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City News

Posted on: May 16, 2019

Arts-based Community Development Investment for Portland

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The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Acting Chairman Mary Anne Carter has announced 57 awards totaling $4.1 million supporting projects across the nation through the NEA’s Our Town creative placemaking grant program. Creative Portland, the City of Portland’s designated nonprofit arts agency, is one of the recommended organizations for a matching grant of $25,000 to support Phase 1 of an initiative to design artistic bus shelters celebrating the City of Portland, Maine’s racially diverse communities, including immigrant and refugee populations. 

“These awards made to organizations across the United States are a testament to the artistic richness and diversity in our country,” said Mary Anne Carter, acting chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. “Organizations such as Creative Portland are giving people in their community the opportunity to learn, create, and be inspired.”

Creative Portland and the Greater Portland Council of Governments (GPCOG) conceived the project in early 2017 and brought METRO (Greater Portland Transit District) on board soon thereafter. “Bus shelters are an ubiquitous but unnoticed part of our public transportation infrastructure,” said GPCOG Executive Director Kristina Egan. “This project elevates the shelters and transforms them into a wonderful canvas upon which to celebrate the diversity of our community.”

“We are incredibly excited to curate this public art initiative. Imagine a whole region of artistic and inviting bus shelters, created by emerging and established artists, who represent the high bar of excellence that Portland has to offer in the arts,” said Dinah Minot, Executive Director of Creative Portland. 

The goal of the creative placemaking initiative is to encourage multi-modal transportation, to increase ridership, and to promote awareness and social acceptance through art installations that utilize bus shelters as the canvas for public art on the theme of celebrating diversity and inclusion.

Representatives from the three main partners (Creative Portland, METRO, and GPCOG) will all be key contributors to the Creative Shelters initiative. Four artists (or artist teams) will be chosen, one for each shelter in Phase 1, through a jurying process. The curatorial selection team will include representatives from local museums, galleries, the University of Southern Maine (USM) Art Department, Portland Public Art Committee, Black Artists Forum of Maine, private sector investors, and Creative Portland. All key advisors and curators on the advisory and project management teams will have a connection to understanding and working with marginalized and minority communities and public art. 

The project will strengthen communities by engaging local artists and arts administrators, in partnership with METRO, the regional public transit provider, and in collaboration with organizations such as the City of Portland’s Office of Economic Opportunity and the Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center, for positive social impact and systems change.

For a complete list of projects recommended for Our Town grant support, please visit the NEA web site at

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