Stone Mountain Wonder

The small town of Brownfield, Maine (population 1,200) will soon have its own arts center thanks to singer/songwriter Carol Noonan, her husband Jeff Flagg and a lot of friends.

The couple is building a 200-seat venue in a barn behind their 200-year-old farmhouse in the town, located about 40 miles from Portland. The grassroots effort, based on a supper club concept, will host concerts and other events.

The musician said the idea for the center came from her own experience as an artist and audience member.

“We’re all kind of transplants from places that have culture. We want to live in this beautiful country way but we also want the arts, so you have to kind of make the scenes where you are,” Noonan told Pollstar. “I see it in New England all over the place. It’s definitely a trend.”

Plus, this is her contribution to help change an industry that’s gotten “a little bit out of whack.”

“I just feel like the art of presenting a concert is dying, that we’re just grabbing the audience’s money,” she said. “We’ve been gouging our audiences a little bit.”

Noonan, who performs with guitarists Kevin Barry and Duke Levine around New England, plans to bring in local and national acts to fill the gap in entertainment choices after summer ends.

“I’d like to bring bigger artists here that wouldn’t normally do a 200-seat venue,” she said.

“I’ve been doing a lot of shows locally the last couple of years and the community is just so much fun and so anxious for anything,” Noonan added. “I think it’s a good time to reinvent what I do and bring exposure to people who wouldn’t normally get to see anything unless they drove quite a ways.”

The approximate $200,000 cost to renovate the building is being funded with the help of local investors, benefit concerts, and sales of The Water Is Wide, an album recorded by Noonan and pianist Dana Cunningham.

“We’ve done all the big stuff. Now it’s the expensive stuff like the equipment and we’re putting in a big stained glass backdrop behind the stage,” Noonan said. “That’s going to be the prize. The idea is that if they’re going to travel up to the middle of nowhere, it had better be a special room.

“That’s been the concept all along, that this could be a destination spot.”

The Stone Mountain Arts Center is on track to open next spring.

— Tina Amendola