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May 15, 2017

Creative Portland getting down to business for art's sake

Photo / Renee Cordes
Photo / Renee Cordes
Dinah Minot is the new executive director of Creative Portland.

The former "Saturday Night Live" talent scout who recruited Dana Carvey and Mike Myers to the show aims to boost Portland's standing in the arts world.

Dinah Minot, the new executive director of Creative Portland, plans to do that by encouraging more businesses to buy and display art as well as host pop-up exhibits, including for First Friday Art Walks.

"So many organizations — banks, law firms — could benefit from showcasing art, and we want to encourage more patronage," she told Mainebiz in an interview at Creative Portland's new Free Street space she opened in January. "Arts patronage is very important for our sustainability and for our future."

Following several gallery closures in recent years because of development and an "ageing out" of artists, Minot plans to work with real estate companies, hotels and small businesses to find more exhibition spaces for local artists.

"We want to go into breweries, restaurants, hair salons, you name it," with the goal of encouraging more competition, portfolio selection and curatorial business, which will in turn create more jobs.

"The quality of the work here is more important than the quantity," and that will put Portland on the map as a New England arts hub, she added.

She also invites anyone who's interested to stop by anytime at 84 Free St. – across the street from the Maine College of Art — to leaf through the art books, use the wi-fi, or "or just meet and talk."

Starting in June, she also plans to host a Monday morning "drop-by" for locals to compare notes on cultural experiences and learn about coming attractions.

Art and economic development

As Portland's official local arts agency, the nonprofit Creative Portland weighs in on discussions about economic development initiatives, like the recent Bayside Adapts Design Challenge and bringing cold storage to the western waterfront.

Minot said she supports cold storage and will attend Thursday's planning board meeting "to help in any way I can" on a project she sees as an economic boon for the whole state.

"It's a win-win, it's literally something to jump up and down with excitement about, to have this opportunity," she said.

Inspired by last week's Eggs & Issues discussion hosted by the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, Minot mused about adding an art element to the cold-storage design. One idea would be to enlist Toshiko Mori, the Japanese architect behind the Center for Maine Contemporary Art and Design in Rockland, and Mori's glass-artist husband, Jamie Carpenter.

"What if it was a moving cool rainbow-y colored reflection glass that became a go-to destination?" Minot said. "That's what we should be focusing on, not, 'Nope, don't want a wall of buildings.' It's already not attractive down there. Let's make it a thriving waterfront."

'Portlandia' possibilities

Minot came to Portland a year and a half ago from Los Angeles with her husband, a television and film actor taking a break from Hollywood, for a lifestyle change after the youngest of their three children went off to college.

Minot remains in close touch with "SNL" executive producer Lorne Michaels, who hired her in the late 1980s to assemble a new cast, and is, in fact, thinking about a Maine component to "Portlandia," Michaels' comedy series set in Portland, Ore.

"I'm scheming some ideas how to possibly do a Portlandia social media blitz of East meets West, it would be a lot of fun," Minot said. "I really think we could get the whole community involved and maybe it could culminate with some sort of live streaming concert or conversation with each other."

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