BANGOR — George Kinghorn was given the keys to the Canadian art vault and told he could borrow whatever he wanted. The director of the University of Maine Museum of Art walked away with several dozen pieces of art by leading artists for “Contemporary Currents: Nine New Brunswick Artists.”

The exhibition of contemporary Canadian art opens Sept. 23 at the museum in downtown Bangor.

Kinghorn worked with the government of New Brunswick, which operates a juried art bank through its Office of Tourism, Heritage and Culture. The art bank has collected work from New Brunswick artists since 1968.

The UMaine exhibition continues an ongoing cultural exchange that New Brunswick and the Maine Arts Commission began in 2010. That initiative has contributed to several cross-border art projects, including studio tours organized by the Tides Institute in Eastport, and coordinated sculpture symposiums in Winter Harbor and Saint John, New Brunswick. The motive of the Bangor exhibition is to explore what’s happening across the border in contemporary art, Kinghorn said.

Artists in Canada and Maine share more than a common landscape, he said. They’re concerned about the same contemporary issues. The exhibition includes paintings, photography, sculpture, works on paper, mixed media works and assemblage. Kinghorn called it “refreshingly pluralistic.”

“The intent is to show the diversity of the artistic practice of New Brunswick artists and how it reflects the diversity of approaches in the contemporary art world,” Kinghorn said. “There is no prevailing theme, and we weren’t really looking for one. I wanted to focus on the excellence of the artwork.”

The museum is producing a catalog in French and English, and some of the artists whose work is featured in the exhibition will attend the opening.

Kinghorn was impressed when he learned about New Brunswick’s art bank. Artists apply to participate, and a jury of five convenes every other year to make purchases. The art is then made available for exhibitions.

“It’s very refreshing to see the government get behind its artists like this. It would be nice if we had a program like this in place in Maine,” Kinghorn said.

Maine’s Percent for Art program, which sets aside 1 percent of the budget for tax-funded building construction or renovation projects to be used for public art, has generated nearly $8 million since 1982.

The New Brunswick public art collection is intended for distribution, Kinghorn said.

The selected artists are Erik Edson, Darren Emenau, Mathieu Léger, Neil Rough, Stephen Scott, Anne-Marie Sirois, Dan Steeves, Anna Torma and Istvan Zsako.

Kinghorn started with a visit to the art bank in Fredericton, where he identified art and artists that appealed to him.

He borrowed from the art bank, and also contacted the artists directly to include other work.

Kinghorn hopes this leads to similar cross-border cooperation among cultural institutions.

“We hope the ease of this process will inspire other Maine museums to reach out to our neighbors to the northeast and cast an eye on the really good work that is happening in New Brunswick,” he said.