An Interview with MCC Founder, Jean Maginnis


Jean Maginnis. Photo by Greta Rybus.

Jean Maginnis—along with a volunteer board of directors comprising business and community leaders, artists and entrepreneurs—launched the Maine Center for Creativity in 2005. After leading and developing this exciting and growing nonprofit organization for 10 years, Jean has accepted a compelling career opportunity at Saint Joseph’s College. She leaves behind a legacy as one of Maine’s outstanding leaders during a vital period when Maine’s creative economy became a key area of focus for our state’s economic and community development strategies and programs. The Maine Center for Creativity will forever be indebted to Jean for her leadership, inspiration and contributions to Maine.

Q: What was the inspiration for the Maine Center for Creativity?

A: I was riding my bike with my husband along the Portland harbor, enjoying the delight and great fortune of living in place as beautiful as Maine. And I’d been thinking about how to nurture all the creativity that abounds in Maine, with the idea in mind – really a question – for how to create a ‘think tank’ that could focus on that.

We rounded a corner and my reverie was confronted by a collection of white fuel storage tanks – so common a sight that we often tend not to really see them. But given my frame of mind, I saw them as empty canvases calling out to be transformed into something beautiful – filled with color and design. It was truly an ‘aha’ moment. One in which I saw all-of-a-moment the Art All Around project that would become the first focal program for the Maine Center for Creativity.

Q: How does Art All Around embody the goals of the Center’s mission?

A: The Art All Around project is an expression – a very visual one – that embodies the essence of a creative economy. It blends the power of art with a community’s economic underpinning. It joins the ordinary with the extraordinary – in this case oil tanks, which are the epitome of industry, transformed into public art on a grand scale. It spotlights creativity in Maine, captures the imagination, and couldn’t have happened without community collaboration on a broad scale.

Q: Why the focus on Maine’s creative economy?

A: Because the creative economy – from artists and writers to architects, creative agencies, software development, R&D, fashion, boat building and a host of other industry segments – this is where the future of value creation will occur. And I want my children, and all of Maine, to be a part of a community – and to participate and gain economic and cultural benefit from a community that grows and values creativity.

Q: How does the Art All Around project further this?

A: It is a manifestation of a community’s commitment to ‘walk the walk’ of supporting a collaborative creative economy – beyond mere theories and concepts. It forces the Center to deal with all aspects and levels of community while demonstrating that the arts are important. In the process, you learn how people from many different walks of life share in this value – and gain from an expanded sense of community.

Q: How does the Maine Center for Creativity select its projects and programs?

A: We select projects that fit our mission and bring unusual and unique collaborations together. It’s a process of bringing together unexpected, surprising elements. You might not naturally think of art and industry coming together to create a dynamic project such as Art All Around. It’s very exciting for the richness of collaboration produced. We’re open to considering a variety of ideas, and our board and committees vet ideas and proposals to ensure they fulfill our mission and benefit from arts-and-industry collaboration.

Q: Why the emphasis on ‘community’ and ‘collaboration?’

A: When we first conceived of the Center, I was very concerned about the stark polarities evident in the community and the wider world – the over emphasis on those things that divide us. It seemed that in order for our community – local and global – to grow and progress, we need a greater ability and willingness to collaborate. What I’ve learned in the process is – it’s not easy! It’s one of the hardest things you can engage in – yet one of the most rewarding.

Q: What were the key milestones of the early years of the Maine Center for Creativity?

A: Surviving – getting past the difficult start-up phase into sustaining growth. Creating a successful mechanism and a medium for collaboration – one that is local, but from the start, with the Art All Around project – was also global in nature. Attracting an able army of volunteers – from those willing to serve on a working board of directors to everyone who has helped develop and nurture all the many projects and programs that we’ve launched and are involved in. We also raised a significant amount of money – attracting members and very generous benefactors in what was a very tough economy. We accomplished a lot in our first 5 years. Those accomplishments built the foundation for a number of new program initiatives, including our Creative Toolbox Series, the Maine Creative Industries Award program and the new Maine Network of Innovation and Creativity. Our statewide impact is growing as we build a network of engaged people and organizations that share the vision of Maine a place where creativity and innovation thrive.

Q: How can people get involved?

A: The simplest – but certainly one of the most important – is to become a member. The Maine Center for Creativity is always in need of volunteers. Everyone is invited to participate in the Center’s programs, The Maine Center for Creativity is all about community, collaboration, and participation – and can always find something that engages your interest. The Center welcomes new ideas and encourages active involvement.