March 19, 2013

One-and-done: Funding sinks Portland arts festival

By Ray Routhier
Staff Writer

PORTLAND – The Portland Performing Arts Festival – a four-day event mixing jazz, dance, theater and classical music that debuted in 2012 – will not get a return engagement this year.

click image to enlarge

In this June 2012 file photo, Max Cromwell, left, and Pranav Petil, both 7 and from Falmouth, watch the demonstration during the EepyBird, Coke and Mentos Spectacular in Monument Square during the four-day 2012 Portland Performing Arts Festival. The festival – a four-day event mixing jazz, dance, theater, entertainment and classical music that debuted – will not get a second year due to a fundraising shortage.

Derek Davis / Staff Photographer

Organizers announced Tuesday that they have canceled the summer event because they failed to meet their fundraising goals.

The arts festival made its debut in June, with 16 events and a budget of about $180,000, and organizers hoped for a larger event this year. But after the group fell short of its first-quarter fundraising targets, the decision was made at a board meeting Sunday to cancel this year's festival.

"We wanted to make sure we could raise a certain amount of money so we wouldn't have to go into short-term debt to put it on, but we didn't meet those goals," said Kara Larson, the board's chairwoman. "We thought this would be the wisest move."

Larson said the board has not decided whether to continue trying to raise money for a festival in 2014 or beyond. She said the first order of business this week is to notify people involved in the festival, including performers and venues. No tickets for events had gone on sale, she said.

Fritz Grobe, a Buckfield-based performer best known as one-half of the "Diet Coke and Mentos" duo of Internet fame, was sorry to hear of the festival's cancellation.

To kick off the festival last summer in Monument Square, he and his performing partner, Stephen Voltz, did a live version of their explosive fountains of Diet Coke fueled by Mentos candy.

"It was a fantastic event, and we had a really terrific time performing there," said Grobe. "I believe strongly in the importance of this kind of festival in Maine. But I know this is still a very tough economy for the arts."

Last year's festival included a mix of Maine performers as well as national acts, including Grammy Award-winning classical guitarist Sharon Isbin and jazz guitarist Doug Wamble.

The Maine-based Alison Chase dance ensemble was on the bill, as was a piano concert by the Portland Conservatory of Music.

Various venues in downtown Portland included the State Theatre, Portland High School and One Longfellow Square.

Grobe lamented Maine's lack of such festivals, which expose people to a variety of performing arts. The Maine Festival did that for many years before ending about a decade ago.

"I really hope there can be something like this again," said Grobe.


Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:


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