHCC morphed into the Raymond Arts Alliance (RAA) one year ago on January 20th with the same mission in mind. It’s been a year of success, to say the least.

“I was actually pretty shocked when I saw our “year in review” with all of the events we had scheduled and things we had accomplished. I actually had to look at it for a long time to believe it,” stated Mary-Therese Duffy, President and one of the initial founding members of RAA. “The best thing about it was calling to mind all of the wonderful people we have met, some of the most fun, inspiring moments and ideas we shared with them, and how warmly welcomed the Raymond Arts Alliance is.”

Another founding member was Duffy’s husband, musician and educator, Gary Wittner. Sticking it out during difficult times offered some astonishing results “First and foremost, I am amazed and proud that we have developed into the group that now exists. I am also amazed that we have had so many and varied events.  And that we appear to be generating some local interest and excitement.”

When RHCC began, the events were held at the Riverside Hall located at 7 Raymond Hill Road in Raymond. Challenges arose at the beginning – such as being unable to continue financing artistic and community endeavors during the heating season and meet a monthly rent. As a result, some apprehension regarding all the logistics and legalities of having and hosting such events made the path to continue with the mission of the organization difficult. With most giving up on the project, Duffy and Wittner stayed with it – alone - to carry the torch. Until, that is, a little library and a small church with a big heart came along and saw the value of RHCC’s goal.

Duffy had this to say of the challenging transition: “I had to sit down and really examine my motives:
A full year of music, magic, comedy, poetry and more.
 were they clean?  As in, was I truly thinking about enhancing a sense of community connection and not just myself, in what I was attempting to do?  It was a pretty easy clarification I realized, especially when it brought to mind the 50 people or so to whom we had initially reached out for input and ideas.  At that time, they were not only excited, they had, without pause, donated pretty substantially. That felt like a mandate frankly, not so much from or for them, but for the very real desire, excitement and commitment I saw within the Raymond community to connect with one another while enjoying and supporting the arts and humanities. That made it easy. Scary, with just the two of us then, but easy to feel trust in what was driving us.  So, when the Raymond Village Library Board members and Reverend Nancy Foran of the Raymond Village Community Church reached out to us, we felt well teamed with people who had the same goals and vision we had.”

With this collaborative effort, RHCC then changed its name and became known as Raymond Arts Alliance (RAA). For the past year, the RAA has provided a variety of popular and well attended events to include (but not limited to) the following:
*Evening music series
*Comedy and Magic night
*Writing workshops
*SLUKES (Sebago Lakes Ukuleles) group sing alongs
*Short Set Concert performances (Latin, Celtic and Middle Eastern music)
*Poetry Night
*Seeds of Peace presentation
*Open-Mic nights
*Saturday morning Qigong/Tai-chi exercise program.

RAA now has grown with a larger group of volunteers. A new volunteer member, Louise Carpenter, stated that her main drive to participate in the group is to bring people out of their houses. “Raymond is such a large and spread out area, it’s really hard to meet people. The Raymond Arts Alliance is one way to gather as a community and enjoy the various events that we can all enjoy. As a result, I want to be a part of it and love the friendships I have developed as a result of my participation.”

Another dedicated volunteer, Brenda Olsen, concurred with Carpenter and also stated that she sees the work of RAA as way to bring unique performances and other venues to the area without having to go out of town and spending a lot of money. “One of my goals for RAA is to find ways to get children involved in the arts and the community, too.”

For those who are inspired to do something just as meaningful but are currently facing a hurdle along the way, Duffy shares some encouragement and what she learned about hanging in there during times when your dream seems out of reach.

“I like to say:  follow the yesses. The attraction of members to the Raymond Arts Alliance has been all about quite uncanny meetings of others that not only became “yesses”, they were also perfect fits of likeminded people with the exact right skills at the exact right time. Some things are just bigger than us and have been waiting to happen.”

Wittner had this to say about the way the Raymond Hill Community Center transpired into what it is today, “Things can manifest at any time, often when it seems unlikely. If the dream has passion, it keeps moving at its own speed.”

So, if it seems that things are not going as planned or meeting your agenda, remember that your dreams and vision can manifest at any time. Don’t give up.

To learn more about RAA or for volunteer opportunities, contact Duffy at:

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