Over the first few weekends of the summer, I’ve noticed something very interesting: Even on gorgeous, sunny Saturdays, the sidewalks of Portland and the galleries of the Portland Museum of Art are full of people and buzzing with energy.

This stands in contrast to years past, when the city would empty out during hot weekend weather, and it says to me that tourists from around the world are discovering what locals already know: Maine is as vibrant a cultural destination as it is a natural destination.

It speaks to the hard work of so many people in the community – those at our restaurants, shops, museums and more – that when people think about visiting Maine, they think not only of our beaches, lakes and lobster, but also of our lifestyle, art and heritage.

The Maine Office of Tourism has devoted resources to researching the demographics of Maine tourists and tailoring marketing campaigns to reach various segments of the population. Through these innovative efforts and hard work, as well as the dedication of my colleagues across the state’s cultural institutions, we’re getting people to rethink what the Maine experience can be – and offering a Maine summer that locals and visitors alike won’t forget.

From the Center for Maine Contemporary Art’s new facilities in Rockland to the robust events calendar at Bar Harbor’s Abbe Museum, and from all of the businesses and organizations pitching in for Acadia National Park’s centennial programming to the incredible slate of summer exhibitions at the museums on the Maine Art Museum Trail, the entire state is offering in-depth cultural experiences that you can’t find anywhere but in Maine. At the PMA, we’re also honoring the state’s contribution to contemporary art with our “Skowhegan at Seventy” exhibition, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture.

Not only are travelers noticing the appeal of Maine, but touring artists are as well. The PMA’s neighbors at the State Theatre have been bringing wonderful acts to several venues in Maine and have been among the leaders of the Thompson’s Point resurgence. They’re joined by Waterfront Concerts, who are doing great work in both Portland and Bangor.

And I’d be remiss not to mention SPACE Gallery, who successfully purchased their building and began a new artist-in-residence program, as well as the PMA’s partners in Culture Club-Portland – Portland Symphony Orchestra, Portland Stage Company and Portland Ovations – all of whom, like the PMA, are exploring innovative ways to engage audiences.

There are also excellent stage offerings in Monmouth and Ogunquit, top-flight film festivals in Camden and Waterville – there’s more going on than I could possibly mention.

There are also many organizations working behind the scenes to bring people together and help our communities thrive. Here in Portland there are several – the Portland Public Art Committee is thinking of new ways to transform our local landscape. The Convention and Visitors Bureau helps attract visitors to the region, while Friends of Congress Square and Portland Downtown District are just two that are joining the PMA to reinvigorate the Arts District.

Every town and city in Maine has similar organizations drawing visitors to our Main streets, downtown districts and arts centers. I worked at Bates College for many years, and the incredible efforts of the nonprofit Beautiful Downtown Lewiston is transforming that city in ways I couldn’t have imagined a decade ago. As with similar groups around the state, they’re uniting businesses with a common vision, hosting events and putting on art walks that help get people invested in local culture.

Behind all of these nonprofits are many people who volunteer their time, as well as people or businesses that give financial contributions of all sizes – all of which help these organizations achieve their missions. The general public will never know the names of most of these volunteers and donors, but their generosity helps make Maine a place to be proud of.

Several years ago, the staff and board of trustees at the Portland Museum of Art anticipated this growth in Maine’s cultural tourism and spearheaded “Your Museum, Reimagined” – a multi-year project with the goal of increasing access to the PMA collection and thus raising awareness of Maine’s artistic legacy.

It’s inspiring to see so many individuals, businesses, organizations and government offices pulling together with likeminded goals of preserving Maine’s heritage while making it more accessible and engaging to new visitors. Thanks to their efforts, Maine is truly becoming your state, reimagined.