As members of the Portland Museum of Art’s distinguished leadership circles gathered Dec. 6 to celebrate the upcoming holiday season, they were treated to some exciting news.

“The Lauders have given the museum $5 million to support our endowment,” said chief curator Jessica May, referring to philanthropists Judy and Leonard Lauder, who are longtime U.S. museum benefactors. “It’s a matching grant, and we are actively engaged to meet that match over the next two years.”

“It’s a huge recognition of the quality of work we are doing at the Portland Museum of Art,” said Mark Bessire, whose title now becomes the Judy and Leonard Lauder director, honoring the couple’s substantial gift.

“Leonard and Judy are so philanthropic, but they are always looking for excellence. They saw a very strong membership, a commitment to the collection and a community proud of their museum.”

This sentiment couldn’t have been more evident during the holiday open house. As members of the museum’s Contemporaries mixed and mingled with members of the Director’s Circle and 1882 Circle in the Selma Wolf Black Great Hall, people from varying generations and all walks of life got to know each other and celebrate all they have in common, making for a festive, jovial affair.

Alex Fisher, museum trustee, was joined by his wife, Brianne, Portland artist Aaron T Stephan and 2016 USA Barr Fellow Lauren Fensterstock.

Noni Ames of Portland chatted with Dr. Melanie Stewart Cutler of Cape Elizabeth; and Harry Konkel, an honorary trustee, visited with PMA board Chair Annie Wells, trustees Beth De Tine and Amy Woodhouse, and Don Head, a member of the Director’s Circle.

“This is lovely,” said newcomers Jake and Regina Bowie of Portland, who recently joined the Contemporaries.

“This museum is a gem in the state of Maine,” said trustee Jim Houle. “It contributes so much to our cultural life.”

“We are about to finish a four-and-a-half-year project called, Your Museum Reimagined,” said May, glancing around the great hall packed with guests. “We are closing the museum for five weeks (starting) in January to reinstall our permanent collection. We will increase the number of works on view by 20 percent. It’s awesome. We want the museum to always feel and truly be fully accessible to our audiences and this community.”

Margaret Logan is a freelance writer who lives in Scarborough. She can be reached at:

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