An Open Letter from Maine’s Non-Profit Performing Arts Leaders

Support Maine’s Non-Profit Performing Arts Industry

Non-Profit Performing Arts Organizations are the cornerstones of Maine’s Arts and Cultural Tourism Economy in communities throughout the state but whether or not we will be here to support those communities after COVID-19 remains unknown.

The performing arts play a central role in the civic and cultural life of communities throughout Maine. But recent surveys show that more than 50% of our audiences will not return until a vaccine is available. Maine cultural organizations face dire realities with some of the state’s most venerable performing arts organizations facing permanent closure.

Without immediate targeted action in the form of a Performing Arts Covid Grant Program, our companies will not be able to reopen in a sustainable way while assuring the safety of artists and audiences. We need operational support and help to make structural changes so we can implement the changes needed in the face of Covid and survive until a safe, full reopening is possible.

Despite the current shutdown, the non-profit performing arts sector has not stood still. We continue to innovate, engage, and uplift our communities, primarily through free, online arts content developed and delivered with support from the PPP loan program. As PPP loan funds run out, and reopening our venues seems a distant hope, we join the many other businesses that have had to furlough or lay off employees further straining Maine’s unemployment system and economy.

The arts build community. Recent studies show that Maine has more than 2,000 cultural organizations. While the urban centers of Portland, Lewiston-Auburn, and Bangor have major cultural facilities, cultural events and opportunities abound in all corners of the state highlighting the local history, heritage, and creative capital of local and professional artists who call Maine their artistic home.

The arts mean business. Arts and cultural organizations add a value of $1.5 billion to Maine’s gross state product and provide upward of 17,000 jobs. Non-profit performing arts help drive the economy and create a landscape that attracts job-seekers, young people, and retirees. We are an important part of what makes Maine a truly great place to live.

The arts bring us together. Performing arts organizations and venues are economic hubs, providing important financial injections into their local economies. The funds generated go directly back into the communities we serve through jobs, vendor contracts, and further driving area businesses such as restaurants, hotels, and retail. Every $1 spent on cultural tourism results in $46 spent in the local economy.

The arts inspire young minds. Our common mission is literally to promote the public good. Our stages and concert halls are spaces to build empathy, promote teamwork, engage creativity, and celebrate community; from elementary school students playing an instrument for the first time to high schoolers exploring classic plays on their feet with professional actors, our organizations bring diversity, vibrancy, education, and cultural literacy to Maine. We want to continue engaging young people in the arts but cannot continue to do so without significant economic relief from the state.

As the pandemic hit, performing arts venues and organizations were, collectively, the first to close and will likely be the last to reopen. Attending live performances such as concerts and plays may not be possible until a vaccine is readily available to the public, which could be many months away. Without immediate targeted action our companies will not be able to reopen in a sustainable way while assuring the safety of artists and audiences. We need help to make structural changes so our venues are safe.

We, the leadership of Maine’s non-profit performing arts organizations must be included in the state’s economic relief and recovery efforts. The performing arts sector is in trouble. And we need your help.


Brian Hinrichs                                                     Todd Benoit
Executive Director                                              Board President
Bangor Symphony Orchestra                           Bangor Symphony Orchestra

Shoshona Currier                                               Sara Juli
Director                                                                Advisory Board Chair
Bates Dance Festival                                          Bates Dance Festival

Daniel Williams                                                   Chip Hutchins
Executive Director                                              Board Chair
Collins Center for the Arts                                Collins Center for the Arts

Linda Miele                                                          Matt Cook
Artistic Director                                                  Board President
Maine State Ballet                                              Maine State Ballet

Curt Dale Clark                                                    Margy Burroughs
Artistic Director                                                   Board President
Maine State Music Theatre                               Maine State Music Theatre

Bradford Kenney                                                 Brad Paige
Executive Artistic Director                                Board member
Ogunquit Playhouse                                           Ogunquit Playhouse

Caroline Musica Koelker                                    Arlene Schwind
Executive Director                                               Board President
Opera Maine                                                         Opera Maine

Bari Newport                                                        Rob Prybylo
Producing Artistic Director                                 Board President
Penobscot Theatre Company                              Penobscot Theatre Company

Nell Shipman Ellen Berg
Artistic/Executive Director Board President
Portland Ballet Portland Ballet

Aimée M. Petrin                                                   Mary Allen Lindemann
Executive & Artistic Director                               Board Chair
Portland Ovations                                                Portland Ovations

Anita Stewart                                                         Darrell Pardy
Executive & Artistic Director                               Board President
Portland Stage                                                       Portland Stage

Carolyn Nishon                                                     Dan Crewe
Executive Director                                                Board member
Portland Symphony Orchestra                          Portland Symphony Orchestra

Christopher Schario                                           Thomas H. Platz
Executive Director                                               Board member
The Public Theatre                                              The Public Theatre

Dawn McAndrews                                                Ryan Dumais
Producing Artistic Director                                  Board President
Theater at Monmouth                                         Theater at Monmouth

Tamsen Brooke Warner                                       James LaLiberty
Executive Director                                                Board Chair
Waterville Opera House/Waterville Creates    WOH/WC