Community Building Through Art

Celebrating three years of collaborative support for black and brown artists in Maine
Words By Jacqui Walpole
Photos By Márcia Minters& Jordia Benjamin

Predominantly white Maine lacks the diversity that ensures communities of color are able to feel safe and truly at home. Institutions that uplift Black and Brown artists are incredibly important to our Maine community, such as Indigo Arts Alliance (IAA). Indigo centers a Black-led, multiracial approach that supports and attracts Black and Brown artists to Maine, and the organization envisions a more just and equitable multiracial democracy.

Maine College of Art and Design (MECA&D) is the only college in the state for visual arts, and it is aware how predominantly white institutions are white spaces. Developing a culture of social change, racial justice, and equity is one of the college’s goals, and they are taking steps to back up their words by partnering with IAA.

“Placing these values at the forefront of our work cultivates artists who are true agents of change and connects our community to the world in meaningful ways,” the college states on its website.

For the past three years, with guidance and input from IAA the college has built networks of meaningful, cultural support for Black and Brown students, faculty, and staff, first by improving its available resources. As a result of this relationship the college hired Will Johnson, who is dedicated to decolonising the curriculum and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) mindsets.

“We all crave a space where the pieces of who we are—as subtle as our clothing and as meaningful as our language—have an opportunity to be and to shine,” explains Will.

The partnership secures paid internships and mentor and mentee opportunities to faculty and staff via IAA’s various residency programs, thanks to a shared grant from The Crewe Foundation.

“For many of our Black and Brown students and faculty, the partnership between our college and the Indigo Arts Alliance is the key to a feeling of safety, love, acceptance, and inspiration that makes our special community in Portland the home they create for their future,” Will said.

Dream a Dream That Dreams Back at Me by Dianne Smith.

During an anniversary reception in May to celebrate the partnership’s success, guests had the chance to see this meaningful relationship come to life on the walls of the Institute of Contemporary Art at MECA&D. There, Visions for our Future; Echoes of our Past: Dianne Smith, Nyugen E. Smith, and Carl Joe Williams, curated by Indigo deputy director Jordia Benjamin, and MECA&D alum Ashley Page ’20, who joined Indigo full-time after a student internship, illustrated the artistic power community support can help create.

Here are some ways you can help emerging artists in Maine. You can support Indigo Arts Alliance’s mission of supporting and amplifying Black and Brown artists (locally and globally) by donating directly to the organization. Also, the annual MECA&D COLLECT Summer Art Sale (live at the ICA at MECA&D and online at shop.meca.edu, June 23-25) is your chance to purchase contemporary artwork that will directly benefit student scholarships at the school.

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