June 21, 2018
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Groups band together, find donor to let Portland schoolchildren attend events for free

Courtesy of Portland Ovations
Courtesy of Portland Ovations
King Middle School students join Grammy-winning musician Dan Zanes on stage during arts education residency with Portland Ovations recently.
By Seth Koenig, BDN Staff

PORTLAND, Maine — Four prominent Portland arts organizations are joining forces with an anonymous benefactor to eliminate ticket fees for city schoolchildren.

The Portland Museum of Art, Portland Symphony Orchestra, Portland Ovations and Portland Stage on Wednesday announced the venture, operating under the collaborative title Culture Club-Portland.

Backed by an anonymous donor who committed to funding the program for its first three years, the participating institutions aim to bring 100 percent of students in Portland Public Schools to exhibits or performances for free in the 2014-15 school year.

At that point, each student in the district will have an opportunity to participate in at least one program per year offered by each of the four participating organizations.

Culture Club-Portland plans to ramp up to that goal by providing 50 percent of the students free tickets next year and 75 percent in the next year, 2013-14.

“Through this program students currently in kindergarten will have the opportunity to participate in 13 art events with each of the four partnering organizations, building a strong connection to these arts institutions as a part of their lives,” said Portland Symphony Orchestra executive director Lisa Dixon in a statement.

The donor was described in a group announcement as “a Portland resident who has been tremendously supportive of the arts and has offered to support Culture Club-Portland through the first three years of the program in order to allow the partnering organizations time to focus on building a great program rather than worrying about fundraising.”

“We hope that somebody else will then follow in their footsteps and donate in the following years,” Aimee Petrin, executive director of Portland Ovations, told the Bangor Daily News on Wednesday.

“All four organizations already do this work, meaning we have a proven track record of bringing students to our events and exhibits or going into classes, so what this does is take it to the next level in terms of relieving the school district from the ticket costs,” she said. “Each of these organizations charges a nominal ticket cost for those school performances or exhibit times. … [With the new program], they will no longer need tickets.”

Anita Stewart, executive and artistic director at Portland Stage, called the collaborative arrangement “visionary.”

“Culture Club is new not just to Portland but nationally as well,” she said in a statement. “We are working to develop a program model that can be replicated by other cities around the country.”

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