Maine College of Art alumna Asherah Cinnamon and Liz Rhaney watch instructor Indigo Art Alliance Artist in Residence Eneida Sanches at the college this summer. A grant-funded partnership between the college and the new art alliance will bridge the gap between college artists and professional artists. Courtesy of Rachel Katz

PORTLAND —  Two organizations are coming together to help inspire and cultivate the next generation of artists of color.

This spring, Maine College of Art and the Indigo Arts Alliance received a three-year $75,000 matching grant from the Crewe Foundation to provide students, staff, alumni and faculty at MECA the opportunity to work with the IAA board, staff and artists in residence.

The grant will provide paid internships for students of color to work with the Indigo Arts Alliance, which was formed in May to “cultivate the artistic development of people of African descent.”

The money will also pair three MECA students, faculty or alumni with professional artists in residence at Indigo Arts Alliance and fund the position of diversity coordinator at MECA and bring in Indigo Arts Alliance artists to work with master of fine arts students during the summer session.

Laura Freid, MECA’s president since 2017, said 17 percent of the student body was artists of color five years ago. Now the college, which includes 500 graduate and undergraduate students, is 25 percent students of color.

“The partnership with MECA creates an opportunity for us to plug directly into young, up-and-coming artists of color and link to professional artists associated with the college and partner with the faculty and staff of the college,” said Marcia Minter, who founded the arts alliance with her husband, Daniel.

“I am grateful for Marcia and Daniel Minter and the vision and creative energy they have. Their vision was to bring more artists of color to Portland,” Freid said. “We were very interested in this partnership because our student body is getting more diverse.”

This partnership, Freid said, will help “broaden the awareness of the larger community of artists of color in the state and globally.”

Freid said the two organizations will offer students at the college the opportunity to learn from artists of diverse backgrounds.

Minter said it is important for students of color to develop relationships with artists in the field who “understand your life experiences and are willing to support you on your artistic journey.”

A grant from the Crewe Foundation paid Maine College of Art students Ashley Page and Athena Lynch to intern with Indigo Arts Alliance this summer. Courtesy

Money from the grant, Freid said, brought to the college two Indigo Artists in Residence over the summer. MFA students worked with Eneida Sanches, a visual artist from Brazil and Fo Wilson, a visual artist from Chicago. Through the grant, this summer Ashley Page, Athena Lynch and Alejandra Cuadra worked as interns with Indigo Arts Alliance.

Minter said in total, the alliance will host seven artists-in-residence between May 2019 and June 2020. Sarah Khan, a documentary filmmaker and textile artist of Pakistani descent, will be the resident artist Oct. 4 to Dec. 7.

According to Indigo Arts Alliance, Khan, a resident of New York City, specializes in art “focused on food, culture, women, and migrants grounded in social justice.”

Between Oct. 23 and Nov. 15, Meeta Mastani, a master printmaker from India, will be at Indigo Arts Alliance. Mastani, of Bindaas Unlimited, makes hand-printed, naturally-dyed clothing and other items, inspired by Indian folk traditions.

“We are happy to have them here to inspire our students,” Freid said.

Work is underway now to advertise for the diversity coordinator position, which Freid said will work with students and faculty, particularly with diversity and inclusion training.

“As our student body becomes more diverse, we are committed to reinforcing our values of social justice and racial equality. This position helps with that,” she said.

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