Maine College of Art will upgrade four crafts programs with $300,000 over the next three years, and seven Maine artists have been acknowledged for their body of work with $5,000, part of a string of recent art grant announcements in the state.

The Windgate Charitable Foundation will give MECA three $100,000 installments to invest in ceramics, metalsmithing, textiles and woodworking. The school will upgrade equipment, improve studios and recruit visiting artists to share expertise. Some of the money also will be invested in the school’s endowed Belvedere Fund, which supports MECA graduates working in crafts.

Among other things, the money will be used to move the textile program from its street-level space on Free Street to the third floor and to buy a new kiln for ceramics and tools and benches for metalsmithing and woodworking.

“This is great news for craft in Maine,” said interim President Stuart Kestenbaum. “It allows us to make real upgrades to all of our crafts programs. It’s good to have the funding, and it’s also a vote of confidence at the same time.”

Windgate is a family foundation that focuses on art education and has a history with MECA and artists in Maine. Three MECA graduates have received individual Windgate fellowships worth $15,000: Tanner Price, woodworking; Patrick Aaron Decker, metalsmithing; and Rangeley Morton, woodworking. Windgate also invested $2 million at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, which Kestenbaum directed for 27 years before retiring in 2015.

The Maine Arts Commission also announced a slew of grants, including seven individual Maine Artist Fellowships worth $5,000 each. The awards recognize artistic excellence in specific fields, and are designed to advance careers. The money is unrestricted, meaning artists can use it at their discretion. The awards are based on merit.

This year’s winners:

Sara Juli, Falmouth, performing arts; Amy Stacey Curtis, Lyman, visual arts; Elisabeth Tova Bailey, midcoast, literary arts; Elise Pepple, Portland, media arts; Michaela Stone, Rockport, craft; Edmond Theriault, Fort Kent, traditional arts; and Shanna Wheelock, Lubec, Belvedere hand craft.

Juli, a dancer who created a theater-comedy piece called “Tense Vagina” about bladder control issues, said the fellowship comes at a critical time in her growth as an artist. She recently signed on with a New York City management company that will promote her work, and is in the process of creating a new piece that will premiere at the American Dance Festival in 2017. She called the award “a tremendous honor.”

“I have been creating and performing dances since I was 3 years old, and receiving this award helps validate that investment,” she said.

The Maine Arts Commission also announced dozens of other grants, for $800 to $15,000, for individual artists, theater companies, libraries, orchestras, museums, arboretums and schools across Maine. In total, this round of grants from the commission is worth about $500,000. A full list, including a map showing the geographic distribution of the grants, is available on the Maine Arts Commission website.

Among the recipients is Portland writer Kari Wagner-Peck, who received $1,800 to continue work on “Not Always Happy,” her performance piece that uses personal narrative to examine the exclusion faced by children with neurological disorders. She also has a memoir coming out in May. She will use the money to hire a director and videographer. “If it wasn’t for the Maine Arts Commission, I wouldn’t be able to do this,” she said.

Creative Portland received $10,000 to help update the city’s cultural plan, which was published 1998. Creative Portland will lead the effort, which begins in mid-January.

Julie Richard, the commission’s executive director, said the grants are good for Maine’s economy. “It seems more and more obvious that the arts in Maine are at the core of reinventing our communities,” she said. “These grants help artists and arts organization to move forward.”

The National Endowment for the Arts also announced several awards to Maine organizations this month, including $40,000 to the Bates Dance Festival, which marks its 35th anniversary this summer. “We are deeply honored to have received annual support from the NEA for over 25 years,” festival director Laura Faure said in a news release. “This recognition and funding is vital to our ability to train dancers, commission new work and present world-class contemporary dance to Maine audiences.”

The Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture received $40,000 from the national group, and Portland Stage Company received $10,000 to use toward its premiere of “String Around My Finger” by Brenda Withers, a comedy about big choices and small kindnesses and winner of the 2016 Clauder Competition.


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