PORTLAND – Con Fullam calls it one of his 3 o’clock in the morning ideas.

“I was lying awake thinking about how in Maine, the painters, the poets and the composers are all over the map, and that speaks to the diversity and brilliance of Maine artists. I thought it would be interesting to bring some of them together who might have an affinity for one another to see what they come up with.”

The result is a unique and ambitious multi-media art exploration called “Painters, Players & Poets.”

Thirty Maine artists — 15 painters, nine music composers and six poets — split into teams of two or three to create a couplet of a painting and song, or poem. The collaboration usually starts with a finished painting, to which a songwriter or poet responds.

Two weeks ago, the noted jazz clarinet player Brad Terry of Bath teamed up with Grammy Award-winning pianist Paul Sullivan of Brooklin in the Gorham studio of John Stuart to create a song based on the painting “Blue Moon Games” by Dahlov Ipcar, who lives in Georgetown.

“They had never met each other before. I put the picture in front of them and said, ‘Play,’ ” said Fullam.

The Portland-based Maine Center for Creativity is backing the project. The center’s mission is to create initiatives that promote the arts in Maine and stimulate growth in Maine’s creative industries. It is best known for its Art All Around tank-painting project, which involves transforming the Sprague Energy tank farm in South Portland into the world’s largest public-art painting.

Later this year, when the collaborations are complete, the Maine Center for Creativity plans to present “Painters, Players & Poets” in the form of a traveling exhibition across the state. The exhibition will consist of the mounted artwork accompanied by the soundtrack of songs and poems that will be accessible on an iPod. Maybe, if the schedule works out just right, there might be a chance to include live performances at some stops.

Fullam, a longtime Maine musician and songwriter, has long admired the visual arts community in Maine. When he wrote a song, he often imagined what his song might look like if it were a painting.

Oftentimes, those thoughts led him to his friend DeWitt Hardy, a painter from South Berwick.

Fullam gave Hardy a copy of his song “Slow September.” It’s about a small-town Maine gal who has spent her life working in seasonal tourist traps, ever dreaming about a seasonal visitor who might take her away. Hardy made a painting of a woman at the beach, a lonely figure lamenting the summer fade.

Sullivan teamed with his friend Cynthia Stroud for their piece, “Cecille.” Stroud had a painting of boats tied to docks at an urban marina, with stars sparkling overhead. The city light ripples across the water.

Sullivan wrote an instrumental number based on his reaction to the piece.

“I fell in love with the rhythm of the ripples reflecting in the still of the night,” he said. “It just conjured up a feeling.”

When completed, “Painters, Players & Poets” will involve some of Maine’s best-known artists.

Other collaborators from the musical side of the equation include Noel Paul Stookey, Dave Mallett, Andy Happel, Terrence Richards and Greg Boardman.

Among the painters, Robert Shetterley, Daniel Minter, Monica Kelly, Barbara Sullivan, Fred Lynch, Sean Beavers, Becky McCall and Philip Barter contributed work.

Fullam lured poetic contributions from Martin Steingesser, Peter Harris, Betsy Sholl and Elizabeth Tibbetts.

So far, the artist teams have completed nine of the 15 collaborations.

Fullam said his long-term goal is to turn this project into a cultural exchange of sorts, to use the material gathered for “Painters, Players & Poets” as a way to promote Maine’s encompassing creativity to other states and countries.

“Maine is just rich in so many ways in terms of our creativity. This seems like a good way to share it,” he said.


Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at: [email protected]


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