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April 17, 2019

Portland's Mechanics' Hall names inaugural executive director

Annie Leahy Courtesy / Mechanics' Hall Annie Leahy has been named inaugural executive director of Portland's Mechanics' Hall. She currently serves as board chair at SPACE Gallery and is on the advisory board of the Portland Bach Experience.
Mechanics' Hall, located at 519 Congress St., is a 160-year-old building directly across the street from the Maine College of Art.
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Mechanics' Hall, the  historic Portland arts venue in the middle of renovations, on Wednesday announced the appointment of Annie Leahy as the organization's inaugural executive director starting April 22.

The appointment comes as the organization starts planning for major building and facility improvements that will allow the Hall to present a wide variety of creative and artistic programs to honor the mission of Maine Charitable Mechanic Association. That mission consists of inspiring and enriching the community by promoting ingenuity, creativity, innovation and the diffusion of useful knowledge.

“We are thrilled that Annie has accepted this leadership position with Mechanics’ Hall,”  said outgoing Board President Pam Plumb in a news release.  “Throughout the interview process, she acknowledged our history, spoke to our mission, and articulated a strong programmatic vision for our future.  Her experience, energy and drive will be a great asset to the organization.”  

Leahy comes to Mechanics’ with more than 20 years of experience working at both for-profit and nonprofit organizations. She’s held senior positions in New York City at ABC News, the Tribeca Film Institute and the Tribeca Film Festival. She moved to Portland, Maine in 2009 as the Executive Producer and Director of Programming for PopTech.  She currently serves as board chair at SPACE Gallery and is on the advisory board for Portland Bach Experience. 

“When Pam graciously gave me a tour of Mechanics’ Hall in the fall of 2018, I was struck by the beauty of the building and its rich history as a center for learning, cultural exploration, artistic curiosity and community,” said Leahy.  “I’m truly inspired by the enormous potential for us to channel that DNA and emerge once again as a vibrant, diverse, and inclusive cultural institution in the heart of Portland’s  art district.” 

Along with the hiring of an inaugural Executive Director, the MCMA board recently voted to change the organization's name from the Maine Charitable Mechanic Association to Mechanics’ Hall following several years of strategic planning to modernize the use of the building within Portland's arts district, create a more open membership base and promote general use by the public. 

Mechanics’ Hall will host an open house this coming fall to introduce the community to Leahy and reveal renovations currently underway to both the ballroom and the library. These renovations will remove a wall in the ballroom restoring this grand space to its original square footage and symmetry. There are plans to add a catering prep kitchen off the ballroom as well.

The library updates include making it more user friendly and accessible by widening the spaces between the stacks, refinishing the floor and installing new lighting.  This work is supported in part by The Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation, The Maine State Building and Construction Trades Council, The Maine Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 716, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 567, Turner Construction, as well as individual donations from association members and the Board of Directors. 

“It's a really exciting time for Mechanics’ Hall.  I am delighted that we have reached a point where an Executive Director is critical to our mission and continued success,”  said Hall Superintendent Tom Blackburn. 

Current programs at Mechanics’ Hall include a library book club, a monthly lecture series called Makers at the Hall and a coding program for kids. Next month it is set to launch Various!, a First Friday performing arts series.

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