Portland, ME

Contact Name
Jean Maginnis
Project Dates
March 2008 -Now
Art All Around is an international design competition developed to build Maine's reputation for creativity and innovation. From March -June 2008 more than 1 million people visited the Art All Around competition rules to compete for 5, $10,000 semi-finalist prizes and one grand prize of an additional $20,000. More than 560 artists from 80 countries submitted design proposals to transform a series of 16 storage fuel tanks (261,000 sq.ft.) into the world's largest public art painting. The grand prize winner of the competition is Jaime Gili, an artist who is London-based and Venezuelan born. Collaborators included: City of Portland, City of South Portland, Maine College of Art, etc. To date $950,000 has been raised and 6 tanks have been painted. Next steps: raise $400K & paint 8 tank tops
Project Goals
What were the project goals?
The project goals: put Maine on the map for creativity and innovation; engage unusual stakeholders in a Creative Placemaking project; reach out to the world in a unique way to show that Maine is filled with creative thinkers and highlight our importance in American Art history with artists such as Winslow Homer, Marsden Hartley, Berenice Abbott, Lois Dodd, Louise Nevelson, etc.; demonstrate Yankee ingenuity by taking what is current infrastructure and transforming it into something that points out our creative assets; use the tops to create art seen by Google- Earth; in a global economy cut through the "clutter" by creating a project so big that it will stand out and garner media attention.
Have they changed over time?
The goals have remained, but how we have been able to accomplish them have been constantly evolving. We have learned so much about works and what does not work.
Who are the project partners and stakeholders?
The Maine Center for Creativity Board of Directors; Sprague Energy Co.; City of Portland, City of South Portland, Maine College of Art, Maine Society of Engineers, Maine Dept. of Community and Economic Development; Portland Public Art Committee. Greater Portland Council of Governments; Sherwin-Williams, AMEX, inc, Portland Society of Architects
Project Specifics
How was the project implemented? What were the steps taken?
The project was implemented with the help of urban design planner, Alan Holt and the volunteers of the Maine Center for Creativity. After initial agreement by the Sprague people, we developed a legal agreement for permission to use their white tanks as our canvas for the international competition. We worked with Liesel Fenner (NEFA & Americans for the Arts) and Jim Grace, Boston's Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts as well as Alice Spencer, Portland Public Art committee to develop the rules of the blind, international competition. We raised $70,000 in cash prizes to award to the best design ideas; we engage the pro-bono support of a PR firm to help us reach out to the world; we consulted with art experts and marketings to grow a list of interested parties; the Maine International Trade Center helped us reach out to countries around the world; we recruited 9 jurors; 6 from Maine and 3 from other countries and had our pro-bono web developer, Portland Webworks create the back end administration to accept proposals from around the world and have jurors grade the designs; we selected 5 semi-finalists, had them present to 2 Maine communitites; selected the grand prize winner; started raising money to apply the design to tanks in Oct. 2009 and continue that effort now.
Have they been refined over time?
All steps have been continually refined and re-invigorated; especially the fundraising efforts as this has been completed funded by the private sector.
What were your major obstacles?
Resources of time, talent and money; understanding how difficult change is for a community; criticism from the art community.
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
The volunteer Board of Directors constantly inspired each other to overcome obstacles; a vision that was presented in a visual manner to the community helped us overcome fear of change; persistence and resilience helped us overcome criticisms and lack of resources. Everyone agreed to take some risk in order to transform an old traditional infrastructure into the world's largest public art painting.
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
Gather successful, passionate people from all walks of life to help you complete a public art project; seek expertise from the arts and sciences and businesses; keep sharing the vision of transformation to the community, gently and persistently. Most importantly, make sure you have people who understand money on your team.
Project Impact
How has this project contributed to creative community building?
Since the first front-page Oct. 2005 newspaper article announcing our plans the community has been engaged in many conversations about public art and what it means. Our specialty has been the nexus of arts and industry; Art All Around has brought more than 80 million online, print, radio, television and magazine media hits to Maine and Portland. During this presentation, I can provide copies of articles from Engineering magazines, art magazines and main stream media. Our most recent media hit on Web Urbanist brought 650,000 readers. We pride ourselves on bringing together traditional art enthusiasts with the non-traditional art skeptic.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
We wanted to transform the conversation so that creative economy was not only talked about by art enthusiasts; we worked specifically to invite the business media to engage with us and our supporters; when the major newspaper placed public art as a front page story in July of 2010 we knew the tide had changed. In the early days of the project, the editors would only let me speak to the arts reporter. Now, after a visit to the editor, the Major Maine business newspaper includes a Creative Economy section and highlights these stories. We were successful with re-framing the importance of public art.
Were there unexpected impacts?
Yes, and we are sure that we don't even know what most of them are at this point in time. Recently, the Dean of Maine College of Art informed us that he thinks the modern design that has appeared on our tanks has improved the "visual language" education of the people of our area ;last year we won a national award for excellence in painting steel structures called the "William Johnson Award"; our quality and attention to detail in the science of protective coatings has brought unexpected attention from the industrial sector. All of the work of the Art All Around project has given us the credibility and support the Center needs to continue to provide support to the creative industries and professionals who want to live in Maine.