Leave it to The Contemporaries to magically transform the Portland Museum of Art’s staff parking lot into a sultry summer block party for its annual midsummer bash.

“Tonight is our midsummer party, which was inspired by the Richard Estes exhibit at the museum,” said MaryBeth Lorenz, a Contemporaries steering committee member. “It’s all based in New York City and in Maine, and we’ve tried to channel a summer day in the city, a lá Portland. It’s such a great city that we live in, and you don’t always have to be on the water … you can also be in a parking lot and have a good time.”

Gone is the languid garden party of years past. In its place, guests kicked back to the amazing rhythms of the Maine Marimba Ensemble amidst a backdrop of food trucks supplying eager partygoers with an endless array of over-the-top treats like the “Gregory Spragory” (deep-fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches) and chocolate-covered bacon, snow cones spiked with vodka and a colorful stream of cocktails served in Mason jars. Red-and-white table cloths littered with sunflowers in Moxie cans and citronella candles added a charming touch.

Samantha Stern, a social media strategist at Via Agency in Portland, enjoyed the festive evening with her beau, Jeff Packard, CEO of Alodyne. Friends Joy Engel of Portland and Erin Ovalle, morning co-anchor at WMTW-8, celebrated the recent nuptials of Mary-Erin Casale, executive director of the Maine Democratic Party, and her husband, Kai Smith, co-founder of Buoy Local.

“This came about organically with the idea we wanted it to be a bit more urban in approach,” explained Sean Wilkinson, steering committee member and principal at Might & Main in Portland. “We try to steer things around with what’s on exhibit, so instead of having this in the garden like we normally do, we’re doing it on the blacktop with food trucks and live music. It’s a great turnout and we’re super psyched.”

He was joined by his wife, Meghan Carey, a radiant expectant mother-to-be and designer for Crane & Co.

The cool, downtown vibe was both jubilant and relaxed. Upon arriving, guests were treated to a personalized pair of shades, both a nod to the Richard Estes “Realism” exhibit and the theme of the party, “Summer in the City.” After torrential rains earlier in the day, the clouds parted and made way for a stunning evening cityscape.

“After a wet afternoon, it turned into the perfect night to enjoy a beautiful Maine summer evening,” said Bryan Shumway of Scarborough. “It’s great to be out connecting with friends.”

“It’s like a mini summer in the city,” said his wife, Jennifer, gesturing toward the expanse of guests and the metropolitan backdrop.

“And it’s such an awesome city,” added Kate Anderson of Windham, a friend of the Shumways.

Camilo Alvarez, visiting from Boston and owner of the Samson art gallery, joined in the merriment with his pals Rachel Walls of Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Portland, and Matt Siekman of Portland. Amy Jaffe and Duncan Bruce of Portland mingled with Bree LaCasse, a museum trustee and co-chair of the steering committee. Chris Robinson, Contemporaries founder and museum trustee, chatted with Brianne O’Donnell of Portland and fellow trustee Alex Fisher, founder of Planet Dog.

“I love that it’s outside,” said Steve Kelly, associate publisher of Maine Magazine. “It’s nice to have it out here with the food trucks. It’s awesome.”

He was joined by Kevin and Elizabeth Hunt of Falmouth.

“This event has grown substantially, especially over the last three years,” said Will Cary, director of Leadership Gifts and Planned Giving at the museum. “Two years ago, we had 190 guests. This year we have 330. We like to think the Contemporaries are the gateway to all of Portland’s cultural and nonprofit organizations.”

Liz Cartland, director of development for the museum, agreed.

“Tonight we have about twice as many people as we did last year,” she said. “In a city of this size, to have more than 300 young professionals gathering together says a lot about the support for culture in our city, and these people here tonight are the future leaders of the museum.”

For more information about the Portland Museum of Art, The Contemporaries or the Richard Estes exhibit, please visit www.portlandmuseum.org.


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

[email protected]

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