Portland artist Jordan Parks works on a 2019 piece that was included in Windward Exhibition, an effort to decorate 22 old sails for the Sail Maine fleet. The work earned Parks one of this year’s Brookie Awards, handed out by the Natural Resources Council of Maine to young environmentalists. Courtesy / NRCM

PORTLAND — Local artist Jordan Parks is living proof that there’s a lot of different ways to be an environmentalist. Last month, she was recognized for the unique work she is doing to get people to appreciate nature in new ways.

Jordan Parks of Portland, was named one of six Brookie Award winners and was the only one from Southern Maine. Courtesy / Ashleigh Yob, Salty Photo San Diego

On June 18, the Natural Resource Council of Maine named Parks, a Portland resident, one of six Brookie Awards winners. The award was started this year to honor young men and women who have demonstrated “outstanding leadership and made a significant impact in Maine’s environmental movement.” Parks was awarded a $1,000 cash prize and the chance to attend a nature-based retreat with other young environmental advocates.

“Jordan’s planning and execution of outdoor, nature-based, art exhibitions stood out because she reframes and expands how people view, interact with, and explore the natural world,” said Natural Resource Council of Maine’s Leadership Giving Director Fiona Gordon. “She strengthens Maine’s environmental movement by engaging individuals from backgrounds that are traditionally underrepresented in both the environmental movement and outdoor recreation.”

Parks said at first she didn’t consider herself an environmentalist, even though as operations manager for SailMaine, a Portland-based community sailing program, she teaches “sustainable ethics and environmentally responsible ways to travel.

She said upon further reflection, she understood that an environmentalist can take many forms and does not have to be someone working on climate change or environmental police.

“Now I realize I am an environmentalist and I am so happy my art is the platform to connect people to the outdoors,” Parks said.

Gordon said the Natural Resource Council of Maine felt Parks’ journey was important “to elevate and highlight because there are likely so many others who feel similarly and need to know that all are welcome in the environmental movement.”

Parks said she has been creating art all her life.

“It’s always been an important outlet for me. When I was younger, I wasn’t comfortable expressing myself through my voice. Art has been a way I can use that voice and express myself,” she said.

Surface First Tilts West included pieces of outdoor art for visitors to Little Chebeauge Island to find. Courtesy / Jordan Parks

According to the Natural Resources Council of Maine, two of Parks’ exhibitions (“Surface First Tilts West” in 2017 and “Windward Exhibition” in 2019) offer a “unique form of engagement with Casco Bay.”

“Surface First Tilts West,” done with the help of fellow artists Isabel Neal, Chris Battaglia, Jennifer O’Connell and Jared Haug, involved placing temporary art pieces on Little Chebeague Island for people to discover.

“I had been leading kayak trips for a few years out there and had seen the magic and beauty to be had on the island,” Parks said. “It’s easy to share that with people looking for an adventure, but I wanted to reach a different group of people. By putting art out there, it would get people more accustomed to seeing art in a gallery, to have an adventure outside and interact with nature.”

Jordan Parks organized a project that used old sails as the canvas for art. Courtesy / Kevin Fahrman, Foreside Photography

In “Windward Exhibition,” Parks and Susan Bartlett Rice, Louis-Pierre Lachapelle, Miklos Pogany, Jos Ruks and Lucy Kilbreth decorated the sails of 22 SailMaine boats.

“We really saw it as an opportunity to create a large piece of art on materials that were provided.

“The amount of people we could see this was great. It was a really new and unique form of art and recreation. People really wanted to go sailing under the painted sails,” Parks said.

Gordon said Parks and the other winners, Gabrielle Hillyer, Sirohi Kumar, Logan Parker, Riley Stevenson and Ania Wright, “are using their voice, energy and unique perspectives to protect what we all love about Maine. They lead not just with powerful words, but with effective action that brings Mainers together to create long-lasting change that we all benefit from.”

For more information about the Brookie Awards and the finalists, visit brookieawards.org/finalists. To see more of Parks’ art, visit www.jordankendallparks.com.

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