By Charity Webster, Contributing Writer.
The New Commons Project in collaboration with the Maine Humanities Council is facing the end of its five year grant this spring, at which point the public humanities initiative will be forced to adapt or conclude. The New Commons Project is a humanities initiative that brings cultural works to UMF.
“At this point we don’t know what the post-grant future will look like, but I am very hopeful that someone will want to build on the success of the New Commons Project and apply for a follow-up grant,” Co-director and co-author for the grant Kristen Case said.
Case has been with the project from the beginning. The total budget for the grant which was provided by the Mellon Foundation was $500,000. The grant was used to hire project coordinators Dr. Stephen Grandchamp and Dr. Erika Rodriguez. Other expenses included paying visiting scholars and artists who come to campus events.
“Part of the intent of the grant is to bring world-class speakers and performers to the area, giving both students and community members opportunities to engage cultural works in ways they wouldn’t otherwise be able to in a small, rural town,” Case said. “We wanted to do something to foster the sense of the university as a resource not only for students but also for the wider community.”
The project has provided avenues for community engagement and opportunities for individuals to come together and have otherwise difficult conversations in a safe place. She said they are extremely proud specifically about the conversations the New Commons Project has fostered around race, immigration, and Indigenous history. Each month they feature one of the 24 cultural works that were proposed by students, faculty and members within the community.
“The hope is to continue it not exactly as it is but in some capacity when the grant runs out” said Co-Director, Stephen Grandchamp.
Currently with The New Common Project and Co-Sponsored with Emery Hall is a cultural work called Reimagining Real. UMF assistant professor of Visual Arts Ann Bartges and Emery director Kristen Case curate “a broad survey of artworks by local and nationally-recognized artists engaging the legacy of realism in the 21st century, continuing, complicating or contesting this tradition.” (Found on the Emery Community Arts Page). This exhibition is free and open to the public till October 21st. Also coming soon are workshops on artist Andrew Whyeth and his painting “Christina’s World”
All events are free and open to the public. https://newcommonsproject.org for more information.