As the first decade of the millennium winds up (and as we mark the first decade of the Portland Phoenix's existence), it's worth a look back to see where we came from. We asked our sharpest minds — our arts writers — to consider the last 10 years and pick out the high points that still stick in their minds, in many cases almost an entire decade later.
We've assembled most of their answers here. But don't miss Charlie Gaylord on the best local albums of the Aughts or the musings of Sam Pfeifle (who has been covering local music for us since the paper was founded) on the best song of the decade.
And please add your own comments on the best artistic accomplishments of 2000-2009. Together, let's create a list of what was great about what's gone by, and help build what is yet to come.
ART — FROM A BOWDOIN MUSEUM SHOW “Spread,” oil on canvas by Kenneth Noland, 117 x 117 inches, 1958.
The past 10 years saw significant growth of both the COLBY AND BOWDOIN COLLEGES' MUSEUMS OF ART. At Colby, most of the physical growth of their galleries took place before 2000, but they have since had bequests and gifts that have made that museum one that any medium-sized city in America would be proud of.
Bowdoin, which didn't have Colby's room to expand, has, through some architectural sleight-of-hand, effectively doubled their exhibition space and curatorial facilities without significantly changing the building's footprint or its beaux-arts appearance. Since it opened they have been able to mount exhibitions that would have been impossible in the old building.
Between them, Colby and Bowdoin have added important permanent facilities and works to Maine's artistic life.
The exhibition that comes to mind as affecting the most people, both artists and audience, was the 2009 BIENNIAL AT THE PORTLAND MUSEUM OF ART. It was important because the jury chose to limit the selections to a particular curatorial vision. As a result, they selected just 17 artists of the over 900 that entered.
This is important because sweeping biennial shows are usually messy and over-inclusive, making them jumbles that lose any meaningful presentation. Add to that the utter impossibility of a jury making any kind of reasonable selections from thousands of hopeful entries. Narrowing the focus makes it possible.
As it happened, the 2009 show was marred by installation problems — big, loud, and sprawling pieces were placed in the same space as small, quiet, and meditative ones, to the detriment of both. The process, however, was sound and should be maintained.