We all like to receive gifts. And while it’s true it’s the gesture that matters most, receiving gifts that include big wads of money is awfully nice too.

Portland Ovations, which brings performing artists from around the world to Maine for concerts and educational opportunities, recently received a big wad of money. The Center for Cultural Exchange Foundation has dedicated its $290,000 endowment to it.

The foundation is the last remnant of the Center for Cultural Exchange, which operated for many years in the location now occupied by One Longfellow Square. When the center ceased day-to-day operations a few years ago, the foundation chugged ahead, completing mission work by funding community groups doing the kind of programming for which the center was known for almost two decades.

These days, no one is doing that work better than Aimee Petrin and her staff at Portland Ovations. With this new arrangement, Portland Ovations will be able to tap the CCE Foundation’s endowment to support programming that dovetails with the “spirit and mission” of CCE, Petrin said.

Doing so won’t be a stretch. Portland Ovations is already doing the kind of work for which the CCE was known. It is commissioning new work, incorporating community groups in its programming and educational initiatives, and fostering cultural exchanges with performing arts groups and organizations from across town and across the globe.

“This is going to help the work that we’re already doing,” Petrin said. “We couldn’t ask for more of an endorsement. We have the track record, and now somebody wants to invest in that work. Now we have more money to do it with. It’s truly an honor.”

Marcia Minter, president of the foundation’s board and a member of the Portland Ovations board, shepherded the collaboration after several years of discussions.

The Center for Cultural Exchange ceased operations in 2006, one year after its founding directors moved away from Portland. At that time, the center’s board felt strongly about CCE’s legacy, and wanted to ensure the good work of the center would continue. Instead of presenting work, the board decided it could best honor the mission of the center by funding worthy projects.

In the years since, Portland Ovations has received regular funding from the foundation, Minter noted. This decision formalizes the relationship between the two organizations.

In a statement, Minter said, “The CCEF board feels that the work being done by Portland Ovations to present artists from around the world while enriching the artistic and educational experience in our community and creating diverse artistic conversations is in direct synergy with CCEF’s goals. Portland Ovations is on a solid path toward sustained growth, so we’re confident that this gift will truly keep on giving.”

The foundation board is mostly interested in funding projects that have deep community roots and shared cultural traditions. The creation of new work also is important.

Some examples:

A few weeks ago, choreographers Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer came to Maine to shoot video for a dance/movement piece inspired by the paintings of Edward Hopper that will be part of the Portland Ovations season in 2012-13.

In the coming season, the CCE Foundation supported the theater piece “Warriors Don’t Cry,” a one-woman play inspired by the memoir of Melba Beals. When she was a young woman, Beals was a member of the Little Rock Nine, the group of African-American high school students who endured violence in their attempt to integrate a public high school in Arkansas.

In addition to presenting the performance on Jan. 18, Portland Ovations will sponsor a series of community events, including one tied to Portland’s Martin Luther King Jr. birthday celebration. “Because of funding like this from the CCE Foundation, we can make it a weeklong residency instead of a one-night show,” Petrin said.

It’s important to note that Portland Ovations does not have unfettered access to the CCE Foundation money. Petrin and her staff will still apply for funding, and their requests will still go before the foundation’s trustees. Oversight remains in place. But the process has been streamlined and formalized.

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

[email protected]

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