Federal grants will fund an arts and crafts workshop on bus shelters for LBGTQ youth

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The most visible result of a recent round of National Endowment for the Arts grants will be artistic flourishes on four new bus shelters that will be installed in the coming year by Portland Metro. But the biggest impact could be felt in communities in Maine who will send 70 of their children to Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle for a new craft workshop for LGBTQ high school students in Maine.

Among the 10 arts groups in Maine receiving a total of $ 1 million awarded last week by the NEA, Creative Portland received a matching grant of $ 25,000 to support the first phase of an artistic bus shelter design program. for Portland. The program will pay artists to complement the newly installed shelters with new artistic designs, said Dinah Minot, executive director of Creative Portland, who wrote the grant and is leading the project in partnership with the Greater Portland Council of Governments and Metro. “We are considering additions and decorative elements to the structures that Metro is already putting in place. We don’t plan to do any basic construction, which would cost a lot more money, ”she said.

The location of the bus shelters has not been determined. Two will likely be on city property and two on private property in high traffic areas like the University of Southern Maine or Thompson’s Point, Minot said.

Minot and Kristina Egan, executive director of the Greater Portland Council of Governments, came up with the idea and approached Metro. A curatorial team made up of representatives from local museums, galleries, USM, Portland Public Art Committee, Black Artists Forum of Maine, and Creative Portland board will select four artists or four artist teams.

A call for art will probably be launched in the fall. “We hope to have a selection by New Years or early January so that we can actually install and create some of these structures by summer 2020,” Minot said. “We plan to finish them on budget and with a touch of worthy visual excellence so we can go back to NEA and apply for a grant with another zero.”

The only thing that limits the design possibilities is the imagination, she added. “It can be pieces cut out of steel, woodcarvings, ropes, ceramics, paintings. There are all kinds of things you can do to change the structure but not to change the actual form or function, ”she said.

Creative Portland received the grant through the NEA’s Our Town Creative Places Program. The goal of the initiative is to encourage multimodal transportation, increase ridership and promote social harmony by using public art to celebrate diversity and inclusion, Minot said.

Haystack received $ 10,000 from the NEA to fund a new program for LGBTQ youth in Maine September 13-15 at the Haystack campus in Deer Isle. Haystack presents Workshop Weekend in conjunction with Out Maine. It will be open to approximately 70 students from Maine. Out Maine recently informed art teachers and leaders of safety clubs in Maine schools about the program, seeking nominations from talented students. Applications must be submitted by May 31.

The NEA grant will cover part of the costs of the program. Money from the Morton-Kelly Charitable Trust and the Crewe Foundation also supports the program. Buses will be hired to transport children from rural areas to the remote campus.

Students will arrive on Friday afternoon, settle into their cabins and share a community meal. The workshops will start on Friday evening and will continue until Sunday morning. Students, teachers and chaperones will participate in workshops, evening presentations and discussions.

LGBTQ artists from across the country will host workshops, said Haystack director Paul Sacaridiz. The faculty includes Vivian Beer (forge), Steven Frost (fiber), Joshua Hebbert (clay), Everett Hoffman (metals), Sylvie Rosenthal (wood) and Hope Rovelto (graphics).

The time is right and Haystack is the right place, Sacaridiz said. “This program appears to align with one of our core priorities as a school, which expands the ways in which we are an inclusive organization. We say diversity is a high priority, and it is. But a much better job is inclusiveness, ”he said.

Jeanne Dooley, Executive Director of Out Maine, suggested the program to Sacaridiz as she attended an indigo dyeing workshop in Haystack. Out Maine is always looking for ways to reach Maine youth and integrate the arts. Haystack workshops will change lives by giving these children the confidence to speak up, she said. “For most of these young people, kabash is about self-expression.” She called the partnership a “match made in heaven.” We think this is a wonderful pilot program and a demonstration of how artistic communities can support these children. We hope this spawns more arts programming for LGBTQ kids here in Maine and across the country. “

According to statistics from Out Maine, more than 800 high school students in Maine identify as transgender. Half were bullied and a third were threatened or injured, Dooley said. Almost three-quarters of trans students said they were depressed and half had seriously considered suicide in the past year.

In addition to providing students with artistic training and a safe community, the Haystack Weekend will also expose them to role models in the arts, Dooley said. “All teachers are LGBTQ. They shape successful lives in the arts, and the value of that cannot be overstated, ”she said.


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