Portland's historic State Theatre, which reopened in 2011, is collaborating with Maine Music Alliance to host a virtual fundraiser to "Save Maine Stages." The venue and others have lobbied for federal relief to offset the music industry's lost revenue during the pandemic. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

PORTLAND, Maine — The state’s performing arts industry went dark in the spring, the coronavirus pandemic stretching its networks to their limits. As winter presents a new hurdle for the arts, many in the industry are banding together to find novel ways of keeping it afloat.

A coalition of artists and others in the industry are presenting on Friday and Saturday “Save Maine Stages,” a virtual fundraiser that includes contributions from 18 high-profile local artists spread over a documentary film about the struggles the industry faces, as well as a livestream concert.

Artists who have contributed to the program include Portland country group The Mallett Brothers Band; rapper Spose, of Wells; folk-blues artist Samuel James; Lady Lamb, who hails from Kennebunk; indie-rock group Weakened Friends and others.

Music venues are in trouble, said Scott Mohler, president of the Maine Music Alliance, an organization of artists and others who work in the industry. They were among the first businesses to close in mid-March and, unlike food service or retail businesses, have remained closed after the Center for Disease Control and Prevention determined the high-cluster social spaces also pose high risks for transmission.

The concert and documentary are free and can be livestreamed through the organization’s website and social media accounts for State Theatre Portland. Organizers will solicit donations during the events.

Some Portland venues have closed since the shutdowns, while others are struggling to pay rent, and meet payroll and operational obligations to stay afloat.

In September, the Maine Music Alliance launched a $500,000 fundraising effort, which will stabilize live music venues of varying sizes for six months.

Mohler has advocated for legislation that would help alleviate threats to the live music industry, but said that “optimism has dwindled day-by-day that any assistance will be coming from the federal government.”

He warns that the live music industry feeds into a vital tourist economy for the state.

“The ripple effect of music venue closures will be felt swiftly and mightily throughout the entire ecosystem of Portland,” Mohler said.