PORTLAND — During this challenging time of the COVID-19 pandemic, the arts community is hit hard. A grassroots emergency relief effort has been launched to benefit local artists. On the bright side, music and art continues to fill social gaps and bond communities digitally. Despite the fact that Creative Portland closed its doors to the public on March 13, in compliance with city preventative regulations, several projects and cultural tourism initiatives will continue, while employing healthy space practices, to benefit the arts community in the future.

During this challenging time of the COVID-19 pandemic, the arts community is hit hard. A grassroots emergency relief effort has been launched to benefit local artists. SYSTEM

One such project, generated by a recent Maine Arts Commission (MAC) grant award, is the development of a cultural app to give locals and tourists increased access to the arts through a user-friendly mobile device application.

After receiving a seed grant from Maine Arts Commission (MAC) in 2016, Creative Portland (CP) launched a two-year cultural planning process which culminated into “A Living Action Plan,” approved by the city council. One of the strategic priorities was to brand Portland as a creative center and arts destination.

This week Maine Arts Commission (MAC) awarded Creative Portland a $75,000 matching grant (CCEDII: Cultural Plan Implementation), to be dispersed in increments over three years, to develop a digital marketing tool, a cultural app, spearheaded by Creative Portland and developed by Big Room Studios, app developers and virtual reality experts, in collaboration with artists, city planners and arts community stakeholders. This is the first major MAC grant awarded to Portland.

As the city’s official nonprofit arts agency, Creative Portland’s COVID-19 resilience plan is to create and manage the Portland Artist Relief Fund (creativeportland.com/Artist_Relief_Fund), an emergency initiative to help local artists in the gig economy who have no other funding sources. The agency is taking the lead to consolidate efforts into the management of one local artist relief fund. As a convener and facilitator, Creative Portland practices community buy-in and inclusion to assemble volunteer curatorial teams and juries to serve the community. Many local artists have no savings and no income to buy groceries or prescriptions.

Creative Portland’s goal this month is to raise $50,000 to disperse a $500 stipend to 100 artists to help make ends meet. The agency will continue to raise funds for as long as the  unpredictable pandemic unfolds.


Creative Portland has assembled a review committee of arts community leaders and stakeholders, representing CP, Indigo Arts Alliance, Running With Scissors, Space, Damnationland/StoryBoard, to select applicants.

The application, which will provide specific requirements for eligibility, is targeted for online access on Monday, March 30. Funds will be dispersed by mid-May. In addition to the creation of the Artists Relief Fund, Creative Portland has launched a crowd-funding fundraiser on Facebook for smaller donation amounts, allowing everybody in the community to contribute.

Other sources of relief for the arts community, including small business disaster relief loans and potential state and federal funding, will be announced as they are initiated. Creative Portland has been in touch with Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, co-chair of the Congressional Arts Caucus and with Julie Richard, Maine Arts Commission. They are advocating for a relief package for the arts community. In addition, the Regional Chamber of Commerce is offering a Pay It Forward program, the city is delaying loan payments for three months, and the state is offering low interest (3.25%) FAME disaster relief small business loans. Portland Symphony Orchestra (PSO) is also conducting a relief fundraiser for their musicians.

Surveys have been published on social media by American for the Arts (AFTA), as well as Maine Arts Commission (MAC), for individuals and artists, to measure economic impact in anticipation of relief fund requests.

At the 2020 Arts & Culture Summit, rescheduled tentatively for Tuesday, Sept. 22, Creative Portland and the Summit Steering Committee will work with cultural anchors, MANP, artists, arts community leaders, creative economy experts, city partners, corporate sponsors, AFTA, New England for the Arts (NEFA), MAC, and philanthropic foundations to secure strategies for restructuring and rebuilding the arts community.

Several arts and cultural organizations are staying in touch with their constituents and fans. Streamlining and digital programming (Mayo Street Arts, Indigo Arts Alliance, Portland Museum of Art, Telling Room, Portland Public Library, Space, Suntiki) have offered digital platforms to tell stories, upload videos, create art, inspire community bonding and provide opportunities for musicians and performing artists to earn income via direct venmo and other social media fundraising platforms, including local venue live-streaming, art class listings and flamenco class listings.

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