"It's our future, let's build it together"

The Creators: Tamsen Warner

Tamsen Warner is the Executive Director of Waterville Opera House.

How did you come to be in Waterville? Why did you return?
I was born and raised in Waterville, but I had no idea that I was going to stay here. I studied theater and scenic painting at UConn and completed a year of graduate school but decided it wasn’t for me. I came home and immediately contacted Waterville Opera House, where I had been performing since I was twelve. I worked at night until a full-time job opened up, and I worked my way from Box Office Manager to Executive Director over the last 5 years.

How has Waterville changed during your time here?

It’s more that I’ve changed. People have a certain view of their hometown – that it’s lame and boring – and they haven’t experienced the world. They feel an urge to get out. I was fortunate that while I was at UConn, I realized all the great assets Waterville has. I spent a summer in New York City and realized that while I love visiting the hustle and bustle of the city, it’s not where I want to live.

Tell me about the arts & culture scene outside and inside Waterville. How does it compare?

We have something really unique here with Waterville Creates! Together, we are a performing arts venue, a visual arts gallery, and an independent arthouse cinema.  There are only a few organizations like it in North America. Waterville is a small town, but it has amazing arts assets. The caliber is super high for a rural setting. We’re fortunate to be in a college town, which was a major contribution to why Waterville kept going after the mills closed.

Where do you think Waterville will be in 5-10 years?

I hope we have so many people coming here and the same kind of bustling downtown as cities like Portsmouth and Brunswick. The same kind of foot traffic and attendance. I hope we have such a big parking problem we have to build a parking garage.

Where will Waterville’s arts and culture scene be in 5-10 years?

We’re already booking way more concerts than even one or two years ago. I would love to be able to do more outside events, put on more Waterville Rocks! concerts, and offer a new works series for theater, bringing in innovations currently available in other  cities. And, of course, by that time we will have a new vibrant arts center downtown so people can come see tons of art in one place!

Why should young people get involved in a small, rural city like Waterville?

If they don’t, the city doesn’t have a future. Dig deep and appreciate what  our community has to offer. Get involved in service, like the Rotary Club. If you love to see plays but can’t afford it, volunteer for Waterville Opera House!

What are the challenges you face as a young leader in your field?

Not being taken seriously. People are sometimes shocked that I run the Opera House when they need “to talk to a manager.”. Most of our employees are older than I am. I work hard to present millennials in a good light – as dedicated, prepared, knowledgeable.

On the reverse, some  community members feel good that I work in my field in my hometown. It gives them hope.

What advice do you have for millennials deciding where to put down roots and get involved?

Go for what you love. Don’t be afraid, but be prepared. If you go to college for the Arts, get a graduate degree in administration, management, or marketing make sure you develop other skills that make you marketable.

What’s your pitch for greater Waterville?

Find a place whose values align with your own. Waterville is centrally located in Maine – the coast and mountains are an hour away, and the outdoors and the arts are easily accessible. It’s a great place for tons of different people with different interests.

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