For 22 years, the Center for Maine Contemporary Art has alternated with the Portland Museum of Art in presenting a biennial juried exhibition of work by Maine artists and those with serious ties to the state. The 2010 Biennial Juried Exhibition will open Saturday, May 29; the public is invited to a reception for the show and its artists from 2 to 5 p.m.

The 2010 Biennial was juried by New York gallery owner George Adams, Boston-based independent curator Rachael Arauz and Belfast artist Dennis Pinette, who went through three rounds of judging. From the more than 2,500 works submitted by 654 applicants, 41 artists, half of whom are new to the CMCA Biennial, were selected. The 2010 Biennial Juror’s Choice Award will be announced during Saturday’s catered reception.

This Biennial’s artists work in a wide range of media including paper, photography, fabric and sculpture. Painting is most prevalent, but there is a lot of multimedia work. Midcoast artists in the 2010 Biennial are photographers Richard Barnett of Thomaston and Tillman Crane of Camden; oil painters Connie Hayes of Rockland and Alison Rector of Monroe; acrylic painter Janice Anthony of Jackson; graphite artist Susan Cooney of Belfast; sculptor Jay Gibson of Morrill; and ink and watercolor artist Kenny Cole of Monroe.

In some ways, things seem as they always have. Portland’s Bruce Brown is back living in Thomaston and putting in long hours at CMCA, buried in papers and plastic-wrapped art in the basement level and directing the installation of work on all three levels of the building: in addition to the Biennial on the main floor and in the loft, “Verso/Recto,” an exhibition of photographs by Meggan Gould, will open Saturday in the downstairs Tucker and Brown galleries. Her reception runs from 3 to 5 p.m.

But things are not the same. Brown officially retired as curator at the end of 2006, and CMCA came close to foundering last fall. The small staff of full-time employees was laid off on a late October Friday to the gallery supporting public’s dismay; CMCA canceled its winter shows and, in December, shut its doors for four months. It was announced that Curator Emeritus Brown would consult this summer, shepherding the shows scheduled by laid off Curator Britta Konau.

CMCA re-opened its doors last month for the annual Camden-Rockport student exhibition, whose grant funding had been secured by laid off Director of Education Cathy Melio. Then the announcement came that Executive Director Mary Ann Schierholt of Owls Head, who had come on board late last summer and was the only remaining full-timer, was out and Suzette McAvoy of Belfast, a former Farnsworth Art Museum curator, was in as a consultant and, come September, CMCA’s director. Paula Blanchard, operations manager, is currently CMCA’s sole full-time employee. She and Brown are directing a cadre of volunteers to mount the Biennial and run the gallery this summer.

Despite the sea change, things seem business as usual to Brown, who was up to his ears a week before the opening.

“It’s as if the last three-and-a-half years have just vanished from my memory,” he said, waiting for a crew of volunteers to arrive to patch and paint the walls.

Those walls will be covered with a wide range of media and subject matter come Saturday’s opening. In addition to the Midcoast artists, the Biennial features work by Elizabeth Awalt, Bill Barton, Christopher Baker, George Bayliss, Thomas Connolly, Rebecca Daugherty, Nicole Duennebier, Deborah Ellis, Jessica George, April Hannah, John Lorence, Ann Mohnkern, James Mullen, Linda Murray, Ken Sahr, Claire Seidl, Bridget Spaeth, Heather Thayer, Case Conover, Kenneth Deprez, Cassie Jones, James Marshall, Scott Reed, Michael Alpert, Linda Griffith, Robert Rainey, Todd Watts, Carrie Dickason, Gabriella D’Italia, Jay Gibson, Robin Mandel, Shannon Rankin, Justin Richel, and Celeste Roberge. It is the smallest number of artists ever selected for the CMCA Biennial, but there are many larger-than-usual works and several on-site installations.

“At first, I was worried there would be open wall space,” said Brown. “Now I’m worried we won’t have enough.”

Two of CMCA’s biggest walls will be taken by installation-like works. Justin Richel of Rangeley will fill the street-side wall of the loft, which extends up a full 12 feet. On the opposite end of the loft, Cassie Jones of Brunswick will fill the wall with a number of smaller works. More typical installations will be mounted on-site by Shannon Rankin of Rangeley and Carrie Dickason of Deer Isle.

“She’s driving to Michigan right now to pick it up from Cranbrook [Academy of Art],” said Brown last week.

Jones and Dickason will be among the Biennial artists taking part in a panel discussion CMCA has scheduled during the run of the exhibition. On Sunday, June 20 at 2 p.m., Jones, Roberge of South Portland and Watts of Blanchard will lead the discussion. On Sunday, July 11 at 2 p.m., Dickason, Mullen of Brunswick and George of Peaks Island will discuss how the landscape informs their approaches to making art.

Also discussing her work will be Gould, whose concurrent exhibition consists of two interrelated groups of conceptual photographs that examine the presence of words and phrases on surfaces. Gould, who was in the 2008 Biennial, teaches photography at Bowdoin College. Her work has been exhibited in Vancouver, Bangkok, Seoul, Leipzig, and San Paulo and around the United States. Gould will give a slide talk Sunday, June 27 at 2 p.m.

Both the Biennial and Gould’s photography show will run through July 17. CMCA’s hours beginning Saturday will be Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. The board of directors has decided that admission will be free, although donations to the nonprofit organization will be gratefully accepted.

After the Biennial, the CMCA lineup will be a mix of already announced shows, with some alterations.

“I came with the idea of preserving as much as Britta had in mind as possible, but obviously there have been changes,” said Brown.

One of the changes has been to find a place for one of the canceled winter shows, a new media sound installation by Nate Aldrich and Zach Poff re-scheduled for Aug. 5 through Sept. 25. Also opening Aug. 5 will be Will Barnet’s “Master Printmaker: Selections from Five Decades” in the Tucker and Brown galleries; Dozier Bell’s “Momenta: Paintings, Drawings, Photographs” in the Loft Gallery; and Yvonne Jacquette’s “Aerials: Paintings, Prints, Pastels” in the Main Gallery. Between these shows and the Biennial will be the annual benefit art auction, which is previewed at CMCA and takes place Aug. 1 at the Owls Head Transportation Museum.

“What’s unusual is to have four solo shows [in a season],” said Brown, adding that the Barnet show has several motivations.

“There was the show at Colby I was involved in, and Will is 90, you know,” Brown said. “Dale [Schierholt] is making one of his short documentaries, which will premiere at the Strand in August.”

Brown will stay on board at least until McAvoy arrives and, as he is curating the season-ending “Maine Photographers: Ten Years Later” exhibition, he is likely not to see his Portland condo for more than a day or two until well into the fall. He said that show originally was planned to focus on historical photographic processes, but as Maine Media Workshops will host the University of New England’s traveling “Going Forward, Looking Back – Practicing Historic Photographic Processes in the 21st Century” exhibition concurrently, it was been re-defined.

“It will be an update of what has happened in the last 10 years, and so much has happened,” he said.

There’s a lot on Brown’s plate, but he was willing to fill it, temporarily, when CMCA asked for his help after last fall’s shakeup.

“I didn’t know what the future was going to be but I hoped there would be a future and that I could provide a link to that,” he said.

CMCA is located at 162 Russell Ave., in the village. The Web site is cmcanow.org.

VillageSoup Art/Entertainment Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail to dernest@villagesoup.com.