Three hundred young supporters of the Portland Museum of Art celebrated in garden-party style at the annual Contemporaries Midsummer Party on July 11 in the David E. Shaw and Family Sculpture Park surrounding the newly installed “Spirit of the Dance” by William Zorach.

“The Contemporaries, for us, is like our life’s blood,” said PMA Director Mark Bessire. “To have a group of this generation so invested in the museum is meaningful, because that’s not the case with all museums.”

“I love art, and it’s a good way to meet young people in town and get involved with philanthropic efforts,” said Amy Jennings, a Contemporaries council member from Portland.

The party began in the museum, as guests had access to summer exhibition “Clarence H. White and His World: The Art and Craft of Photography, 1895-1925.” But it was such a beautiful evening, with lights strung around the garden setting the mood, the crowd drifted outdoors, where Contemporaries enjoyed a cocktail party with live jazz by Viva and the Reinforcements.

“In all the summers I’ve been coming to Cape Elizabeth, I’ve never missed a Contemporaries garden party,” said Krystian von Speidel of Palm Beach, Florida. “For me, it’s the event of the summer.”

“We’ve been involved with the museum for a long time. We love it,” said Erik Hayward, with his wife, Carrie Duley, of Falmouth. “It’s a cultural gem for Maine.”

Contemporaries membership extends beyond southern Maine, drawing art lovers like Karen Zech Thelen and her husband, Jim Thelen, from as far away as Bath. “We find a lot of value here that we want to tap into and support,” she said.

Many Contemporaries, like Mac Coldwell of Old Orchard Beach, joined to be more social and to support the arts with their annual membership fees ($200 for an individual).

“Right now we have a government that doesn’t want to support the arts,” Coldwell said. “And I do.”

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer from Scarborough. She can be reached at:

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