AUGUSTA — The Maine Arts Commission appointed David Greenham to a five-year term as executive director during its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 17. Greenham of Gardiner has worked as interim executive director of the state arts agency since January 2021, when he transitioned from his role as chairman of the commission to help lead the agency through the COVID-19 crisis.

The appointment by a unanimous vote recognizes Greenham’s passion for the mission of the Maine Arts Commission, his deep knowledge of the Maine arts landscape, and his performance during the pandemic. The appointment provides continuity and stability to the arts sector during a time of continued uncertainty, as artists and arts organizations navigate the fallout from the pandemic, said Commission Chairman David Hopkins of North Haven. Among his immediate tasks is the implementation of a five-year plan, which the commission expects to accept soon.

“David became executive director during a time of need and provided the leadership necessary to help the commission quickly distribute emergency funds and services to artists and organizations in need,” Hopkins said. “We have a proven and skilled person at the helm, and we want to give him the chance to complete what he has just begun to build.”

“I’m honored to have this opportunity and grateful to the staff and commission for their support. Our arts and culture are at the core of what makes Maine such a magnificent place. I appreciate the enormous amount of creative energy that’s percolating in our cities and larger towns, but I am also equally inspired by the examples of creative genius that pops up in the tiniest communities,” Greenham said.

Greenham said the success of the Maine Arts Commission depends on collaborations across the public and private sectors. He’s grateful for the support of Mills, herself an artist, whom Greenham described as “a deeply passionate poet, who also happens to be Governor. In a state where so many individuals cobble together two or three part-time gigs to make a living, you can bet that in many cases one of those gigs includes some kind of art making.”

“As we complete our strategic plan, we’re excited that so many goals will include collaboration, professional and workforce development for creative workers, and a goal of helping state leaders to recognize that the creative problem-solving skills we need as a state are found in abundance in the workers of the cultural community,” Greenham said.

With funding from the Maine Legislature and the federal government, the Maine Arts Commission operates with an annual budget of $1.9 million. It distributes about $400,000 in grants to artists and arts organizations statewide, promotes public art installations, arranges art exhibitions, and manages a range of popular programs, including apprenticeships in the traditional and folk arts, Poetry Out Loud, Percent for Art, Maine Poet Laureate, and others.

“David is dedicated to the arts in Maine, having been a part of the arts community for decades. He understands the need to proactively seek out artists and organizations in all corners of the state to forge stronger relationships, collaborations, and partnerships — a critical component to strengthening our arts and culture community,” said Commission Vice-Chair Cynthia Orcutt of Kingfield. “David’s empathy, compassion and sincerity are key to us achieving this goal.”

Prior to joining the Maine Arts Commission, Greenham spent a decade working for the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine in Augusta, including two years as the associate director. In addition to his administrative duties there, he arranged and curated exhibitions and created educational programming. Before that, Greenham led the Theater at Monmouth for 14 years, providing artistic and administrative direction, and has been active in the arts community of Maine since coming to the state in 1985.

He’s a lecturer in drama at the University of Maine at Augusta and writes theater reviews for the Arts Fuse, an independent online arts magazine.

Hopkins said commission members were pleased with Greenham’s creative approach to his work. He’s added new staff members and helped lead the agency and consultants through a strategic planning process, now in its final phases. Greenham’s experience in theater, which requires collaboration, and his ability to adapt to change equip him for the challenges and opportunities the commission faces in the years ahead, Hopkins said.

“David is an artist who also happens to be an administrator. His background is theater, and out of necessity he is an adept problem-solver, a quick-thinker, and a natural collaborator. In today’s environment of chaos, uncertainty, and change, who better than an artist to lead a creative organization forward?”

The Maine Arts Commission fosters and encourages public interest and participation in the cultural heritage and artistic expression in our state. We pursue our mission through partnerships and collaborations, initiatives, advocacy, and grants for organizations, individual artists, communities, and schools throughout Maine.