Local artist and business owner Ebenezer Akakpo will work with fourth grade students at Saccarappa School in Westbrook over the next year to create an outdoor sculpture that will become a permanent part of the campus.

Artist Ebenezer Akakpo, pictured here in his Westbrook studio last year, will work on a school sculpture with Saccarappa fourth graders. File photo / American Journal

The metal sculpture, now in the early design phase, will be the culmination of Akakpo’s artist residency at the school, but fourth grade art teacher Cheryl Juniewicz said he will provide the students with other valuable lessons along the way.

Often, students view art simply as a fun hobby, she said, but Akakpo’s own background shows how it can be more.

“He’s interesting because his journey was not a straight line,” Juniewciz said. “He offers a lot to our students who also have challenges in front of them or don’t know what they want. To see perseverance and really following up on what you want to do, how you develop that, and how it’s not always what you thought it’d be.”

Akakpo, who is originally from Ghana but now lives in South Portland, long had dreams of becoming an artist, but his vision changed over time as he went to school and was introduced to new methods, especially the use of computer technology in art. He now designs African-inspired jewelry and other merchandise, which he retails and wholesales from his Dana Warp Mill studio. He also has done some public art installations in Portland, but there was a long period where he didn’t know what to do with his skills, he said.

He hopes to inspire the Saccarappa students’ work on every facet of themselves and to encourage them to think about their futures.


Ebenezer Akakpo installs “Hope and Friendship” at a bus shelter in Portland in 2020. His work was part of a Creative Portland public art initiative. Contributed / Creative Portland

I am going to try to do everything in my capacity to encourage the kids to not only draw, but write and read,” he said. “I know being an artist, people think you just sit there and draw. It’s not about that. It’s about drawing, then communicating what you are drawing.”

One of the big lessons Akakpo wants to teach is that to be successful, you have to be well-rounded. For an artist, that also means learning about marketing, communication, business and more.

The fourth graders are working on potential themes for the sculpture, based on Akakpo’s signature Ghanaian-inspired symbols, and then they’ll move on to possible designs. They’ll have the opportunity to work in his studio to make scale models of their ideas with his 3-D printers and use other tools.

The students will also help build the final design, which is expected to be finished next year.

“They will be seeing and connecting with an artist from their community, making real to them a possibility of a career,” Juniewicz said.

Public pieces of art like the sculpture the students will create build connections and pride among community members, according to the nonprofit group, Americans for the Arts.

“The students will feel like a part of something, they will see it and say they worked on it, and that will follow them,” Juniewicz said.

Akakpo said while he hopes to teach the kids a lot, he can see himself learning a thing or two as well.

“I learn from everyone. You never know. Maybe they will come up with ideas that will also trigger something in my mind,” he said.

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