LSM Newswire

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Portland Symphony Orchestra and Portland OvationsSpearhead Portland's First "Incubator" for the Performing Arts

PORTLAND, Maine – The Portland Symphony Orchestra (PSO) and Portland Ovations (formerly known as PCA Great Performances/Portland Concert Association) began co-habitating over 10 years ago when they decided to share office space in addition to their already shared venue space and box office systems. The shared space and systems worked so well for Portland's two largest performing arts organizations that they began to think on a grander scale. They hatched the idea of creating an arts "incubator" – a shared space where performing arts organizations can work together, pool resources and collaborate on concepts, projects, and back-office needs.

That concept came to fruition last August when the PSO and Portland Ovations moved to a larger space. The two organizations signed the lease, and invited the Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ (FOKO) to join them. Portland's Choral Art Society and the LARK Society for Chamber Music joined the group at their new home, 50 Monument Square, in the spring of 2009.

"We'd already made the decision that if an appropriate larger space became available, we'd move our offices together and invite other, smaller performing arts organizations to join us," said PSO Executive Director Ari Solotoff. "We know how hard it is for small organizations to afford office space and overhead on their own, and the collaboration seemed like a natural fit."

In the shared space the organizations are able to share conference facilities as well as costs of overhead including office equipment and machinery.

But more than just a fiscally responsible option, the shared space also represents an opportunity for artistic collaboration between groups that often already worked closely together. They now have immediate access to one another – and an easily shared network of volunteers.

"Many of us often worked closely together before, but now everyone is together, sharing space and energy and ideas – and everyone benefits," noted Portland Ovations Executive Director, Aimée Petrin. "There's a terrific amount of vitality and artistic collaboration going on here. It's a great place to be."

The 50 Monument Square building is owned by Youth Alternatives Ingraham, a Portland social services agency that is dedicated to advancing healthier lives, happier families, and stronger communities.

"The fact that our building is owned and managed by a local organization dedicated to strengthening community and serving other local organizations feels good," said Kathleen Grammer, FOKO's executive director. "And the fact that we're all in the arts district together alongside galleries, museums, and right down the street from our home venue is perfect."

Around the corner from their administrative space, Merrill Auditorium is the artistic home of the PSO (and their 82 professional musicians), Portland Ovations and FOKO. A 1,908-seat performing arts facility located in the Arts District of downtown Portland, the Auditorium was originally built in 1912 to replace two former halls both destroyed by fire. In 1997 Merrill Auditorium was completely renovated with improved acoustics, sightlines and stage facilities. Since the restoration, Merrill Auditorium has established itself as one of New England's finest performing arts centers. Merrill is also home to PortTix, Portland's box office and ticketing system for many arts events in Portland.

"Portland has a strong history of collaboration among its arts organizations, and our programming represents that more every year," said PSO Music Director Robert Moody. "We are especially proud to have begun Portland's first 'performing arts incubator', so to speak, and we are already seeing an upsurge in the energy and teamwork taking place between all of these great organizations."

About Portland Symphony Orchestra:
Serving the city of Portland, the state of Maine, and northern New England, the Portland Symphony Orchestra (PSO) is the largest performing arts organization in Maine. With critically acclaimed performances and broad community engagement, the PSO is widely regarded as one of the top symphony orchestras of its size in the country. Established in 1923, 2009-10 marks the organization's 85th anniversary season. For more information about the PSO visit

About Portland Ovations:
For nearly 80 years, Portland Ovations, the non-profit organization formerly known as PCA Great Performances/Portland Concert Association, has brought a dynamic season of exceptional performing artists to Maine including classical music, jazz, opera, world, dance, theater, and Broadway. In addition to their live performances, Portland Ovations brings the exhilaration of the performing arts out into the greater Portland community with season-long educational and outreach programs called Ovations Offstage. For more information about the organization and their programming visit

About FOKO:
Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ (FOKO) was founded in 1981 as a result of the city of Portland's need to withdraw funding for the municipal organ housed in Merrill Auditorium due to financial limitations. Dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the Kotzschmar, FOKO's responsibilities include raising funds, presenting concerts and engaging the services of a Municipal Organist. For more information about the Kotzschmar, the guest organists and the season, visit

About CAS:
The Choral Art Society (CAS) has more than 150 singers who perform in three distinct ensembles: the symphonic Masterworks Chorus, the mid-sized Choral Art Singers, and the intimate a cappella Camerata. All singers are skilled amateurs, selected by audition. The Society offers an annual concert series and appears regularly as guests of the Portland Symphony Orchestra. Robert Russell, professor of music at the University of Southern Maine, is the conductor and artistic director of the CAS. For more information about the CAS and performances visit or call (207) 828-0043.

About The LARK Society for Chamber Music:
Taking its name from the initials of the Portland String Quartet (PSQ) members' surnames and from a Haydn quartet, "The Lark", The LARK Society for Chamber Music was formed in 1980 to promote chamber music and music education in Maine. In addition to presenting the Portland Concert Series, LARK supports the PSQ's educational outreach activities throughout the state. For more information visit or call (207) 761-1522.

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