UMaine Arts Initiative seed grant awardees announced

The UMaine Arts Initiative (UMAI) is pleased to announce winners of a new competitive seed grant program, created to encourage innovative and interdisciplinary collaborations that seek to build a diverse, inclusive, sustainable and equitable community of art researchers, practitioners, supporters and promoters. 

The University of Maine Arts Initiative, launched in 2021 by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School, is a collaborative of UMaine and University of Maine Machias faculty, administrators, staff and students committed to the principle that the arts play an integral role in public research institutions. UMAI seeks to increase resources and support for the arts in order to reinforce their significance and enhance their visibility on campus and beyond.

Chosen projects support new interdisciplinary collaborations with emphasis given to applicants from art-centered academic units and museums. Funding ranged from $5,000 to $15,000.

Brief summaries of the five projects selected in this initial funding round are as follows:

Technology and Tradition: Shaping Indigenous Collections for the Future

Collaborators include Gretchen Faulkner, Jonathan Roy and Alexander Cole, with graduate students Luke McKinney, Reed Hayden and Anna Martin.

The Hudson Museum will collaborate with the Advanced Structures and Composites Center and the Intermedia Programs to replicate a culturally sensitive object in its collection, HM5040, a Tlingit Frog Clan Helmet. This object is subject to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, and repatriation of the object has been requested by Tlingit. The museum has received permission from the Tlingit for this project. All aspects of the creation of the replica will be visually documented. The visual documentation will result in a temporary exhibit in the Hudson Museum’s Minsky Gallery consisting of framed images, a time-lapse segment and the replica. The project will allow the museum to develop a proof of concept for object replication, protocols and procedures for the replication of museum objects for conservation, repatriation and educational purposes, and provide a basis for future projects, which would be supported by external funding.

Interdisciplinary Educational Outreach & Engagement Project Migration of Birds and Monarch Butterflies Through the Use of Motus Wildlife Tracking Station and an Exploration of Birds Through the Visual Arts 

Collaborators include George Kinghorn, Amber Roth and external partners from the Cobscook Institute.

Using the migration of birds and monarch butterflies as the subject of interdisciplinary inquiry, this collaborative project will boost UMaine’s research capacity for examining how climate change affects migration patterns while also engaging high school students from rural communities in scientific research and the visual arts at UMaine. Participants will investigate wildlife migration, learn scientific methods for understanding animal movements and mortality risks, and interpret data. Students will also explore bird species through hands-on art making activities led by Zillman Art Museum and a curatorial project featuring images of birds from the museum’s collection. Construction of a Motus Wildlife Tracking Station on campus will expand the knowledge of animal movements, behaviors and demographics. The station technology blends biology, engineering and computer science fields, and will contribute to diverse STEM curricular and research activities across campus. Undergraduate and graduate students will co-develop scientifically sound learning activities for high school participants.

The Island Soundscape Project 

Collaborators include Steve Norton, N.B. Aldrich, Laura Artesani and MacKenzie Stetzer.

Artists propose the Island Soundscape Project as an interdisciplinary nexus for research and creative work in the arts, music, education, history and environmental studies. The project is part of the field of study known as acoustic ecology, or soundscape ecology, and is an aspect of the larger contemporary field of Sound Studies. The Island Soundscape Project seeks collaborations with local historical societies, libraries, arts organizations and schools to promote the idea of the soundscape as an element in the preservation and identity of the various island communities off the coast of Maine. This project, already underway, will bring University of Maine graduate and undergraduate students from multiple disciplines into a direct relationship with Maine’s island communities while concurrently connecting with public school arts education to demonstrate the enriching possibilities of soundscape studies to both students and instructors.

Residency for Opera ‘I Give You My Home: Rose Standish Nichols Story’ 

Collaborators include Beth Wiemann and Kara Peruccio.

UMaine’s Music Division will sponsor a residency by guest artists of Boston’s Guerilla Opera, featuring a workshop of a new chamber opera by professor Beth Wiemann. The workshop will present scenes from the opera, based on the life of Rose Standish Nichols. The new opera dramatizes parts of modern American history through Nichols’ activism in the suffragette and WWI peace movements, and places a contemporary perspective on Nichols’ life within the restrictions of her time. Master classes and panels on contemporary opera for the UMaine community and the general public will also be conducted. These events are part of a long-term collaboration between Wiemann, Guerilla Opera and the Nichols Museum in Boston (Rose Nichols’ family home). The residency, March 3-6, 2022, connected it to Women’s History Month, and precedes the first premiere of the fully staged piece in the Nichols Museum in June 2022.

Art & Creative Ecologies Series (ACES)

Collaborators include Justin Wolff, David Hart and a broad range of additional faculty.

Funding will support a series of visiting artist events and collaborative facilitated workshops in 2022. The transdisciplinary workshops will convene faculty, staff, students and community partners with an interest in how art and design contribute meaningfully to discourses and actions related to climate change, and ecological and social sustainability. Workshops will be facilitated by an expert with demonstrated success working imaginatively and collaboratively to bring art and arts-based research to bear on our most pressing global challenges. In addition, visiting artists working at the intersection of art and the environment will demonstrate what is possible under the rubric of “creative ecologies.” The long-term objective is to situate UMaine at the forefront of art-science research collaborations focused on ecological and social sustainability.

UMAI is currently soliciting submissions for another competitive seed grant program. This specific call for proposals, in line with the objectives of MEIF, seeks to enhance strategic collaborations across the arts and STEM disciplines in support of economic development in Maine. 

Proposals for the Economic Development Through the Arts RFP must be submitted via the UMaine InfoReady Portal, which is now open for submissions. Applications are due on April 1, 2022. Visit the UMaine Arts Initiative webpage for more information.