Sarah Morrill photo
Courtesy of Maine Crafts Association
Mechanics' Hall b. 1857-59 is located at 519 Congress St. in Portland.
The Grand Ballroom at Mechanics' Hall

For Immediate Release April 17, 2019

Mechanics’ Hall names Annie Leahy as Inaugural Executive Director

New post ushers in building’s 160th year as Portland’s home to the Maine Charitable Mechanic Association (MCMA) – a historic center for creativity, learning and knowledge in the heart of Portland’s arts district.

PORTLAND, Maine – Mechanics’ Hall Board of Directors today announced the appointment of Annie Leahy as the organization’s inaugural Executive Director. Leahy will start her post on April 22nd. She joins Mechanics’ as the organization begins a process of planning for major building and facility improvements that will allow the Hall to present a wide variety of creative and artistic programs which honor the mission of the MCMA – to inspire and enrich the community by promoting ingenuity, creativity, innovation, and the diffusion of useful knowledge.

“We are thrilled that Annie has accepted this leadership position with Mechanics’ Hall,” said outgoing Board President Pam Plumb. “Throughout the interview process, she acknowledged our history, spoke to our mission, and articulated a strong programmatic vision for our future. Her experience, energy and drive will be a great asset to the organization.”

Leahy comes to Mechanics’ with over 20 years experience working at both for-profit and nonprofit organizations. She’s held senior positions in New York City at ABC News, the Tribeca Film Institute and the Tribeca Film Festival. She moved to Portland, Maine in 2009 as the Executive Producer and Director of Programming for PopTech. She currently serves as Board Chair at SPACE Gallery and is on the advisory board for Portland Bach Experience.

“When Pam graciously gave me a tour of Mechanics’ Hall in the fall of 2018, I was struck by the beauty of the building and its rich history as a center for learning, cultural exploration, artistic curiosity and community,” said Leahy. “I’m truly inspired by the enormous potential for us to channel that DNA and emerge once again as a vibrant, diverse, and inclusive cultural institution in the heart of Portland’s art district.”

Along with the hiring of an inaugural Executive Director, the MCMA board recently voted to change the public facing name of the organization from the Maine Charitable Mechanic Association to Mechanics’ Hall. The name change comes after several years of strategic planning by the board of directors to modernize the use of the building within the arts district, create a more open membership base and promote general use by the public.

“My great grandfather, John Calvin Stevens, served as President of the Maine Charitable Mechanic Association in the 1890s,” said Paul Stevens, incoming Board President. “Pam re-introduced me to the Hall last year and I’m honored to continue the extraordinary work she has done to reinvigorate this historic Portland institution”

“One of the benefits of supporting the Maine Charitable Mechanic Association is to become part of preserving Mechanics’ Hall,” said Maine State Historian Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr. “Built on the eve of the Civil War, this notable Portland landmark is a vital force in the life of the city with its welcoming library and grand meeting hall. The creative vision of the Association’s founders is alive within the walls of Mechanics’ Hall today.”

Mechanics’ Hall will host an open house in the fall of 2019 to introduce the community to Leahy and reveal renovations currently underway to both the ballroom and the library. These renovations will remove a wall in the ballroom restoring this grand space to its original square footage and symmetry. There are plans to add a catering prep kitchen off the ballroom as well. The library updates include making it more user friendly and accessible by widening the spaces between the stacks, refinishing the floor and installing new lighting. This work is supported in part by The Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation, The Maine State Building and Construction Trades Council, The Maine Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 716, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 567, Turner Construction, as well as individual donations from association members and the Board of Directors.

“It’s a really exciting time for Mechanics’ Hall. I am delighted that we have reached a point where an Executive Director is critical to our mission and continued success,” said Hall Superintendent Tom Blackburn.

About the Maine Charitable Mechanic Association (MCMA) and Mechanics’ Hall:
Mechanics’ Hall, located at 519 Congress Street is a 160 year old building located in the heart of Portland, Maine’s art district, directly across the street from the Maine College of Art. Designed by architect, Thomas J. Sparrow and built 1857-59 by the Maine Charitable Mechanic Association members, it has a library, large ballroom, boardroom and small classroom which is often used as a gallery space. It is home to two ground floor commercial rental spaces. Current tenants are The Art Mart, an art supply store and most recently, the Maine Crafts Association, which opened its first Portland store in the summer of 2018.

In 2014 and 2015, the building underwent extensive renovations to the second and third floors allowing the ballroom to reopen its doors to the public for the first time since 1943. Today, Mechanics’ Hall is an open, inclusive and diverse organization, working to connect its rich history to the modern creative movement with its mission to inspire and enrich the community by promoting ingenuity, creativity, innovation and the diffusion of useful knowledge. Current programs include a library book club, a monthly lecture series called Makers at the Hall, a coding program for kids (Maine Kids Code) and launching next month Various!, a First Friday performing arts series.

For more information:

Karolyn Greenstreet – Communications Coordinator, kgreenstreet@mainemechanics.org