It may be March, but you wouldn’t know it by how people were dressed Thursday night at the Artist Studio Building’s open house party.

With the temperture in the mid-70s when the party began at 7 p.m., flip-flops, sundresses and short sleeve shirts were the preferred fashion choices as hundreds of guests filed into the building located between the Maine College of Art and Reny’s and above Space Gallery in Portland’s Arts District.

The party began one flight up from the street, where the Pickwick Independent Press fills half the floor.

“When we opened we were just in the back room,” said Lisa Pixley, who heads the Pickwick Independent Press. “Now it’s 1,000 square feet, which is more than double.”

Inside this enlarged space sit a variety of letterpress machines and related equipment.

The press has 20 members, who are all vetted to make sure they produce fine art-quality work. Many of the presses are antiques and one of them is a 100-year-old Chandler & Price letterpress.

Continuing up another flight of stairs, I found dozens of open studios. The same was true on the fourth floor, where the bar was located and hors d’oeuvres from Aurora Provisions were being enjoyed by guests.

The fourth floor was also where I had a face-to-face encounter with Godzilla. One minute I’m chatting by the stairwell, and the next minute a gray, spiky monster was lumbering towards me through the crowd.

Turns out, underneath the foam and latex was artist Greta Bank, who maintains a studio in the building.

Like many in the crowd, artist Tim Clorius, who also has a studio in the building, got a kick out of seeing Bank in the costume.

“How do you even come up with an idea to make a suit like that?” Clorius asked before going in for a kiss from Godzilla.

Jessica Tomlinson, who heads public relations for the Maine College of Art, explained that Bank created the costume as part of a performance art piece for last year’s Block Party organized by Space Gallery.

“Godzilla destroyed Congress Street for the Block Party,” Tomlinson said.

Bank told me she values the community and creative support she’s derived from maintaining a studio in the building.

“I live out in Hollis and I came here a few years ago because I was isolated,” Bank told me. “It was a game changer for me.”

She added that “Christopher’s commitment to this building is not a small thing.”

She was referring to architect Christopher Campbell, who owns the building and also co-owns music venue One Longfellow Square. Party-goers had a lot of positive things to say about Campbell’s role in cultivating Portland’s arts scene.

“I think Chris has done such a service to the city to have this place available to artists and at a price they can afford,” photographer Jay York told me. “If it wasn’t for buildings like this, we wouldn’t have condos up and down Congress Street.”

Portland Museum of Art Director Mark Bessire told me the studios fill a necessary niche in the city’s art ecosystem.

“Chris has changed the town,” Bessire said. “He fills a need the city has. We do our Biennial and we do contemporary (art), but he does the emerging stuff.”

Nat May, who heads Space Gallery, told me the nonprofit contemporary art space gains great synergy from being located below the Artist Studio Building.

“Over the life of Space it’s been really great to be connected to the artists upstairs,” May told me. “I quite often come up here and look around and see what people are putting on the walls. As a curator, it’s helpful to see art in various stages. The artist’s studio is where to see more than their work. Most artists have source material on display and bits of work they like. There’s a different kind of context.”

At least once or twice a year, the Artist Studio Building hosts open house events. In recent years, they’ve coincided with the First Friday Art Walk. However, Campbell told me he and the artists decided to move the party to a date other than First Friday so that more artists, gallery owners, curators and collectors could make it to the event.

“We wanted to be able to get the gallery people and the people busy during normal First Fridays,” Campbell told me.

Artist John Knight has had a studio in the building since the late ’90s.

“I think I’d have a tough time being alone in a studio at home,” he told me.

Fellow artist Toni Jo Coppa said having a studio in the building helps improve her work.

“You get to network and you get feedback from other artists,” Coppa told me.

Jeff Badger is an artist and a curator who has pulled together an exhibition in the Space Gallery Annex, which will host an opening reception April 3. Called “Portes,” the show features work from 50 Maine artists and it will travel to Portland’s sister city of Mytilene, Greece in June.

“A lot of people in this building are in the show,” Badger told me. “For people who are curating a show, artists are the key to recommending other artists. This space cultivates that kind of community.”

Even artists who move on to other studio spaces still yearn for the camaraderie of the building.

“It’s been six years since I had a studio here,” Lauren Fensterstock told me. “But I miss it.”

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:

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Twitter: AveryYaleKamila