River Tree Arts is a non-profit organization whose mission is to bring the joy and benefits of music, theater, dance, and visual art to everyone in our community, regardless of age, income, or prior experience. We believe the arts are crucial to the process of building community and, therefore, we foster opportunities for people to come together to create, learn, and celebrate. Throughout the year, we offer classes and workshops for children and adults; host eye-opening gallery exhibits; and present performances and special events.
What We Do
- Classes, workshops and camps for kids, teens and adults
- Performance space for theater, music and dance classes and workshops
- Craft Nights which feature a different craft each week
- Exhibition space in the Irvine Art Gallery
- Free open studio time for enrolled students
- Rental opportunities
River Tree Arts was founded in 1982 by like-minded members of the South Congregational Church in Kennebunkport, Maine. The donation of an Elmont S. Tyndale piano, coupled with international concert performers summering in the Kennebunks who needed a place to rehearse, and an acoustically inviting church sanctuary were the ingredients for the beginning of a summer concert series.
It was from the double apple tree bordering the Kennebunk River, adjacent to the South Congregational Church, that the newly formed organization took its name.
The first series of summer concerts included a dedication to the Tyndale piano and featured Mrs. Lois Anderson Stein (soprano), Mr. Keith McClelland on piano, and Mr. Wesley Boynton (tenor) in a program of inspired music. Later in the summer, the Dirigo Brass Quintet played a concert billed as “A Lemonade Matinee on the lawn by the incoming tide.”
Following the 1982 concert series, River Tree Arts with the Kennebunkport Merchants Association, sponsored a Christmas Concert, again featuring the Dirigo Brass Quintet, as part of the Merchants Association first Annual Prelude Weekend.
As the years passed and the number of programs outgrew the space at the church, River Tree Arts was launched as an independent 501 © (3) non profit organization.
Eleonore Dow Sanderson, the first Director, wrote in one of her early reports, “River Tree Arts is especially fortunate in the multi-talented communities it wishes to serve. The unique resources at our disposal permit us to dream about poetry and drama, folk dancing, fiddling contests, floating bands, Punch & Judy Shows, jugglers on the lawn and even silent movies with live accompaniment—anything in short that our imagination and resources will allow.”
A Message from Maureen DiGiovanni, Board President
It was the summer of 2011 when I first came to River Tree. I was visiting the Kennebunks and looking for an arts based camp for my young children. Immediately I was impressed by the openness of the Irvine Gallery, the warm nature of the staff, and the camaraderie of the people within the walls at 35 Western Avenue. I knew I had found a very special place.
As my family spent more time in the Kennebunks, we are now year round residents, I realized that River Tree was founded with the purpose of bringing the joy and benefits of music, theater and visual art to everyone in our community. We are fortunate to live in a place that believes in supporting local artists and respects the power of creativity.
River Tree is the the oldest community arts center in the state of Maine. We currently serve over 600 students in private lessons, special workshops, group classes and summer camps.
I am very proud of the direction we are moving in at River Tree. I encourage you to take some time to visit our building. We have recently renovated our first floor and continue to truly come alive with creativity during the afterschool hours. You will see that our faculty, staff, and board of directors are committed to honoring our founders and best serving our communities through the arts.
My hope is that we continue to care for what we have and ensure that it is passed down from generation to generation.