PORTLAND — Andres Verzosa is a mover and shaker of Maine’s creative economy.
He is the proprietor of Aucocisco Galleries, one of Maine’s best contemporary art galleries. He is a co-founder of the First Friday Art Walk, a past president of the Portland Arts & Cultural Alliance, and a member of the board of the Maine College of Art.
Now he has thrown his art in the political ring.
Andy Verzosa for Governor? Well, not quite. Verzosa’s latest creative project is “Meet the Governor,” a series of short videos and brown-bag lunches in which Maine’s wide-open field of gubernatorial candidates get a chance to share their experiences of and visions for the arts, culture and the Maine’s creative economy.
As he explains on his new website (www.meetthegovernor.com), Verzosa got the idea for a political forum on the arts because there were so many candidates and he wanted a chance to meet them and hear what they had to say about the subject nearest and dearest to his heart.
Though a couple of candidates, Republicans Steve Abbott and Bruce Poliquin, couldn’t find time for “Meet the Governor,” Verzosa managed to get a dozen of the once and future candidates to come to his gallery and sit before a video camera (operated by Reggie Hodges of Liquid Creative Media) and talk for three or four minutes about where the arts fit in their plans to lead Maine.
The “Meet the Governor” website went online May 1, and in the interest of fairness Verzosa decided not to videotape other candidates after that date because they would have the advantage of seeing what their competitors had had to say. Gubernatorial hopefuls who didn’t make the website, however, will have an opportunity to participate in one of the noon-time brown-bag sessions Verzosa has scheduled during the month of May.
Among the candidates who appear on the website, Democrat Steve Rowe cites a $2 billion arts and cultural economy in Maine as he argues that Maine will not be able to compete in the economy of low-price, high volume goods.
“Our future,” Rowe says, advocating for more arts education, “lies in creativity and innovation.”
Democrat Libby Mitchell highlights her sponsorship of the original Percent for Art legislation and her key role in the historic renovation of the State Capitol in making the case that “art is part of everything we do.”
Democratic candidate Rosa Scarcelli cites the fact that both her parents are artists and that her father chaired the Maine Arts Commission in the 1980s, but she tends to see the creative economy as inseparable from the larger economy.
Patrick McGowan, too, cites sponsorship of the Percent for Art program and for the Maine Film Commission, notes that he comes from a creative family, and collaborated on the making of a film about the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. McGowan promises not only to support the creative economy, but to be part of it.
Republican Les Otten talks about growing up in a home filled with German Expressionist art and his chairmanship of the Portland Museum of Art board as credentials.
Republicans Matt Jacobson and Paul LePage take a traditional trickle-down approach to the creative economy. Jacobson suggests that “if we grow our economy, Maine people can afford these products.” LePage uses his three minutes to argue that “we need to get the government off our backs.”
Republican Peter Mills talks about the fact that poet William Butler Yeats was active in politics and argues that “we can’t succeed as a society at any level unless we also promote the arts.”
Independent candidate Eliot Cutler lays out a four-part arts agenda that includes creating an arts magnet high school, designating arts districts in all Maine cities and town, tying the creative economy more closely to the tourism industry, and tying the creative economy to jobs through education.
“The creative economy in Maine,” he says, “is the single ingredient that is going to define our future.”
“Meet the Governor” may not define the upcoming elections, but Andy Verzosa’s initiative has placed many of the candidates in a useful cultural context. This fall, once the gubernatorial field is set, he said he plans to organize a candidate arts debate or panel.