It was a rare and inspiring moment to watch one woman stand before a crowd of many, the best and the brightest Maine has to offer, and quietly tell her story about her desire to nurture and celebrate Maine artists and their creative endeavors in a meaningful and constructive way.

Jean Maginnis, founder and executive director of Maine Center for Creativity, spoke to the crowd of 530 guests gathered at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland for the Maine Creative Industries Inaugural Award Gala honoring Glenn Close and David Shaw with the first-ever Maine Creative Industries Award, and offered a personal glimpse into how the center got its start: an “a-ha” moment during a bike ride along the Portland Harbor more than six years ago, a story made all the more compelling given not only the center’s increasing success, but its relevancy in today’s economy.

Maginnis spoke from a theater-in-the-round, and her testament was the number of business leaders, authors, athletes, educators and artists present in the audience. They were all there to support the idea that merging creativity with business, where artistic endeavors can create livelihoods, stimulate business and help grow a local economy in ways yet untapped, is vital and even imperative to growth and prosperity in the 21st century.

Julie Richard, enjoying her eighth day on the job as executive director of the Maine Arts Commission, echoed this sentiment. “Maine is cutting-edge when it comes to merging business development and the arts,” she explained. “The importance of the business community and governmental leaders understanding the role arts can play in economic development is significant. Maine has that in spades.”

“I think there is actually a grittiness and charm to the city of Portland, softened by the coastline, that makes it a cool environment to bring people to and live in,” said Dan O’Donnell, director of Client Service for the Via Group, commenting on living and working in a small city like Portland. “It’s not cutthroat, it’s collaborative. It’s proving to yourself you can do it, achieving a higher standard.”

Over cocktails, the evening had the feel of an intimate soiree, only to be stopped in its tracks by the booming intensity of Burundi drummers signaling the time had come to gather for dinner in an upstairs banquet hall completely transformed by white geometric circles adorning the ceiling, an open stage in the epicenter surrounded by dining tables brimming with merriment and large video screens along the walls. The evening was full of unexpected treats, from remote controlled sharks patrolling the ceiling above the stage to an angelic chorus of young girls called Musica de Filia filling the room with a song of hope and inspiration, to many moving tributes and a rousing rendition of “Proud Mary” that saw Close and Shaw, among others, crashing the stage and cutting a wild rug to cap off the night.

Lady Zen and composer Dan Capaldi opened the evening’s entertainment with an original piece that displayed her powerful voice and engaging stage presence. Frank Moss, former director of the MIT Media Lab and author of “The Sorcerers and Their Apprentices: How the Digital Magicians of the MIT Media Lab Are Creating the Innovative Technologies that will Transform Our Lives,” gave an inspiring keynote address, saying, “…if you want to predict the future, just invent it.”

Maine Center for Creativity board president Katherine Greenleaf had the distinct honor of presenting Close and Shaw with the Maine Creative Industries Award, saying, “(This) award recognizes the excellence in art, innovation and enterprise that is fueling Maine’s economy. Tonight, we are celebrating Glenn and David’s extraordinary ability to blend creativity in art and business.”

The couple took to the stage and graciously accepted their award, and offered up a toast to the community feting them now: “To all of you… a toast to you.”

Margaret Logan is a freelance writer who lives in Scarborough. She can be reached at: