“There is a global interest in Portland,” said Jennifer Hutchins, executive director of Creative Portland, the nonprofit that started 2 Degrees Portland, a referral and networking program established to grow and support the city’s creative economy five years ago.

“In a city this size, everyone is two degrees of separation, not six, and we are trying to find the connective thread between people who value creativity, innovation, arts and culture.”

Over 100 supporters came out to the Bob Crewe Gallery at the Maine College of Art on Jan. 13 to celebrate this idea and the momentum behind it, and continue to make connections. Michael Greer, who recently relocated from China to Portland to take the helm as executive director of Portland Ballet, and Carolyn Nishon, the newly appointed executive director of the Portland Symphony Orchestra, mingled with freelancers, artists and entrepreneurs at the networking event more commonly known as a mixer.

“It’s our fifth anniversary for a program that was innovative for the city and continues to be,” explained Jess Lauren Lipton, program assistant for Creative Portland. “Tonight we’re also launching our Portland Arts Challenge, which is our next evolution of connecting people to the arts in the city.”

Hannah Wolken, board member of Portland Buy Local, enjoyed the event with friends David Packard, an attorney with Birney, Frederick, Quinlan & Tupper; Jim Brady, owner of The Press Hotel; and Brad Pierce of Falmouth.

Patrick O’Reilly, principal at Macpage, turned out with Brent Lane of Saco; Ellen Kanner, owner of Dobra Tea; Robert Barnes, a project manager and producer in Portland; and Laura Duffy, a graphic designer with University of New England.

“I love it,” said Chris Stamas, a Portland freelance graphic designer who moved here from Pennsylvania. “I keep meeting great people.”

“I was looking for a change of pace and a change of air,” said Liz Seward, a former creative project manager for the New York City Marathon who recently relocated. “I’m so glad I came.”

“We’ve made over 1,300 connections between people out in the world interested in coming to Portland and people living here,” explained Hutchins, referring to the folks who live and work here as connectors.

Laura Burden, a freelance sculptor and writer based in Portland, was the original connector when the program launched five years ago.

“I think it’s great that it’s still going. It has served a huge need, and it’s growing. It was a great idea then, and it’s a great idea now.”

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

[email protected]