It was an awards reception with very little fanfare, but at SPACE Gallery on Congress Street in Portland, something big is underfoot.

An early evening fete called together the inaugural grant recipients of the Kindling Fund, the gallery’s new funding program focused on Maine’s visual arts community. It is part of the Regional Regranting Program of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

“Many of Maine’s artists are working outside traditional commercial structures, and this grant offers support for worthy projects that may be difficult to fund by other means,” said Nat May, SPACE executive director and champion of experimental artists across the state.

“SPACE has given so much and become the epicenter of coolness, which is totally validated by this Warhol grant,” said SPACE founding board member Donna McNeil. “They are interested in visionary leadership in the arts, which is really what SPACE exemplifies.”

The Warhol Foundation grant program works with nine cultural institutions around the country, including San Francisco, Miami, Chicago and Houston. Its support has enabled SPACE to award $5,000 grants to 10 visual arts projects for 2015.

“This is the opportunity for direct grants to individual artists,” explained Jessica Tomlinson, SPACE board member and director of Artists at Work for the Maine College of Art. “We have a national funder recognizing the work of artists in Maine.”

With projects compelling and diverse, most of the 18 grant recipients were on hand to talk about their work.

Ashleigh Burskey, whose project The Chart is an online art criticism journal for Maine’s art community, chatted with her friend Jenny Kowtko, an arts educator.

“I came to support a good friend,” said Kowtko.

Burskey’s creative partner Jenna Crowder was joined by Portland friends and fellow artists Michael Thomas, Genevieve Johnson and Douglas Milliken.

“I’m really thrilled about this!” Crowder said.

Andrew Thompson, whose project “Interstices” is a sound map of Portland, reflected on receiving the grant.

“It’s humbling. What’s really exciting to see is everyone’s project come to life. It’s going to spread some interesting ideas throughout the state. I’m ecstatic, I really am.”

Margaret Logan is a freelance writer who lives in Scarborough. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

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