February 27, 2011

Bob Keyes: In your face-off

MECA's Daniel Fuller finds a way to introduce art in an unexpected place – at Portland Pirates games.

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Daniel Fuller, the still-new director of the Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art, had this crazy idea for several years, but never found a willing partner.

An animated re-creation of Darryl Sittler’s 10-point game against the Bruins in ’76, narrated by Sittler himself.

click image to enlarge

Image from Annika Larsson’s 2004 film “HOCKEY.”

Additional Photos Below

He's a hockey fan, and has long schemed to show art videos with hockey themes at hockey games.

The idea of introducing art in unlikely and unexpected settings appeals to him, but he's never been able to get very far with his idea, because he's always lived in or close to cities with National Hockey League franchises. Trying to get the big boys with Philadelphia Flyers or New York Rangers to call you back when you are pitching an out-of-the-box idea is asking a bit much.

But Portland is not Philadelphia. In Portland, people return your call.

This week, Fuller will see his vision turn into reality when MECA and the Portland Pirates collaborate to screen brief artist-made hockey-themed videos on the scoreboard over center ice before three games this week -- on Tuesday, Saturday and March 6.

"This is something I've always wanted to do," said Fuller, who grew up in upstate New York and cheers for the Buffalo Sabres, the parent team of the Pirates. "I've pitched this to two NHL cities, but never got anywhere with it."

Within hours of his arrival in Portland last fall, Fuller walked out the back door of MECA on Free Street and almost bumped into the Cumberland County Civic Center, home of the Pirates.

His idea suddenly had new life.

"I asked our PR person (Jessica Tomlinson) if she knew the PR person for the Pirates. She said, 'You don't want to call the PR person, you want to call Brian Petrovek, the owner of the team.' "

In what must have seemed like no time at all, Fuller and Petrovek not only were talking, they had hammered out an agreement to show some videos. "They were all for it. I couldn't believe it," said Fuller. "It was so easy."

Welcome to Portland, where business gets done with a phone call and a handshake.

This week's videos will feature work by artists from Canada, the United States and Sweden. The videos will screen on the scoreboard just before puck drop.

The first one, to be shown before the game against Worcester on Tuesday, is an animated re-creation of Darryl Sittler's 10-point game against the Boston Bruins on Feb. 7, 1976. The filmmaker, Canadian Graeme Patterson, animated Sittler's remarkable feat using the idea of an old bubble-top hockey game. The entire movie is animated, but it is so well done, it almost seems that the filmmaker used an actual bubble-top game to recreate the original.

Very witty.

Better still, he got Sittler, a beloved member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, to narrate the game and recount each of his NHL-record 10 points. For the animation qualities alone, the video is fun to watch. But if you're a hockey fan, it's especially cool to hear Sittler tell his story.

On Saturday before the game against Bridgeport, the Pirates will show "Air-Hockey" by Connecticut-born Jen DeNike. She captures an intense, hyper-competitive air hockey game between two teens.

On March 6, the movie selection is "HOCKEY," a 2004 film by Swede Annika Larsson. This movie is a bit more esoteric, and focuses on a scrimmage between unnamed teams in front of empty seats at a Stockholm arena. The artist seems to be most interested in the rituals of the game, as well as the role of marketing and branding in hockey gear, uniforms and the rink itself.

Of the three artists, Larsson is the best known. She has an international reputation, and Fuller worked hardest to get the rights to screen this one.

For the Pirates, the partnership has to do with being good neighbors, said Petrovek.

"We're excited about growing this relationship," he said. "They have a new president, a new ICA director. They are neighbors of ours, and we're trying to do more with their students, and trying to spice up and add a little extra value and creativity to our in-game presentation."

Fuller's motive is putting contemporary art in unlikely places and spaces. If art fans show up at the hockey game to watch the videos, that's great. And if hockey fans show up in the gallery at the ICA, that's better still.

"It's great to show art in places where you normally wouldn't expect it," Fuller said. 

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:


Follow him on Twitter at:



Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors

Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Image from Annika Larsson’s 2004 film “HOCKEY.”


Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)



More PPH Blogs