Portland education group Side x Side and its partner, the University of Southern Maine, received a four-year, $2.5 million federal grant to expand an arts education program that blends academics with the arts.

In 2014, the group got a $1.9 million federal grant to do work, called Project Imagine, in Portland schools. The program is used at five Portland public elementary schools: East End Community School, Ocean Avenue Elementary School, Reiche Community School, Riverton Elementary School and Hall Elementary School.

The new grant funding, for the “(Re) Imagining Education” project, will allow Side x Side to offer its program in Lewiston schools and serve 2,000 students in 10 schools overall.

The funds pay for professional development for teachers, who work with Side x Side teaching artists to create arts projects that meet specific academic learning targets, such as a project to have students draw and create city maps for a class on the history of Portland.

The teaching faculty of Side x Side involves USM faculty and USM student interns.

“The grant secured by Side x Side will expand arts awareness to students who typically have much less exposure to the arts,” Lewiston Superintendent Bill Webster said. “I have no doubt that this grant will inspire a number of students to cultivate and pursue an interest in, not only the arts, but other creative disciplines that otherwise would have laid dormant forever.”

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

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Twitter: noelinmaine