December 27, 2017

Creative Portland sees opportunity for the arts in new year

Now that Portland has earned attention as a foodie city, Creative Portland's executive director wants to turn it into an arts destination as well.

Now that Portland has earned attention as a foodie city, Creative Portland's executive director wants to turn it into an arts destination as well.

Dinah Minot, the former "Saturday Night Live" talent scout who heads the city's official arts agency, is keen to work with others to develop cultural tourism, including Portland arts tours.

"We will be working with the [Maine] Office of Tourism, we will be working with the Maine Arts Commission, we will be working with other communities from Biddeford to Lewiston-Auburn to Rockland," she said in an interview at Creative Portland's home at 84 Free St.

She aims to put Portland on the map by nurturing local artists, "and finding ways for them to stay in affordable places to work, so they don't high-tail it out of town, and so that they can monetize and showcase and sell their art," she says.

Minot also envisions collaborating with the city's cultural organizations to create a "targeted experiential design initiative," like a single logo they could all use with their own banners as well as on digital maps, or setting up a bus line to bring visitors to museums, galleries and other cultural hotspots.

"I'd love to see a hop-on, hop-off loop that goes around for easy access so that you can get in and out of these cultural spots with ease and not have to worry about the parking," Minot says.

All that may help give Portland an arts-related brand identify, as mentioned in Portland's Economic Development Plan.

"We've never been given a separate staff or budget to do that," Minot says, "but as we start building relationships, that's not hard to do on a shoestring budget."

More space for artists

As part of her effort to showcase local talent, Minot has turned Creative Portland's Free Street office into an exhibition space, with two curated shows so far.

The current show, due to run until March, features works by local artists ages 25 to 93. Selections were made by a volunteer curatorial team of 12 people assembled by Minot who reviewed over 150 slides not according to genre or medium, but according to what they deemed to be the best of Portland.

But the Creative Portland space is limited — no room for sculptures, for example — so the longer-term plan is to find a large permanent cultural arts center.

"We want to create a destination center for the arts, to celebrate the best of the art being created in Portland today, with maybe artists in residence, a little marketplace and maybe artists in studios working there," Minot says, adding: "Every cool city has a major arts center or cultural hub where you come and see the makers at work."

In the meantime, she'll be busy with regular events like First Friday Art Walks — starting Jan.5 in the new year — and the monthly Monday-morning coffee meet-ups she's initiated. She also wants to expand professional development for those working in creative fields, building on the success of a recent session on copyright.

Art and baseball

Among the new projects Minot is most excited about is teaming up with the Portland Sea Dogs next summer in a Hadlock Field event she may call "Art out of the Park."

"We'll get musicians, drummers, artists, poets, everyone that we can who want to come down and showcase their work and make something fun out of it," she says.

Regardless of what role Sea Dogs' mascot Slugger will play, Minot finds it fun to work with non-traditional partners like the baseball team and the Greater Portland Council of Governments to bring the arts to a broader audience.

"We're a small enough town that we can do that," she says. "I just have to build capacity, raise more money, and hopefully bring on some more consultants and staff to help execute it."


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