When Jessica Skwire Routhier interviewed for the job as director of the Saco Museum, she mentioned it would be kind of neat if the museum could find a way to host a biennial of its own.

Contemporary artists living and working in Saco, Biddeford and Old Orchard Beach stand as a unique lot, yet they tend to show in places like Portland, Kennebunk and other locations. Routhier thought it would be appropriate to bring them together for an exhibition that celebrates the art scene of the Saco River Valley.

Beginning with an opening reception today, the museum and the community arts organization Engine in Biddeford will present “The Mill-ennial 2012,” the second in a series of juried biennial exhibitions of contemporary art. The show features 48 works of art in a range of media by 20 artists connected to Saco, Biddeford and Old Orchard Beach.

The Saco Museum, 371 Main St., Saco, and Engine, 265 Main St., Biddeford, both show a large selection of work. It was important that both cities have exhibition opportunities for this show, because “The Mill-ennial” represents the broad creative community of the Saco River Valley, Routhier said.

“This isn’t just about Saco. It’s about the cities of the Saco,” she said. “It’s broader than a single place on Main Street in Saco. The ‘Mill-ennial’ supports creative economy issues, and so much of the discussion about the creative economy is about revitalizing Main streets. Engine is Main Street in Biddeford, and we are on Main Street in Saco.”

For a second-time event, “The Mill-ennial” has generated a respectable amount of interest. This year, 62 artists submitted work for consideration.

Artists have shown a lot of enthusiasm for the exhibition, as is evidenced in both the quality and quantity of work submitted for consideration, Routhier noted.

A team of three jurors made the final selections. Jurors were Ron Crusan, director of the Ogunquit Museum of American Art; Berri Kramer, president of Heartwood College of Art in Kennebunk; and Andy Verzosa, director of Aucocisco Galleries in Portland.

In their statement, the jurors wrote, “The overall quality of submissions was high, and it was a great opportunity to see which artists hailed from and/or laid claim to this southern Maine community.

“Each with our own preferences and particulars, we felt that we selected a very strong exhibition that is well-suited to both sites. Each of us could have indeed selected different artworks that would have resulted in three different shows, but the collaborative endeavor and process allowed for something more than that, and we think arguably better.”

With its high ceilings and interior walls, the Saco Museum is showing what would be considered more traditional work — paintings and prints primarily, as well as a few sculptures.

Engine, with its street-facing windows and high-visibility location, is handling some of the sculptural assemblages and larger pieces.

“Even if you don’t go into the Engine space, passers-by have access to the work, which is appealing,” Routhier said.

Artists with work in the show are: Susan Amons, Peter T. Bennett, Sarah Bowen, Pat Campbell, Donna L. Caron, Michele A. Caron, Sally Orth Chandler, James Chute, Laura Dunn, Rachael Eastman, Tanya Fletcher, Tyson Jacques, J. Mark Koerber, Benjamin Lambert, Cheryl Lichwell, Heath Paley, Robin Puleio, Richard Smukler, Nora Tryon and Diane Bowie Zaitlin.

 

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

Twitter: pphbkeyes

 

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