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FY21 Annual Report


Creative Portland was founded by the Portland City Council to grow and support the creative economy. Our mission is to support the creative economy through the arts by providing essential resources, by fostering partnerships, and by promoting Portland's artistic talents and cultural assets. As the City’s official nonprofit arts agency, we support economic development efforts by strengthening and stimulating our workforce, creative industries, and enterprises.

Executive Summary:

The Creative Portland Corporation (CP) submits its twelfth Annual Report to the Portland City Council, Corporator of Creative Portland, having ended its fiscal year of operation on June 30, 2021.

Witnessing the devastation and subsequent fallout within the arts community beginning in the Spring of 2020, CP responded quickly by establishing an Artist Relief Fund, as a source of direct relief for local artists in the gig economy. Having raised $95,000 in grassroots funding through the end of the fiscal year, CP has disbursed half of the funds to over 100 artists, mostly in the form of $500 stipends.

In addition, CP has reinforced its role as an arts community convener and as a leader and resource for grant relief and loan programs, including the City’s business assistance and rapid-relief programs.

Creative Portland’s role as a resource to the City and to cultural and arts stakeholders is recognized in two distinct ways.

One: the office of Creative Portland in the City’s Housing and Economic Development Department (HEDD) applied for a State Keep Maine Healthy Grant in the Fall of 2020 to contribute to the City’s Public Health COVID campaign through arts messaging. CP was awarded close to 75K to implement the grant, including a banner and sidewalk campaign, with flagpole banners and large exterior banners displayed throughout the city on the facades of private and public buildings. Most of the installations were privatized, while several banners and street barricade designs were hung with the help of the Department of Public Works (DPW), the city manager’s office and the Planning Department.
The project represented over two dozen local artists from diverse backgrounds and underserved populations. (The arts messaging campaign can be viewed in a one minute promo video on the CP website).

Two: Creative Portland has been useful for our nonprofit status and fundraising ability, as well as for our experience in providing open calls and a juried process for a variety of efforts, including creative messaging on the public health campaign, responding efficiently to new requests for public art installations, and securing community buy-in and acceptance of the diverse selection and high caliber of art on display. In addition, we have the capacity to conduct surveys and reach our constituents as evidenced in a recent survey on public attendance to arts events during the pandemic.

With CP staff now working at the City, we can leverage our capacity to oversee and fulfill arts-related projects in a variety of artistic genres, including visual arts and performing arts. Streamlining and centralizing a process for Arts oversight is our goal in collaborating with the city .

Financial Summary

A financial summary of CP’s FY21 revenue and expenses is included with this document, revealing a cash surplus of $33,683 accounting for reserved funds earmarked for the ongoing artist relief fund, available on a rolling application basis.

The Creative Portland Board of Directors appreciates the annual TIF funds of $100,000, capped by the Downtown TOD TIF District through FY2045, currently allocated to HEDD for salaries. In March 2021, CP submitted a proposal for a TIF increase amendment to the City Council’s Housing and Economic Development (HEDC), which voted 4-0 in favor of the amendment. The proposal ultimately resulted in an allocation from a surplus general fund account of $25,000 to be disbursed in FY22. The proposed TIF amendment will be discussed in FY 23 budget deliberations.

When CP staff joined the city as full-time employees in January 2020, in the Economic Development Department (now known as Housing & Economic Development Department (HEDD), the CP board evaluated its new role as an advisory board, no longer supervising or hiring the executive director. However, the board continues to advise the staff, including recommending an annual work plan to the City, and working with the Executive Director on programming priorities.

In 2020, COVID-19 caused the shutdown of the Creative Portland office and gallery on Free Street and future in-person events. At the beginning of FY21, staff were furloughed one day a week through September, due to the pandemic. Despite the pandemic, and because of the pandemic, Creative Portland has gained exposure and attracted property managers and private sector investors.

Creative Portland’s public and private sources in cash grants and donations were just under $197K ($196,616, plus $12,600 in specific in-kind donations) and hundreds of hours of in-kind support contributed by dozens of volunteers. $19,500 was distributed for the benefit of area artists struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic, additional disbursements will occur in FY22.

Still gaining traction, following the City’s adoption of the updated cultural plan of 2018, and during the pandemic, the organization has attracted several hundred new donors to the artist relief fund and at least a dozen new sponsors in FY21, despite the shutdown of our signature programs such as First Friday Art Walk, the Arts & Culture Summit, the CP Gallery and Monday Morning Drop due to COVID. In FY21, CP continued with public art programs to implement public health and mental health campaigns, hiring over two dozen artists to keep artists relevant and to showcase their work during the pandemic. At the same time, CP attracted over 3500 instagram followers.



Creative Portland’s COVID-19 resilience plan was to create and manage the Portland Artist Relief Fund, an emergency initiative to help our local artists in the gig economy, who have had few other funding sources, by providing them individual stipends of $500. Through a grassroots effort, Creative Portland raised over $95,000 for the initiative. Four rounds of disbursements have been awarded to over 100 artists, and today the fund is still available, on a rolling application basis.


As part of our effort to implement the city’s cultural plan, which is a strategic priority, and to attract visitors to Portland as a world class arts destination, CP was awarded a CCEDII (cultural plan implementation) grant, funded by the Maine Arts Commission, to develop a cultural app. This digital marketing tool, set to launch in February 2022, will provide 24/7 self-guided tours and access to activities in the arts community, year round. Creative Portland
 plans a community forum by year-end to spread awareness and to provide additional information.
The planning and design phase of the Cultural App began in January 2020, after a branding work group representing a dozen community leaders met to focus on the development of an innovative marketing tool, a cultural app.

The previous year, in March 2019, The Cultural Plan Update of 2018: A Living Action Plan was adopted by the City Council, effective on March 22, 2019. The update identified a strategic priority to brand Portland as a creative center and world class arts destination. The development of a cultural app is a pilot program in the state of Maine, with Portland as the testing ground for this cultural tourism initiative.

NEA Our Town Grant - Creative Bus Shelter Initiative

In March, Creative Portland was awarded its second National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grant. The first grant was received in April 2019 for Phase One of the Creative Bus Shelter initiative. We began to install creative bus shelters in August 2020, and the last one was installed in May 2021. The second phase of the community arts-based initiative allows for more public art, using bus shelters as the canvas.

The program also provides artists with an opportunity to create public art in their own hometown. The $25,000 matching grant supports phase two of a creative placemaking initiative to design 3-4 additional artistic bus shelters celebrating the City’s racially diverse communities, including immigrant and refugee populations. The unique project engages local artists and arts administrators, in partnership with transit providers, private vendors and fabricators. It allows for collaboration with the Office of Economic Opportunity and the Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center, to create art-based community projects for positive social impact.

The Creative Shelter review committee consisted of Dinah Minot of Creative Portland and partners, Greg Jordan of GP METRO and Zoe Hill of Greater Portland Council of Governments. Other members of the team included Fred Yalouris of Rock Row/Waterstone Properties, Jamie DeSimone of the Portland Museum of Art, and Daniel Minter of Indigo Art Alliance. An open call is currently out for the second phase, with a deadline of December 15th for new submissions. Co-sponsors include Designtex, American Steel & Aluminum, and Portland Industrial Coating.

Summer Stages 2021 in Monument Square
Live performances by local artists were presented in concert when First Friday Art Walk commenced again this past September and October. These performances are free for all ages, from 5-8pm. The purpose of the Summer Stage grant-generated program was to invite public engagement and to evoke joy in celebration of local artists, many who have been shuttered and/or unable to perform during COVID. Two of the concerts were held in Monument Square. Board member Herb Ivy served as the master of ceremonies, in an event planned by music bookers and event planners, hired on a contractual basis, and funded by a grant award from the Maine Arts Commission.

First Friday Art Walk (FFAW) - Cancelled April 2020 through June 2021 due to the Pandemic. Resumed in July 2021.

Now in its 21st year, the Art Walk attracts thousands to downtown Portland for Maine’s largest monthly free cultural event. FFAW was postponed during FY21 to discourage large gatherings during COVID-19. A Virtual Events Calendar replaced the FFAW listings online, in order to promote the organizations who usually participate in the self-guided tour.
Based on research conducted in 2011, we estimate that the Art Walk brings well over $1 million to the local economy every year, as consumers spend an average of $28 per person when attending a Portland cultural event. Creative Portland promotes and manages the Art Walk with online listings, with media partner Portland Phoenix (in print) and generously sponsored by organizational partnerships with Greater Portland METRO, Coffee By Design, Portland Ovations, Portland Museum of Art, the Portland Phoenix, WMPG, Rabkin Foundation, Maine College of Art, and Mechanics’ Hall. METRO has partnered with CP since 2016 to offer free rides every First Friday after 4pm, including the Breeze connection from as far away as Brunswick, and the Husky Line (opened in August 2018) that connects to the University of Southern Maine campus in Gorham.

In the summer of 2021, our goal was to bring the “art” back into the Art Walk with a focus on facilitating a free, self-guided tour of galleries and cultural venues. The success of the program has attracted visitors from all over the state. City departments are currently working with CP to ensure safety and code compliance, particularly when crowds swell during the summer months.Arts & Culture Webinar planned for community cultural discussion, in lieu of cancelled Portland Arts & Culture Summit - Postponed due to the pandemic. In June 2019, CP hosted the Portland Arts & Culture Summit at Ocean Gateway and convened over 200 artists, arts & cultural leaders, creative business owners, developers, investors, and city staff under one roof. The summit addressed internal strategic planning in addition to private investment opportunities for maximum arts impact and cultural tourism opportunities. Panelists included arts community leaders, city planning staff, private investors, and visitors from Burlington,VT and Lawrence, MA. Keynote speaker Congresswoman Chellie Pingree spoke about the economic value of the arts, and David E. Shaw spoke of the importance of place, community and cooperation. In 2020, the in-person event was replaced by a webinar with over 150 participants, including arts leaders, speakers and panelists, including Mayor Snyder and other elected officials and city councilors.

Arts Community Discussions - via webinar

This past year we have facilitated and convened diverse groups in the arts community, hosting two community discussions. One was held at the year anniversary of COVID in March 2021 and focused on how artists were responding to the impact of COVID on their lives. The second community discussion was held on June 21 and focused on reopening and reviving. These meetings have helped to unify the arts community and have led to new partnerships for the arts community to get involved with the private sector.

Hear Here - February 2021 was cancelled due to the Pandemic.

Background: On January 26, 2020, Creative Portland, co-promoted the second annual showcase of local performing arts talent in association with the City of Portland, The Crewe Foundation, and David E. Shaw, at Merrill Auditorium, with an audience of 700. Congresswoman Chellie Pingree attended, offering remarks about the relevance of the arts and culture sector as a major economic driver.

Embracing the cultural diversity of our city, the 90-minute show in 2019 & 2020 was produced and directed by Executive Director, Dinah Minot, and a production staff that included in-kind services and talents of Tony award-winner Lighting Designer Chris Akerlind, Set Designer Cindy Thompson of Transformit, Digital Choreography by Joseph Goodwin of Bellwether Mastering, animations by artist Lucky Platt (Dorothy Royle Macdonald), Production Management by Gregg Carville, filming by Praxis Motion Pictures, and audio and visual production by Headlight AV Visual. On a modest budget, the live concert featured an outstanding variety of African drummers, a Flamenco dancer, USM Chamber singers, rock bands and soul singers who displayed the world-class talent of our city.

The community showcase was made possible by over 50 community sponsorships, offering marketing and outreach on their own websites, and by the generosity of concert sponsors Headlight AV, Transformit, Praxis Motion Pictures, News Center Maine, Townsquare Media, WMPG, Coffee by Design, The Press Hotel, David Shaw, USM, Crewe Foundation, Justin Alfond, the Hunt Family, and a Beautiful World Fund.
The community responded enthusiastically, while survey feedback called for an annual showcase. Unfortunately, the February 2021 event was cancelled due to the pandemic. Whether there will be a 2022 concert later next year is to be determined.

Creative Portland Art Gallery - closed to the public during the pandemic, except by appointment, but available online.

“All the Great Trees,” a juried arts exhibition, opened November 1, 2019, at the CP gallery with a crowd of nearly 100 people while receiving accolades from the USM Free Press. 18 local artists from the Greater Portland area exhibited their work. The artists appreciated the exposure and have made new connections at other venues, including the Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center. Due to the pandemic, our April 2020 show was postponed until July 1, 2020, and is exhibited online rather than in person. Twelve artists were selected for the virtual exhibition-2020 Vision: Past, Present, and Future. Their work is promoted every Wednesday on Creative Portland’s Social Media, and monthly in the electronic Monthly Arts Update Newsletter.

Fiscal Sponsorships

An important way CP serves the creative community (and earns modest revenues for CP) is as the fiscal sponsor for creative initiatives that require a 501(c)(3) organization to apply for grants and accept donations on their behalf. In FY21, we were fiscal sponsors for the following organizations:

● Black Artists Forum: A coalition dedicated to maintaining the growth of individual creators and the community of black artists in Maine by creating visibility for artistic diversity.
● Black-Owned Maine: An online directory for independent, Black-owned businesses in Maine, including visual artists, performing artists, makers and artisans.

● Black Youth Fund: An emerging project to create a support system for Black Youth artists in Portland.

● Factory 3: A makerspace that offers Portland's creative community access to woodshop and metal shop equipment and tools, personal work/ studio spaces, and a variety of experimental and professional classes.

● Freedom & Captivity: A coalition of arts institutions, community organizations, support groups for incarcerated and previously incarcerated people, criminal justice reform experts, and scholars who work together to offer a roster of collaborative, creative, coordinated events, lectures, exhibitions, performances, and workshops taught at Maine colleges about incarceration and decarceration in Maine.

● Gulf of Maine Eco Arts: Via communication, hands-on artwork, events and education, Gulf of Maine Eco Arts (GMEA) promotes awareness of the climate crisis, encourages stewardship and action, and affects change.

● Indigo Arts Alliance - An artist incubator and residency for Brown & Black artists. CP’s fiscal sponsorship for the Blackbird Children’s Book Festival allowed IAA to purchase books without incurring extra tax fees.

● Maine Immigrant Music Connection: Aims to build community with recent immigrants through music.

● Maine Music Alliance: Goal is to increase awareness and to support the sustainability of the extraordinary live music venues of Portland, while highlighting the tremendous impact they have on our local economy

● Maine Production Safety: Works to create COVID-19 workplace safety guidelines for film and media productions in the State of Maine.

● Maine Tool Library: A volunteer-run tool lending library in Portland, serving makers, artists, homeowners, creatives, and entrepreneurs.

● PechaKucha (Portland): A global storytelling presentation, originating in Japan, in which 20 slides are shown for 20 seconds each in a precise and fast-paced event with multiple speakers. A community-building program that has been active in Portland for 10 years.

● Polyphonic Theater Ensemble: The mission of Polyphonic is to encourage inclusivity and accessibility by showcasing diverse voices and sensibilities on stage.

● Portland Dance Project: Under the guidance of internationally renowned Portland-based dancer Riley Watts, PDP provides an opportunity for local arts organizations to strengthen relationships, expand public engagement, and get audiences excited about seeing more performances in multiple venues.

● SPEEDWELL projects: An artist-run studio and gallery focusing on mid-career female artists and seniors, as well as LGBTQ artists, and is dedicated to launching thought-provoking exhibitions in all media, including site-specific installations, public art, spoken word, and performance.


The City Council, by Order #92 passed November 17, 2008, authorized the establishment of Creative Portland (CP) as an economic development initiative to support Portland’s creative economy. Formation of the Board of Directors was completed in the summer of 2009, with almost half of the Board appointments made by the city. One member of the City Council serves as the City Council representative and Greg Mitchell, Portland’s Economic Development Director, has served as the City Manager’s representative on the CP Board. Dinah Minot serves as Assistant Secretary and non-voting member.


Kate Anker (President), Running With Scissors Artist Studios Kirstie Archambault, Visit Portland
Nicole Barna, Portland Monthly Magazine
Lisa Bloss, Ultimate Software
David Brenerman (Secretary), Consultant/Former Mayor and City Councilor Councilor Tae Chong, (ex officio) City of Portland Councilor
Gibrian Foltz (Treasurer), Baker Newman Noyes
Eliza Ginn, Partners for Common Good
Lindsay Hancock, Artist & grants consultant
Leah Igo, Roux Institute, Northeastern University Herb Ivy, Townsquare Media

Dinah Minot (Assistant Secretary), Creative Portland
Daniel Minter, Indigo Arts Alliance, Maine College of Art, Black Artists Forum
Greg Mitchell (ex officio), City of Portland - Economic Development Department
Zoe Salhoul, NEAAO (New England Arab American Organization) Gerard Salvo, Human Resources Consultant