Q&A with Executive Director
Founder and Executive Director, Maine Center for Creativity
477 Congress Street, 5th Floor
Portland, ME 04101
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Q: What was the inspiration for the Maine Center for Creativity?
A: I was riding my bike with my husband along the Portland harbor, enjoying the delight and great fortune of living in place as beautiful as Maine. And I’d been thinking about how to nurture all the creativity that abounds in Maine, with the idea in mind – really a question – for how to create a ‘think tank’ that could focus on that.
We rounded a corner and my reverie was confronted by a collection of white fuel storage tanks – so common a sight that we often tend not to really see them. But given my frame of mind, I saw them as empty canvases calling out to be transformed into something beautiful – filled with color and design. It was truly an ‘aha’ moment. One in which I saw all-of-a-moment the Art All Around project that would become the first focal program for the Maine Center for Creativity.
Q: How does Art All Around embody the goals of the Center’s mission?
A: The Art All Around project is an expression – a very visual one – that embodies the essence of a creative economy. It blends the power of art with a community’s economic underpinning. It joins the ordinary with the extraordinary – in this case oil tanks, which are the epitome of industry, transformed into public art on a grand scale. It spotlights creativity in Maine, captures the imagination, and couldn’t have happened without community collaboration on a broad scale.
Q: Why the focus on Maine’s creative economy?
A: Because the creative economy – from artists and writers to architects, creative agencies, software development, R&D, fashion, boat building and a host of other industry segments – this is where the future creation of wealth will occur. And I want my children and all of Maine to be a part of a community – and to participate and gain economic and cultural benefit from a community – that grows and values creativity.
Q: How does the Art All Around project further this?
A: It is a manifestation of a community’s commitment to ‘walk the walk’ of supporting a collaborative creative economy – beyond mere theories and concepts. It forces the Center to deal with all aspects and levels of community while demonstrating that the arts are important. In the process, you learn how people from many different walks of life share in this value – and gain from an expanded sense of community.
Q: What is the status of the Art All Around project?
A: We’ve completed the first two phases of the project. We successfully sponsored an international design competition that generated submissions from over 560 people from 80 countries. We’ve raised over $600,000 of the total $1.2 million needed to fund the project. And we completed painting of the first tank, Fall of 2009. The third phase will be comprised of the final funding effort and completion of painting all 16 storage tanks on the Portland harbor.
Q: How do you select projects?
A: We select projects that fit our mission and bring unusual and unique collaborations together. It’s a process of bringing together ‘unsuspecting,’ surprising elements. You might not naturally think of art and industry coming together to create a dynamic project such as Art All Around. It’s very exciting for the richness of collaboration produced. We’re open to consider a variety of ideas, and have a committee that vets proposals to ensure they fulfill our mission and ensure arts-and-industry collaboration.
Q: Why the emphasis on ‘community’ and ‘collaboration?’
A: When I first conceived of the Center, I was very concerned about the stark polarities evident in the community and the wider world – the over emphasis on those things that divide us. It seemed that in order for our community – local and global – to grow and progress, we need a greater ability and willingness to collaborate. What I’ve learned in the process is – it’s not easy! It’s one of the hardest things you can engage it – yet one of the most rewarding.
Q: What are the key milestones of the first 5 years of the Maine Center for Creativity?
A: Surviving – getting past the difficult start-up phase into sustaining growth. Creating a successful mechanism and a medium for collaboration – one that is local, but from the start, with the Art All Around project – was also global in nature. Attracting an able army of volunteers – from those willing to serve on a working board of directors to everyone who has helped develop and nurture all the many projects and programs that we’ve launched and are involved in. We’ve also raised a significant amount of money – attracting members and very generous benefactors in a very tough economy. We’ve accomplished a lot in 5 years – but have plans to do much more in the next five.
Q: What are the goals of the next 12-18 months?
A: Of central importance is the completion of the fund raising necessary to finish the Art All Around project. We’re on track to see the painting of the last of the 16 tanks in 2011. We’re also working to see completion of other major projects. This includes the Painters, Players & Poets project – which is very different from Art All Around, but every bit as unique and exciting. We’re also focused on pulling together the Creative Industries Directory for Western Maine, which we see as the first phase of a directory that will cover all of Maine.
Q: How can people get involved?
A: The simplest – but certainly one of the most important – is to become a member. We also are always in need of volunteers. And we invite everyone to participate in our public programs, including our ongoing Pecha Kucha evening programs, and our Creative Toolbox & Survival Guide seminars. We’re all about community, collaboration, and participation – and if you can’t find something that engages your interest in participating, we welcome new ideas for how you can become involved.