Arthur J. Fink, a noted Peaks Island photographer who maintained a longtime connection to the Bates Dance Festival in Lewiston, died last week. He was 74.

Fink died Wednesday, but no other details were provided in a notice posted on the Jones, Rich & Barnes funeral home website. Fink revealed in a Facebook post last month that he had received a “likely diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.”

News about his death spread quickly in the arts community, with friends and acquaintances posting messages and fond memories of him on social media.

“I was so sad to learn that Arthur Fink left us,” Maine poet Katherine Ferrier wrote in a message posted on Fink’s Facebook page. “He was so devoted to the communities he was part of. Man, did he love to be in the company of artists, makers and thinkers. He had this way of asking questions that always seemed to open doors into more questions, and a wider mindfulness. He gave countless dancers the gift of being seen, in the form of thousands upon thousands of photographs he made over the years. He was a tender-hearted, compassionate human of the highest caliber.”

“Hard to imagine a Portland gathering without Arthur and his camera,” she wrote.

Laura Faure, who served as director of the Bates Dance Festival for 30 years, described his enduring and significant contribution to the event.

Each summer, the festival would attract dancers, choreographers, performers, educators and students from around the country and world. Faure gave Fink the opportunity to peek inside a world that is not often seen by audiences. He became the festival’s resident photographer, a position he held from 2005 through 2017. Faure said Fink took thousands of photographs.

“Arthur was very passionate about dance,” she said Sunday evening. “The whole spectrum of dance was his passion. We gave him carte blanche access to dance classes, rehearsal and performances.”

During an interview with the Press Herald  in 2014, Fink said that during the festival, he typically would take about 10,000 photos of dancers who had traveled to Lewiston to study with some of the finest choreographers and teachers of modern dance. He would introduce himself at the beginning of the festival, then morph into near anonymity.

Resident photographer for Bates College, Arthur Fink, edits his large collection of photographs that will be on display at Bates Collage in June 2014. Gordon Chibroski/Portland Press Herald, file

“I walk into the studio, and most of them barely see me,” he told the newspaper. Each night, Fink would post photos he shot during the day, allowing dancers to see themselves as he saw them. Faure said he put up the photos on the walls of the Fireplace Lounge at New Commons on the Bates College campus.

“It was the coolest thing he did,” she recalled. “He developed an incredible photo archive of the festival.”

“I feel I am a little bit of a reporter. I have access to this, and it’s a story I want to tell. And it’s the story of the dance you don’t see,” Fink told the Press Herald. “You see the beautiful creation, costumes and lights, and you don’t notice that it was two fellows who tripped over each other and said, ‘There’s something interesting in that. Let’s work on that.’

“It’s a deeply spiritual experience. Being in the studio as dance is created is like being in a delivery room as children are being born.”

Faure said she will remember Fink for being a passionate advocate for the dance festival, as well as an extremely bright, generous and perceptive individual.

Kirk Read met Fink about 20 years ago and the two became friends. Read, a French professor at Bates College, also served on the Bates Dance Festival’s board of directors, but the two got to know each other through a spiritual connection. Read and Fink were both longtime members of the Portland Friends Meeting, where members of the Quaker faith meet weekly to worship. Read said Sunday’s virtual meeting on ZOOM was spent remembering Fink.

Arthur Fink at his home office in June 2003 on Peaks Island, where the view overlooks Portland Harbor far from the bustling Portland. Doug Jones/Portland Press Herald, file

“Hearts were heavy today. There was an outpouring of love and grief for this amazing man,” Read said in an interview Sunday evening.

Read said Fink served as the recording clerk, putting his skills as a wordsmith, his gift for language and his uncanny ability to discern the truth to good use.

“Sunday’s meeting was very emotional. Arthur was deeply respected and beloved,” Read said.

Dinah Minot, executive director of Creative Portland, said Fink served as a board member for nine years.

“In public forums, he never hesitated to raise his hand. His kind spirit and insightful comments forced us all to think about the greater good and to be proactive about advocating for the arts,” Minot said in an email. “Arthur was a gentle giant with a beautiful, compassionate soul. He lived in the present moment and he was a generous lover of life. We will miss him very much.”

In a Facebook post on March 1, his birthday, Fink broke the news about his health to his friends.

“My birthday, March 1, was quite strange. The first thing I received was a likely diagnosis of pancreatic cancer,” he wrote.

Fink’s website provides some insight into his background and interests. He described himself as a consultant with a degree in physics from Swarthmore College and a graduate degree in computer science from Harvard.

“When someone asks, ‘Who is Arthur Fink?’ the answer is that I am a consultant, coach, speaker and facilitator who assists my clients in achieving insight and clarity through a careful, intentional process. I strive to inspire clients as they undertake their most important work.”

This story has been corrected at 7 a.m. on April 26 to reflect the frequency of Portland Friends Meeting.


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