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.
By Emily Mokler, Contributing Writer
In the North Dining Hall, dozens of UMF students gathered to observe Transgender Day of Remembrance in honor of people killed in anti-transgender violence. The observance is a solemn reminder that for some, social progress came too slowly. For the transgender, non-binary and ally students in attendance, the Gender Diversity Night held by the Rainbow League was a positive celebration of diversity.
The event began with a socializing hour where attendees ate rainbow cupcakes and homemade treats. It was an opportunity to bond with friends and meet new ones.
Three trans students held a panel about their experiences with transitioning. Matthew Wyman, a senior Psychology major and one of three panelists, said, “being trans can be beautiful. It’s scary and delightful in ways you don’t expect.”
Wyman told the audience, “I’ve been L, G, B, and T” while recounting his journey as a trans man. It took reading a book with a trans character for Wyman to realize “Oh God, I’ve figured it out,” he said with an exaggerated expression of the realization to the sympathetic laughter of the audience.
Samantha Melton, a junior Computer Science major, came from Kentucky, “where no one had the vocabulary to discuss LGBT issues.” Melton delayed medical transition for a year because “my parents thought that if I took hormones, I would get cancer and die,” Melton said. “Eventually, I had to say ‘I’m doing it’ or else I will always be miserable.”
Julia Allen, a sophomore Creative Writing and Theatre major, began to question their gender identity after an experience with a really cool shirt in the Men’s section at Walmart. “I realized that I was hesitating trying it on because it was a men’s shirt, but who it was made for doesn’t change that it’s an awesome design,” Allen said, who bought the shirt.
When asked how students can be supportive of their trans friends, the panelists offered suggestions. If you don’t know what pronouns someone uses, Wyman recommended using they/them until you can ask how they want to be referred to. Melton encouraged attendees to include their pronouns under their names in email signatures as a subtle way of normalizing introducing pronouns.
During the gender-inclusive fashion show, participants were introduced with their name and pronouns. Students modeled clothing they just bought or what they wore to the event.
The Rainbow League also organized a clothing donation drive held during the event. Students were able to take clothing as their own in exchange for a donation. Clothing left over was donated to outreach centers and local shelters.
People gathered together as they sifted through the piles and piles of clothes. Laughter rang out as someone fit into a tight, sparkly red skirt. Others found sweaters depicting stoic deer and ducks in flight.
If you want to find more information about the Rainbow League, search for “The Rainbow League UMF” on Facebook.