Marty Pottenger • Maine USA

Maine USA

a statewide network of twenty+ original performances based on each town/reservation/city’s history, all of them linked through environmental stories from the ice age till now

Maine USA’s Partners (* confirmed): City of Portland*, City of Biddeford*, City of Lewiston*, Greater Portland Council of Governments, Maine Historical Society, Sustain Southern Maine, Biddeford Mills Museum*, Museum L/A*, + Stonington Opera House*

Pilot performances in Portland, Lewiston and Biddeford start in 2014 with more from new partnering communities being added every summer up to 2020, our state bicentennial year. Performances will be staged in theaters, mills, diners, granges, opera houses, and beaches. Plays, performance tours, concerts, story exchanges, and town hall meetings are some of the performance events we anticipate. Participants will include professional and local actors, musicians, residents and local officials. Grounded in Mainers love for their state, Maine USA will host town hall meetings, story exchanges, participatory research, and civic dialogues to gather stories and participants that reflect Maine’s diversity – ethnic, religious, tribal, economic.

The beauty and the history of Maine’s marine and wildlife, mountains, islands, forests, rivers, lakes and coastline are at the heart of Maine USA. After centuries of providing economic opportunities, many natural resources have collapsed but a few have been restored. Maine USA will offer clear-eyed, inspiring stories that share each community’s human and ecological history in ways that connect participating communities whether Millinocket, Pleasant Point Reservation, Stonington, Biddeford or Fort Kent.

As part of a national movement partnering creative placemaking with community development, Maine USA is designed to strengthen communities’ capacity to address environmental and economic challenges. Partners already include local governments, cultural organizations and regional planning initiatives. Intended outcomes include inspiring cultural shifts that allow a significant degree of collaboration between communities, generating opportunities for new leaders, sustainable networks, innovative approaches, economic vibrancy, and seeding a practice of statewide performance-based creative placemaking initiatives. Project design encourages communities to partner on research, outreach, development, production, performance and community engagement, generating new collaborations, networks and understanding.

Every year, over 27 million people visit Maine. Maine USA is developing a business plan for long-term sustainability that encourages economic revitalization, positive social and cultural impact and community investment. As well as increasing traditional travel-related income in participating communities, we expect cultural, historical, arts organization will see a measurable revenue increase. Our national marketing campaign anticipates Maine USA sites will become a destination for residents and regional/national visitors.

Maine USA’s vision and strategies sync with Greater Portland Council of Government’s regional objectives: developing a comprehensive approach to climate change, regional sharing of resources and planning in transportation, energy use and housing. Planners have long identified the effect of communities deep suspicion of each other, where their identity is framed in being different from and ‘better than’ each other.

Engaging a community in researching and retelling of their history is a transformative experience that can potentially shift attitudes and practices within and between communities. A collaborative process of research, planning and production among the partner communities will foster new partnerships, understanding, and mutual goals among city and community leaders.

Maine USA requires that each community’s performance event include these four elements:
1) Local stories that depict the community’s challenges and triumphs with humor, drama and insight 
2) The story of a particular period in Maine’s and the USA’s history as experienced in that community
Ex: First Peoples, Settlement, Agriculture, Military, Immigration, Whaling, Industry, Tourism
3) The story of that community’s ecological history from the ice age till now
4) A project design that increases community’s resiliency, economic vibrancy and strengthens relationships with neighboring communities