Portland, Maine

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Whether you’re coming to Portland by choice or by chance, these are the people, places, and things that can help you discover and design the experience that’s right for you.

In Portland, you won't have to miss your favorite things. Whatever you're into, you can find it or make it happen here. Scan the resource listings below to locate collaborators, support systems, and opportunities to learn (tango? programming? metalsmithing?), work (in a studio space? a new industry? freelance?), and discover (a love for roller derby? your local dive? the perfect apartment?).

 

 

  • In the mid-80s, the city of Portland woke up to its identity as an artists’ town, and the infrastructure and support for the creative community has continued to grow ever since. Whether you’re a working artist or simply need art in your life, the following resources are here to connect you to the community, keep you in the loop, and help you make great work happen. This directory is for artists, advocates, and audience members alike.

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  • What do Portlanders care about? Our values are reflected in the kinds of community organizations, independent media, education, recreation, and entertainment opportunities that we enjoy. Down below you’ll find information about all of those things, as well as the neighborhoods we live in and how life changes through the seasons.

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    • The Portland peninsula juts into Casco Bay, a protected part of the Atlantic Ocean. The sea tempers Portland’s climate, creating mild winters and cool summer breezes. We love the seasonality of our environment. Portland-based pattern designer Angela Adams says, “There’s something really great about the days getting really short and then the days getting really long, and being able to experience the snow, the rain, the heat, and the fall. There’s new growth, the palette changes, the light changes all the time–I think that’s a real treat.”

      The changing seasons keep us fresh. Summer is a time of sunshine, salt water, and lush green grass, a time of exploration, and of new creative inspiration. When the evenings grow cooler and leaves begin to take on their fiery hue, we feel sadness at summer’s passing, but also a sense of relief: we are again able to turn inward, to start coaxing shape and form from summertime’s inspirations. When fall gives way to winter and snow begins to swirl outside our windows, we go into creative hibernation. Just as we begin to tire of the muted landscape and bare tree branches, things thaw, the birds begin their songs, the forsythia blossoms—and we feel inspired once again.

    • The size of Portland supports and encourages community involvement. It’s easy to meet people, make inroads, and start being a part of real planning, shaping, and decision-making in Portland and beyond.

      Marcia Minter, a Chicago transplant and Vice President Creative Director for LL Bean, says she’s been a lot more involved in community work since she moved to Portland. Marcia has served on a diverse array of boards, including Portland Ovations, Parks for People (through the Trust for Public Land), and Portland Freedom Trails. She says, “I’m certain there’s no way that I would have been involved in nearly as many things in Chicago or New York, and I wouldn’t have wanted to given the logistics of getting from one location to the next. Here it’s much easier to get where you need to go, and start developing a reputation much sooner than you can in larger cities, or even in midsize cities.”

      Want to get involved but not sure how? VolunteerMaine is a network of state, nonprofit, public, and private agencies that have come together to promote volunteerism in Maine. You can search volunteer opportunities by zip code, browse organization needs, or use BoardMatch to find openings on nonprofit and community boards.

      There are many more ways to start contributing. Here’s a sampling.

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    • Portland is a great place to raise a family. The setting enables kids to experience the best of a city, suburban, and rural upbringing. Sara Corbett, a freelance writer for The New York Times Magazine and mother of three, says, “One of the things that I really like is that we’re raising our kids in a city environment so they’re exposed to all sorts of people doing different things. At the same time, we have access to phenomenal beaches. Even in the middle of winter we’ll take our kids down to the beaches. There’s a really nice balance, to be able to give them a little of all of that.”

      For some ideas on kid-friendly activities and outings in the Portland area, check out the Portland, ME: 50 Things to Do With Kids Before They Grow Up list on the Alpha Mom blog. For affordable activities, check out Groupon’s deals on things to do in Portland, Maine.

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    • Eating well is easy in Portland. Bon Appétit named Portland America’s foodiest small town, the New York Times calls us “one of the best places to eat in the Northeast,” and there’s a debate about us vying with San Francisco for the most restaurants per capita.

      The geography of our city lends itself to incredible culinary bounty and creativity. Here, tiny pink shrimp, haddock, cod, and lobsters pulled from the Atlantic intermingle on our tables with Maine-grown produce and locally-raised dairy and meats. We source these ingredients year round from our farmers’ marketRosemont Market, and other local shops. Within the city limits, Portland’s many exceptional bakeries churn out baguettes and bagels, croissants, cookies and cupcakes. Here in Portland, we love to cook and we love to eat.

      There’s a culture here of eating out and supporting the local culinary scene. The number of good —and we mean really good—restaurants in Portland is mind-boggling, and new players are always arriving on the scene. Our chefs woo and inspire us with dishes like Panko Crusted Day Boat Scallops, Sea Urchin Linguini, Truffled Lobster “Mac & Cheese,” and Camembert Cheesecake. James Beard award-winning chef Rob Evans, owner of Hugo’s and Duckfat, says “I think what makes it work is the community support…If we didn’t have people getting out to eat and trying different restaurants and being open to that, I don’t think it would work so well.”

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    • Our city is a city of neighborhoods, each one with its own distinct flavor and charm. You can get a sense for how the city fits together with this neighborhood map.

      Neighborhood Scout has an interactive map that lets you compare the neighborhoods of Portland based on several factors: real estate and demographic information, quality of public schools, property appreciation and crime rate.

    • We might be biased, so here's a sample of what some third-parties have to say:

  • Portland is a community of sociable self-starters. People come here, or chose to stay here, to develop their craft, find talented collaborators, and build enduring businesses and discerning audiences. Here, good living and making a living go hand-in-hand. The following groups and resources are here to help you find your niche and make it work.

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    • There is broad agreement between the City of Portland, the State of Maine and many other organizations that the creative economy is one of the keys to the economy in the 21st century. Former Governor John Baldacci has said, “The Creative Economy is a catalyst for the creation of new jobs in Maine communities. People who create jobs want to live in places that have a diverse cultural mix and an innovative and educated workforce. Maine will be competitive economically if we continue to capitalize on the synergies between entrepreneurship, education, the arts and quality of life.” Many government tax incentive and grant programs are available to start up and grow small and midsize businesses in Portland. In addition there are private programs that are looking to fund and provide resources to these businesses.

      The City of Portland’s Economic Development Department has a Creative Economy Loan Fund, a Micro Business Loan Fund and other lending programs to assist your business with gap and direct financing. Contact Gregory A. Mitchell at (207) 874-8683 to find out more. If you are thinking of starting a business in Portland, there are a variety of federal, state, and municipal governmental resources that can assist you. The city has a Guide to Doing Business in Portland that provides information on licensing, permitting, financing, business links, contacts and more. Portland also has major development initiatives focusing on the arts district and a new life sciences technology park. For a definitive collection of Portland info go to the city’s directory of facts and links.

      The Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce has a useful guide to many local and regional resources available to help businesses move to or grow in Portland. The chamber also provides access to group health insurance for small businesses and sole proprietors. 

      The State of Maine has many economic development resources available to businesses. This year, Maine has expanded its Pine Tree Development Zone program to include businesses in Portland in a wide variety of sectors. Contact Portland area representative Brian Doyle at the Maine Department of Economic & Community Development (207-822-0186 or brian.doyle@maine.gov) to find out about tax incentives, reduced utility rates, help finding office space and more. There are also dedicated venture capital funds and other funding sources that specifically invest in growing businesses in Maine and the Northeast.

    • Portland has an abundance of quality workspace from office buildings to warehouses to downtown lofts, and rents are a third of the cost of equivalent space in Boston and a quarter of the cost in New York. In an era where the next big tech startup could be based anywhere, lower overhead buys agile businesses time to innovate, iterate, and succeed.

      Our creative endeavors require space and quiet; here we can afford that space. But when we seek inspiration and stimulation, we step out outside and find it. Sara Corbett, a freelance writer for New York Times Magazine, among other publications, says, “Writing is by nature kind of a lonely thing and…Portland is this great environment to do it in because not only is it peaceful, but…the size of the city lends itself to this incredible friendliness…When you just need someone to smile at you, there’s actually someone in this town who smiles at you, and as an artist that kind of can sustain you when you’re feeling lonely.”

      Portland already has good business broadband services and othercommunications infrastructure, in addition to a 1,100 mile high-capacity fiber-optic network. 

      Portland is also a convenient travel hub. The Portland International Jetport(PWM) is less than 10 minutes from downtown and provides daily nonstop flights to many major cities. Both the Amtrak Downeaster trains and Concord Trailwaysbuses depart from the Portland Transportation Center for Boston and beyond, just 5 minutes from downtown.