A Blank Canvas
When most people drive past the oil tanks visible from Interstate 295 in South Portland, they see industry. But not Jean Maginnis. When the former marketing executive gazes upon Sprague Energy Corporation's acres of white tanks, she sees possibility, creativity, imagination.
That's a lot to conclude from what are essentially giant buckets of fossil fuels. But Maginnis is convinced that thinking big - literally - is necessary to catapult Maine's so-called "creative economy" onto the national and international stage. Thus, Art All Around, a public art competition in which a single artist will be selected to paint his or her designs on eight of the Sprague tanks and up to fifteen of their tops.
The creative economy assumes that improving a region's arts and culture-related offerings and attracting creative businesses - ad agencies, new media firms, and the like - will help bolster its economy. Likewise, Maginnis is convinced that Art All Around will increase tourism, raise Maine's profile around the world, and increase community pride.
Whether the winning design concept consists of (God forbid) lighthouses and lobsters, something akin to the saffron-colored fabric panels Christo hung in New York's Central Park recently, or an abstract design such as the Mondrian-inspired example at right will be up to a panel of yet-to-be-named judges. Along the way, Maginnis' Maine Center for Creativity, the sponsor of Art All Around and other projects related to the creative economy, hopes the project will be "a healthy and innovative way to engage the public in a discussion of the arts."
That may be a challenge when local discussions of public art grow so heated as to draw national media attention. But Maginnis is nothing if not optimistic, an outlook that is reflected in the Maine Center for Creativity's mission to, among other things, "capture the imagination and foster the art of the possible."
As for the prospect of actually painting these behemoths in the changeable Maine weather, Maginnis says, a smile evident in her voice, "There'll be all kinds of exciting things - life takes on its own speed and we run with it."
Of course, it remains to be seen if Art All Around will happen. So far the timetable has been as fluid as India ink. But who knows? If the stars align Maginnis' impossible dream might just turn into a reality.