A painting by artist Marni Prince hangs in a common area of Thornton Heights Commons in South Portland. The city’s housing authority recently partnered with the Maine Art Collective to purchase original pieces, including this painting, for its new complex. Photo by Jason Prince

An effort to display original work by local artists in public housing complexes is expanding.

The Maine Art Collective announced this month that South Portland Housing Authority purchased 15 pieces of art from eight artists to hang on the walls at Thornton Heights Commons, a new 42-unit complex on Main Street.

The collective, made up of more than a dozen Greater Portland artists, first partnered with Community Housing of Maine in January to supply original artwork for a pair of properties in Portland and Hallowell.

Since then, the collective has looked for other partners and has found the market receptive.

“We had heard about it, and then someone I used to work with was a neighbor of one of the collective leaders, so they mentioned it,” said Brooks More, director of development for South Portland Housing. “It seemed like the perfect way to source art from local artists and to be able to do it in a sort of one-stop-shop way.”

“It’s definitely a premium, compared to going to a store and buying something,” added the housing authority’s executive director, Mike Hurley. “But the feedback from residents has been so positive. We’ve heard from many about how much homier it feels now that this art is on the walls.”


Marni Prince, one of the collective’s founders, said the partnerships have been tremendous for the artists, who are not represented by galleries and who have limited opportunities to showcase their work to buyers.

“And for the housing developers, what I often hear is that they take a trip to Home Goods or find one artist and then buy multiple prints or photos,” she said. “So, this is a huge draw. They are supporting the local community and bringing in work from a diverse group of artists.”

In some cases, the housing authority purchased already completed work. In others, artists created pieces specifically for the space.

Prince’s husband, Jason Prince, also a collective member, was among those whose work sold – two photographs printed on aluminum.

“It feels like an untapped market,” he said. “If a business went to a gallery, they’d be paying five times as much. But there are so many really talented artists that might not have avenues available to get their work out.”

Marni Prince said the collective is in conversations with other property developers.

Hurley also said South Portland Housing would consider purchasing from Maine Art Collective in the future, including for existing buildings that are lacking decorations in common areas.

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