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Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes has written about the arts in Maine since 2002. He’s never been much an artist himself, other than singing in junior high school chorus and acting in a few musicals. But he’s attended museums, theaters, clubs and concert halls all his life, and cites Bob Dylan as most influential artist of any kind since Picasso. He lives in Berwick.

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Posted: June 17, 2014

New Third Thursdays in Portland focus on contemporary art at MECA and PMA

Written by: Bob Keyes
Holly O’Neal of Raleigh, N.C., bends over to examine a small work by Maine artist Andrea Sulzer. The Sulzer show is among those that visitors to the Portland Portland Museum of Art will see in the weeks ahead. Top photo, a piece by Michael Oatman, who lectures at MECA on Monday.

Holly O’Neal of Raleigh, N.C., bends over to examine a small work by Maine artist Andrea Sulzer. The Sulzer show is among those that visitors to the Portland Portland Museum of Art will see in the weeks ahead. Top photo, a piece by Michael Oatman, who lectures at MECA on Monday.

The Portland art scene sharpens its focus on the contemporary, as both the Portland Museum of Art and Maine College of Art feature programs Thursday that explore tends in contemporary art locally and nationally.

Representatives from museums, galleries and art schools in Maine and New York will talk about the state’s role in the art world and national trends that we see in Maine.

The programming is part of a new Third Thursdays initiative in which both institutions will stay open until 9 p.m. to create another evening for the visual arts in downtown Portland. With the Institute of Contemporary Art at MECA and the PMA open late, Third Thursdays complements the First Friday Art Walk, and some arts supporters hope it spawns a secondary monthly art walk.

So far, no galleries in the Arts District have announced plans to join MECA and the PMA in staying open late.

From Richard Renaldi’s “Touching Strangers” series. Renaldi lectures at MECA on July 14.

From Richard Renaldi’s “Touching Strangers” series. Renaldi lectures at MECA on July 14.

The PMA will host a panel discussion from 6:30 to 8 p.m., the “State of Contemporary Art in Maine.”

Jessica May, PMA’s curator of modern and contemporary art, will host the discussion, which will focus on contemporary art in Maine and its influence on the state’s cultural identity. She called it a “state-of-the-state” of contemporary art in Maine.

The panel will include Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture co-director Katie Sonnenborn, Center for Maine Contemporary Art director Suzette McAvoy and Kohler Art Center curator Alison Ferris. They will address art-making in Maine and how it fits into what May described as “the broad spectrum of contemporary art practice” domestically and abroad.

“All the people speaking come at it from a different angle, so it should be a lively discussion,” May said.

As director of CMCA in Rockport, McAvoy will talk about what it means to be a regional arts center with national relevance. Ferris lives in Maine, and runs a national program that features a lot of Maine artists.

“We want to hear her talk about what she is seeing going in Maine that feels broader and what is going on in Maine that feels distinct,” May said.

Sonnenborn lives and works in New York, and co-directs the Skowhegan program. She will address the questions, Does place matter? Does Maine matter? Is it more important for an artist to get away from a primary market, or is it Maine specifically that matters?

“As curators, these are questions we discuss internally all the time,” May said. “We’re interested in taking this internal discussion and making it public.”

The evening also includes steel drum music by the band Island Beats, and the museum’s sculpture garden on High Street will be open. If the weather is nice, the museum expects people to socialize on the sculpture garden lawn.

Down the street at MECA, the ICA begins its ’14 MFA Summer Lecture Series with Jay Sanders, curator of performance at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

Sanders co-organized the Whitney Biennial 2012 and has curated many exhibitions, concerts and events over the past decade.

He is a member of the collaborative performance group Grand Openings, and has staged large-scale events at the Museum of Modern Art, the Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle and other venues.

He begins his talk at 5 p.m.

MECA and the museum scheduled their events so that people can attend both if they wish, said Raffi Der Simonian, director of marketing and communications at MECA.

THIRD THURSDAYS

WHERE: ICA at MECA and Portland Museum of Art
WHEN: 5 to 9 p.m. at both institutions
HOW MUCH: ICA at MECA is free, regular admission at PMA
INFO: meca.edu; portlandmuseum.org

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