The COVID-19 pandemic clearly affected many aspects of life in Maine. People experienced everything from isolation to food insecurity to anxiety and depression—as well as illness and death. Everyone was touched in some way.
Some groups were even more deeply affected, including those in the health care sector, teachers and students, and essential service workers, among others. There were many vulnerable groups, from the elderly and those with chronic illnesses to those living in institutions prone to outbreaks, including prisons and jails.
The Jack Pine Project was designed to respond to the crisis by connecting artists and art educators with various residents from around Maine. Through individual workshops, Maine artists, musicians, writers, and others worked with different groups to help them express their thoughts, feelings, concerns, losses and pain—and their hopes for the future.
Workshop participants worked with talented artists to learn a particular skill, such as printmaking, weaving, or songwriting. They then created their own art, individually or as a group, to help tell the story of the coronavirus pandemic here in Maine.
Community arts can empower people to express their feelings and tell their stories, helping them to cope with and heal from traumas. They document life in a community at a particular moment, leaving a shared record for future generations that goes beyond news accounts and government reports.
The Jack Pine Project was our attempt to use the healing, inspiring, and educational power of the arts to tell Maine’s pandemic story, help residents process and recover from their pain, and provide economic support for a few Maine artists.
To read a longer description of the project, see the essay The Jack Pine Project: Art, Catharsis and Recovery, published in the Chocolate Church Arts Center book, From Home in Bunny Slippers.
About the Jack Pine
The title of the project was drawn from the Jack Pine, a tree species native to Maine that thrives in areas burnt by wildfire, needing the heat of fire to release its seeds.
The image of a seedling emerging from burnt ground, created by UMaine graphic designer Shennah Derstine, is emblematic of Maine’s reemergence from the pandemic, and the role of the arts in this process.
The Jack Pine Project is a collaboration of the Maine Folklife Center and Maine Studies Program at the University of Maine, and the UMaine Hutchinson Center in Belfast. The project is coordinated by Dr. Kreg Ettenger. You can email him at email@example.com, or call 207-581-1840.