University is one of 66 Our Town projects selected nationwide for arts-based community development investment
The University of Maine at Presque Isle has been awarded a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to assist in the creation of the region’s very first facility dedicated to the visual arts. The University has been working with the Wintergreen Arts Center, the City of Presque Isle, building owners, and several other partners to transform 149 State Street into the Northern Maine Center for the Cultural Arts.
“We couldn’t be more pleased about receiving this kind of support and recognition from the National Endowment for the Arts,” UMPI President Linda Schott said. “Our project is all about working together with local partners to provide arts-focused activities and opportunities in the downtown that will benefit the region in a variety of ways and we’re very excited to have an Our Town grant—only the third awarded in Maine and the first-ever to a Maine college or university—to help us do that.”
The project is one way the University is fulfilling its new Strategic Plan—which calls for UMPI to stimulate economic development and provide meaningful service to the region and also promote the revitalization of downtown Presque Isle—as well as meeting its new mission, which includes enhancing the region’s quality of life through activities like cultural programming.
The University’s grant is one of 66 Our Town grant awards totaling $5.07 million and reaching 38 states announced today by National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairman Jane Chu. This is the Our Town program’s fourth year of funding.
NEA officials said that this year’s Our Town projects demonstrate again that excellent art is as fundamental to a community’s success as land-use, transportation, education, housing, infrastructure, and public safety, helping build stronger communities that are diverse in geography and character. Our Town funds arts-based community development projects in a way that is authentic, equitable, and augments existing local assets. Since Our Town’s inception in 2011 and including these projects, the NEA will have awarded 256 Our Town grants totaling more than $21 million in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
“The University of Maine at Presque Isle demonstrates the best in creative community development and its work will have a valuable impact on its community,” said Chairman Chu. “Through Our Town funding, arts organizations continue to spark vitality that support neighborhoods and public spaces, enhancing a sense of place for residents and visitors alike.”
The Northern Maine Center for the Cultural Arts project not only supports the region’s growing arts community and efforts to spur economic development, but also encourages innovation in academic and community education. The building at 149 State Street already houses the Wintergreen Arts Center on its first floor, and will feature UMPI’s Downtown Art Gallery on the second floor (a sister space to UMPI’s Reed Fine Art Gallery) and UMPI’s Art Studio Space on the third floor. Once complete, the space will be used for rotating, high profile exhibition displays, guest lectures and workshops, private events, small musical performances and private workspace for eight local artists.
Project officials envision the facility as a cultural space that fosters community interaction, a doorway to visual arts that aren’t typically available locally, and an incubator for artists. In addition, this project, coupled with efforts like the University’s recent acquisition of art by renowned sculptor Bernard Langlais—which has made Presque Isle one of the places to visit on the Langlais Art Trail—encourages cultural tourism that helps Presque Isle to stand out as a destination for the arts.
Our Town grant funding will help to launch the NMCCA, support high profile programming for the arts, provide salaries for staffing, and engage community partners in developing a five-year cultural plan for Presque Isle. It will also allow the University to work collaboratively with Wintergreen and the community by bringing to The County an artist who will seek assistance from community members in the creation of a public art installation at the site.
“A facility such as the NMCCA will be an exciting keystone for the arts in the County,” said project director Heather Sincavage, UMPI Art Professor and Director of UMPI’s Reed Fine Art Gallery. “It will provide an excellent opportunity for cross pollination of ideas through collaborative efforts throughout the town, region, and state. It will empower students to not just watch a movement for change unfold, but be an active part of that change—through participation in programming, implementation of creative ideas, and collaboration with resident and visiting artists. In essence, it becomes a place where their education is part of the unfolding story of Presque Isle’s transformation as a cultural tourism destination. It all begins in the downtown.”
The NEA received 275 applications for Our Town this year. Recommended grant amounts ranged from $25,000 to $200,000. For a complete listing of projects recommended for Our Town grant support, please visit the NEA web site at arts.gov. Project descriptions, grants listed by state and by project type, and resources are available as well.