Culture: Portland Ovations

  • "Caps For Sale" is one of Portland Ovations’s school- time performances, a series that inspires and entertains future generations.

For 85 proud years, Portland Ovations has shared and celebrated the arts and culture of our country, other countries, and other times.

This winter, many people will trudge through downtown Portland searching for special entertainment. Heading down a frigid Congress Street, they’ll notice that more doors than ever open onto the warmth of arts and culture. Behind some can be found the “Beatles script,” as I like to call it—four musicians with drums, bass, guitar, and vocals. Nothing wrong with that. But thanks to the passion and progress of Portland Ovations, other doors open up to the rest of the world.

For 85 years, Portland Ovations has shared and celebrated the arts and culture of our country, other countries, and other times. From jazz to gospel, dance to Broadway plays, this organization’s focus has always been to inspire and contribute to Portland’s cultural, social, and financial wellbeing—eventgoers often visit the city’s restaurants, shops, and hotels—with quality acts of the performing arts.

Although its productions are wonderfully entertaining and eye-opening, many people are shy to encounter things unfamiliar to them. So how does this special nonprofit succeed so impressively each year? It has a reputation for top-notch events. “With the arts you need to meet and challenge people,” states Aimee Petrin, executive director of Portland Ovations. “When seeing a listing for one of our events, people might not know what it’s going to be, but they know it’s going to be a quality event.”

Over the years Portland Ovations has hosted the New York Philharmonic, Mario Lanza, Modern Jazz Quartet, Itzhak Perlman, Marcel Marceau, Sir James Galway, Yo-Yo Ma, the Vienna Boys’ Choir, the Flying Karamazov Brothers, Dreamgirls, Stomp, La Bohème, Vladimir Horowitz, Finnish National Ballet, and Carlos Montoya. It will put on over 40 events this coming season, including productions of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, the high-tech magic show The Illusionists, and Ukrainian folk-punk quartet DakhaBrakha. Major presentations are hosted in six locations, including the State Theatre, Space Gallery, Hannaford Hall, Westbrook Performing Arts Center, Port City Music Hall, and the largest venue, Merrill Auditorium. “We want to pair the artists and performances to the right venues so audience members have the best experience possible,” explains programming and development administrator Laura Stauffer.

To continue to put on these culturally and artistically varied performances, Portland Ovations understands that a long-term interest in the performing arts needs to be secured. Offstage, school-time performances connect Maine students and educators with performers from around the globe. “There is a child in one of our promo videos who says, ‘if a kid goes to a theater once, they can be inspired for all their lives,’” says Chip Kibort, director of marketing and audience development. “If arts in schools aren’t going to be supported, it’s our job to get in there and bring this to them.”

Portlanders loves to get together. We welcome jokes, laughs, tears, stories, songs, and dance to any gathering. As we look at how diverse our interests and tastes are in this city, we have to honor and credit Portland Ovations for recognizing that all along the way—and for inspiring us to be an interested city.


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