Portland is home to a strong selection of established contemporary galleries, and a growing number of off-the-wall spaces dedicated to experimental approaches and unique exhibitions. These ten must-see art galleries and spaces in Portland demonstrate Maine’s commitment to culture and showcase the works of talented local artists while keeping an eye on global trends.
PhoPa Galleries, although relatively new on the scene, is a top destination for works by emerging Maine artists and the collaborative effort of Jon Edwards, Bruce Brown and Maine Media Workshops + College. The gallery is dedicated exclusively to the presentation of photographic and paper-based arts and since opening in 2013 has developed a reputation for showcasing works that are rarely seen anywhere else in Portland. Its collaborative background culminates in an array of exhibitions featuring students, alumni and faculty of Maine Media Workshops + College and invited artists. PhoPa continually presents engaging exhibitions of striking photographs by artists such as John Goodman and Melonie Bennett. Their sometimes wacky exhibition schedule of emerging artists is also effectively punctuated by shows of master artists and printers such as Tim Higbee. PhoPa participates in the Portland First Friday Art Walk and exhibitions are often accompanied by vibrant opening receptions and artist talks.
Susan Maasch Fine Art presents a varied, aesthetic display of contemporary art by emerging, mid and late-career artists hailing both from the region and across the United States. The Downtown Portland gallery focuses in particular on painting, prints, photography, sculpture and ceramics, featuring a wide range of styles and approaches within each medium. Represented artists include painter Rose Olsa and sculptor Andy Rosen and ceramicist Paula Shalan. Throughout the year Susan Maasch Fine Art presents a rotating schedule of solo and group shows such the CUPINVITATIONAL, an exhibition of ceramic cups by American artists celebrating the combination of art and utility. A regular feature on the First Friday Art Walk, Susan Maasch Fine Art also provides a unique venue for lectures, film screenings, and readings held both in conjunction with gallery exhibitions and by outside organisations.
Fostering true creativity is the mission of non-profit contemporary arts venue SPACE Gallery. This is achieved through their presentation of unconventional artworks and ideas by emerging local artists and nationally recognised talents; SPACE embraces risk-taking and innovation, resulting in a delivery of bold, curiosity-driven exhibitions and events that are unique within Portland. SPACE is a unique platform for visual expression that fosters the development of emerging and mid-career artists, encouraging experimental practices and introducing off-the-wall ideas to the public. With an impressive programme of over 200 events and 20 visual art exhibits each year, SPACE creatively combines the fields of visual art, literature, film, music and public collaboration to ensure a unique experience of contemporary art.
At Greenhut Galleries the represented artists are the hearts and soul of the operation. Works on show feature a variety of media and techniques including textiles, sculpture, glass, painting and photography. Now an integral part of Portland’s historic Old Port district, the gallery has been running for over three decades. Over the years, Greenhut Galleries have gained an international reputation for both the quality of presented artworks and their continued involvement with local and global art communities. Owner Peggy Greenhut Golden, an active member of the Portland Public Arts Committee, often hosts charity exhibitions at the gallery alongside the gallery’s main exhibition programme. Greenhut Galleries also holds the biannual Portland Show, a specially curated exhibition of invited artists working in Maine featuring works that depict and interpret Portland. Featured artists include Lissa Hunter, Sarah Knock and Alice Spencer.
Institute for Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art
The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) at the Maine College of Art (MECA) is a must-visit venue for those seeking out the latest trends and perspectives in contemporary art. The stunning gallery in the college’s landmark Porteous Building is celebrated for the presentation of cutting-edge contemporary art by local, national and international artists such as Bryan Graf, Allan Kaprow, Kate Gilmore, and Ander Mikalson. Exhibitions at ICA discuss a wide variety of critical concepts through a broad spectrum of media including digital media, sound, performance, installation and fine art sculpture among others. ICA also displays works by MECA faculty members and students, and holds numerous public events throughout the year such as lectures, workshops and performances. Working closely with artists and the local community, ICA offers a unique insight into the artistic profession with first-hand experience provided by visiting artists.
Although first and foremost a non-profit school, the Salt Institute is also a key contemporary art venue in the region, known for their stunning and emotive exhibitions of documentary photography. Established in Kennebunk, Maine in 1973 by Pamela Wood, the Salt Institute has relocated five times and undergone many changes over the years. Working across the fields of documentary writing, radio, photography and new media the gallery has, however, maintained a focus on photographic works that convey the power of storytelling. Powerful exhibitions by photographers such as Angelo Meredino and Jeremy Lurgio aim to convey strong emotions, inspiring and transporting the viewer through the evocative power of photography. The Salt Institute also holds exhibitions of student work and an annual competition showcasing works created by the best emerging photographers from the United States, Canada and the UK in association with the Magenta Foundation.