Over the winter, Maine Public’s Ed Morin has been watching a building go up across the way from our Portland studios. It turns out that the building is the new home of Indigo Arts Alliance, a new arts non-profit that aims to improve the visibility of Maine's artists of color, while connecting them with a national arts community. Ed headed over to the brand new and booming space to speak with founders Marcia and Daniel Minter about how conversations with friends over decades led to this project.
He met Marcia at the door while Daniel prepared a project before joining the conversation.
Ed Morin: Hello, how are you? Hi Marcia, I’m Ed Morin
Marcia Minter: Nice to meet you. All right, so, as we walk through the space, what we did intentionally was build a studio that had communal - a big open communal floor plan - in the front in the majority of the space. We're just a little over 4,000 square feet. We wanted to be able to accommodate different art forms, recognizing that we have - especially among the communities of color here in Maine - creative people and artists who are working across a plethora of disciplines. And so to really be able to engage and create a space that really is reflective of community, we knew that we needed to be able to be interdisciplinary.
[Marcia Minter greets Daniel Minter]: Hey Daniel!
Daniel Minter: Hi.
So, I guess a very basic question is just how did this center come about?
Marcia Minter: Whenever we're in a space, sharing space, and in conversation with other artists of color the topic of, ‘Oh I wish we had a space where we could really kind of just share ideas, professional practices, inspiration, our experiences, and even in some cases collaborate together. And this has happened no matter where we live. And it's really come forth here because there are so many artists’ residency programs and various opportunities for artists but many of them are located in these really beautiful bucolic areas that are remote and not in Portland. And so the artists, the people of color that live in Portland, unless they have personal relationships with some of these artists that may be may be in residency elsewhere, they don't know that they've ever been here, they haven't had exposure to them, and both parties have missed out on a wonderful opportunity to be in exchange and community with each other. And so that's why we wanted to create an idea for a residency model that was based in a city, that was specifically for artists of color so the artists that are coming from away, maybe in residence or not, know where to go. And also the artists that are local know where to go when they want to have that experience and reciprocity. We're hosting currently our first inaugural artist-in-residence. Her name Eneida Sanches and she is here from Salvador, Bahia Brazil where she is originally from. These artists are coming to work with our local artists here. So, we have an artist here named Ebenezer Akakpo. And we have paired the two of them together, and Eneida will function as a mentor and help him to continue to think about how he builds on his artistic practice.
And is there a large enough community here in the state of Maine – artists of color - to sustain this very, very nice new center?
Marcia Minter: Yes. Absolutely. Daniel do you want to speak to that?
Daniel Minter: When we moved here the population was very different. And I can say that over the years it has changed. It would be negligent to think that the community will not continue to change. There are young artists who are working in Maine. There are older artists that are here in Maine, but they have been isolated so far. We are hoping to remedy some of the feeling of isolation by having a place where they can all come at once and have a dialogue. I grew up in Georgia where there were signs that said “White Only.” I grew up in the generation where those signs had been removed. The signs had been removed, but attitudes were still there. And as I've gone out throughout this country there are certain places where that attitude is just still there - that this place is not for you. So we're always reminded that this needs to happen.
So this space is one way to make that happen.
Marcia Minter: This space and what we're doing here is also intended, again, to serve as a pipeline in partnership with the community at large, because we want those spaces to transform too. We are not interested in only this space functioning in a specific way for a specific group of people. We're interested in this space being a manifestation of the ideas and the concepts that Daniel referred to, and then being a pipeline out to share those ideas as broadly as possible, not just here in Maine, either, but nationally, internationally. You know we talked about the mission - the vision is that everybody is going to benefit from this work.
Indigo Arts Alliance will hold it's first artists' workshops this coming Saturday as part of a community symposium on sustenance creativity and multiracial democracy. The day will culminate with a meal prepared by Brazilian and Portland-based African chefs.
This story was produced by Willis Ryder Arnold.
Originally published June 4, 2019 at 9:57 a.m. ET.