By Rachel Morin
Gallery 5 was packed last Thursday evening with family, friends, artists and business associates at a reception honoring Eric Agren, owner of Fuel and Marché restaurants, as the 2010 recipient of the Minerva Award.
The Minerva Award, named after the Greek goddess for the arts and sciences, was initiated and created in the spring of 2009 by L/A Arts, the local arts agency for the Twin Cities of Lewiston and Auburn. The award recognizes the need to emphasize the role the arts play in addressing social, educational and economic development issues.
The annual award is given to an individual who has used the power of the arts to enrich and enhance the lives of those in the L-A community, although residence in the area is not required.
Jim Handy, interim executive director of L/A Arts and part of the selection panel, introduced the presenters, Dennis and Mike Barriault, fourth-generation owners/operators of Central Distributors.
In their presentation, the Barriaults praised Eric Agren’s “inseparable connection between economic development and the arts—and more specifically the culinary arts and the visual arts.”
Their presentation included reference to Agren’s dynamic and vibrant downtown vision that has sparked a renaissance along Lisbon Street and has caused a ripple effect throughout the greater Lewiston-Auburn community. Agren’s partnership with L/A Arts in the creation of Gallery 5 three years ago has led to the opening of other galleries in the community.
“It’s no exaggeration to call Eric a visionary,” the Barriaults continued. “He understands that ‘creative economy’ means more than buying a piece of art or attending a performance. Eric sees ‘creative economy’ as making good business sense and the arts as a catalyst for creating spin-off businesses and opportunities. The creative economy works when business supports the arts and the arts support business.”
Agren was clearly surprised and overwhelmed to be this year’s recipient of the esteemed Minerva Award. He made a few brief remarks in acceptance and thanked the large group of arts and business people assembled to honor him.
Agren donated the space for Gallery 5, which is conjoined with his Fuel restaurant. Gallery 5 showcases works by Maine artists and is open to the public. “The return on the gallery investment and what it has done for artists in this community is more than I ever imagined,” Agren said.
Also serving on the Selection Panel for the 2010 Minerva Award were: Sandra Marquis, chairperson of the L/A Arts Board of Directors; Amanda Theberge, director of sales, Hilton Garden Inn Auburn Riverwatch and L/A Board of Directors; and Joshua Shea of LA Magazine.