The National Endowment for the Arts gave $426,800 to the Maine Arts Commission to deliver to arts organizations in Maine to help with pandemic relief on Thursday, just as some of the groups that might benefit from that money canceled or postponed events scheduled for the spring and summer.
The NEA money, appropriated through the federal CARES Act, will offer relief to Maine’s cultural economy by helping to preserve jobs and cover operational costs, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, said in a statement. “This federal support will deliver much-needed relief to Maine’s world-class arts community as it faces this unprecedented challenge,” she said.
Julie Richard, executive director of the Maine Arts Commission, said her staff is working on a plan to distribute the money, and details would be announced next week. David Greenham, chairman of the commission, said the money would be distributed through the commission’s grant process. “The other major concern, of course, is individual artists, and this funding for the most part is restricted to organizations,” he wrote in an email. ArtsEngageMe, a nonprofit arm of the Maine Arts Commission, is raising funds and giving $500 awards to individual artists in need, he said.
Meanwhile, Opera Maine announced it was canceling its summer performances of Richard Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman” July 29 and July 31 at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, as well as its Studio Artist series presentation of “The Fall of the House of Usher,” July 8 and July 10 at Portland Ballet Studio Theatre.
“Although we had held out hope that we would all be able to come together this summer, with the uncertainties of the virus and the path it will take, we realized that for the health and safety of our artists, theater professionals, and audiences, our season could not go forward,” Opera Maine executive director Caroline Koelker wrote in an email.
The Portland Chamber Music Festival canceled its May 20 “Springtime Brahms” concert and its annual benefit, scheduled for June 7. The group’s August festival is still on, but tickets won’t go on sale until there’s more certainty about the summer schedule. In an email Thursday, festival planners said they anticipated an update about the status of the August festival by June 1.
Also Thursday, the co-directors of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art said they were postponing the summer show, “At First Light: Two Centuries of Artists in Maine,” until the summer of 2021. The exhibition will explore how Maine has lured and inspired artists, and was planned for Maine’s bicentennial.