A rendering of Asata Radcliffe’s “Black Guards Living Installation,” a Kindling Fund project for 2020 that will replicate the African-Americans who guarded the railroads in Maine during World War II. Image courtesy of Space Gallery

One artist will use the money to create a series of foraged feasts, collecting local ingredients to prepare performative meals. Another will use her science skills and engineering smarts to design and build a Plastic Upcycler, which will convert plastic waste into components for her sculpture. And a third will connect Wabanaki and non-native people in a year-long performance piece that will address ecological recovery and social justice.

The three projects are among the 15 that Space Gallery in Portland will support financially as part a new round of Kindling Fund grants. This is the sixth year of the program, which is funded by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. This year’s grants are worth a total of $68,500, with individual grants ranging from $3,500 to $5,000. In the five previous years, Space has distributed more than $250,000 to artists across Maine, supporting projects that focus on risk, experimentation and community engagement.

Space, at 538 Congress St., will host a receptions for this year’s grant-winners at an awards ceremony beginning at 3 p.m. Sunday. Each recipient will have five minutes to explain the project.

This year’s grantees are Rachel Alexandrou; Vanessa Anspaugh with collaborators Allie James, Ryan MacDonald and Kristen Stake; Kim Bernard; Caitlin Cameron; Grant Corum; Alexandra Cuadros and Pendeja Studio; Darren Ranco with Jennie Hahn and Cory Tamler; Dan Hawkins; the Bare Portland performance company; Sarah Loftus with collaborator Michel Droge; Pamela A. Moulton with collaborators Chris Akerlind, Maxwell Burns, Alban Maino and Anne Williams; Thalassa Raasch with collaborator Dan Bouthot; Asata Radcliffe with collaborators Jordan Carey, Fred Greenhalgh, Reggie Hodges, Annabelle Richardson and Marco Soulo; Hillary Savage with collaborator Steph Richardson; and Sarah Sockbeson.

Since the program began in 2015, the Kindling Fund has helped reshape art in Portland and across the region by supporting community-based projects and giving artists the opportunity to create work without worrying about selling it, said Kelsey Halliday Johnson, the executive director of Space, the multidisciplinary nonprofit arts organization that administers the fund. Without the pressure of having to make art with the art market in mind, artists are freer to make work that aspires to change their communities, she said.

“By nature of asking for socially engaged artwork, the Kindling Fund is inherently not interested in art being made for the art market. It is interested in storytelling,” she said. “The highest and best purpose as an artist is to create an experience or a challenging set of questions for an audience that changes how they look at the world.”

Sarh Loftus and Michel Droge will travel across Maine and create images of old hand tools using a portable cyanotype kit. Image courtesy of Space Gallery

Artists awarded grants this year reflect some of the pressing social issues of the day. The most prevalent concern among the current round of grantees is the landscape, the same subject that artists in Maine have been considering for generations. Today, they’re coming at it from the perspective of climate change, Johnson said. “Artists in Maine have always had a very different relationship to the landscape, and that is becoming apparent in how many people are going from the Maine history of painting the landscape to now addressing the challenges of the landscape,” she said.

Bernard, a sculptor from Rockland, will create the Plastic Upcycler, which will convert plastic waste into sculptural components using a shredder, injector, compressor and extruder. Each component will be compact and portable, enabling her to create sculptural installations in any setting where plastic waste is collected.

Alexandrou will work with a team of collaborators to harvest, process and create meals made with common ingredients found in nature, including things like dandelions, groundnuts, nettles and knotweed, with the intent of helping participants deepen their relationship with nature. The feasts of local edible flora will be free, and will include visual art created by the artists during the process of gathering the ingredients.

Ranco and others will create a project called “In Kinship Archives & Performance Fellowship,” which will involve what Ranco calls “social repair and environmental care.” Ranco, chair of Native American Programs and coordinator of Native American research at the University of Maine, will connect native and non-native people to place in a participatory performance work that addresses ecological recovery and social justice over the course of a year.

“Funerals for the Ocean” by Anspaugh will honor a dying ecosystem through a choreographed process of grieving. “Ghost Line,” conceived by Hawkins, will consider the effect of all the second and seasonal homes along Maine’s coastline, and what happens to small towns when its year-round residents have to move away because they cannot afford to stay.

Another project will map Portland from the perspective of those who walk the city every day. Bare Portland, a performance collective, will examine the city’s changing socio-economics with a piece about place and displacement, told from the perspective of a storage unit. The Pendeja Studio will use its money to create studio space for first-generation immigrants, artists of color and artists from under-served populations.

Johnson said 84 artists or artist teams applied for funding, the largest class of applicants in the program’s six years. “That’s both exhilarating and difficult, because we had more rejections than we’ve ever had to do. But it shows how the fund is doing really well and that there are more and more artists that need funding in Maine,” she said.

A past recipient, artist Adriane Herman compared Space to a booster rocket because it boosts projects beyond the usual reach of the individual artists and said the level of competition is an indicator of the vitality of the arts community and the need for the program. “Institutional support is always a shot in the arm for artists, and when artists are energized and supported, the results are exponential,” she said. “Projects the Kindling Fund has supported since its inception have challenged, documented, celebrated, raised eyebrows, moved and delighted, offering much-needed reveries, to name just a few of the myriad outcomes.”


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