South Portland Housing Authority buys local artwork for new complex

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 exhibit original works by local artists in social housing complexes is growing.

The Maine Art Collective announced this month that the South Portland Housing Authority has purchased 15 works of art by eight artists to hang on the walls of 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 provide original artwork for a pair of properties in Portland and Hallowell.

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

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

“It’s definitely a premium, compared to going to a store and buying something,” added housing authority executive director Mike Hurley. “But the feedback from locals has been very positive. We’ve heard a lot of people say how much more intimate it is now that this art is on the walls.

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

“And for property developers, what I often hear is that they take a trip to Home Goods or find an artist and then buy several prints or photos,” she said. “So it’s a huge draw. They’re supporting the local community and bringing in the work of a diverse group of artists.

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

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

“It looks like an untapped market,” he said. “If a company went to a gallery, they would pay five times as much. But there are so many really talented artists who maybe can’t afford to release their work.

Marni Prince said the collective was in talks with other property developers.

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

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