Recipients of the UMaine Arts Initiative Maine Economic Development through the Arts Program grants announced

The University of Maine Arts Initiative (UMAI) is pleased to announce three winning projects of a recent competitive seed grant program. The program is designed to create and enhance collaborations across the arts and STEM disciplines and contribute to development priorities set forth by the Maine Economic Improvement Fund (MEIF).

The MEIF represents the ongoing commitment between the state, the private sector and public universities, working together to advance research and economic development for the benefit of all Maine people. These funds provided through state appropriation are dollars specifically designated to support university-based research, development and commercialization.

The following projects have been awarded funding:

Portable X-Ray Fluorescence (PXFR) Technology for Art, Engineering and Geologic Applications

Led by Gretchen Faulkner from the Hudson Museum, collaborators include Bonnie Newsom, Eric Landis, Brian Frederick, Brett Ellis, Martin Yates, and Ana Chatenever.

Handheld X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy or PXRF units assist researchers in analyzing the elemental composition of materials through the non-destructive analysis of nearly any element from Magnesium to Uranium. These portable units are invaluable for evaluating engineered materials, sourcing lithics from archaeological sites, analyzing precious metals, minerals, and rock formations, and in the museum field for determining original surfaces from areas of restoration and fakes. The acquisition of a hand-held analyzer for UMaine would foster collaborations between STEM-based units with the Hudson Museum and its collections as well as engage students in new research opportunities and support innovative capstones in engineering, earth and climate sciences, and anthropology.

Rooted in Tradition:  Analysis of Sweetgrass (Hierochloe odorata) for the Presence of Environmental Contaminants

Led by Darren Ranco, collaborators include John Daigle, Gretchen Faulkner, Jennifer Neptune from the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance, and student Suzanne Greenlaw.

Sweetgrass, a fragrant marsh grass sacred to the Wabanaki people, is used for smudging, and medicinal purposes, and is integral to basket making. This resource is threatened by coastal development and loss of habitat from coastal erosion and sea-level change. The proposed project will analyze sweetgrass for the presence of environmental contaminants, which may present health issues for those who gather and work with this material. This interdisciplinary project will involve Penobscot faculty members, a Maliseet doctoral student, and the directors of Hudson Museum and Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance (MIBA). 

Visual Forestry: Creating a Learning Ecology, University of Maine Intermedia and Forestry Collaboration 

Led by Susan Smith in collaboration with Aaron Weiskittel and students Anna Martin, Adriana Cavalcanti, Ryan Smith, and Logan Woodyard.

Maine’s economy is primarily driven by the active and sustainable management of its forest resource, but communicating the importance and value to a broad audience is a significant challenge. Through an innovative interdisciplinary partnership, groups from various disciplines across UMaine will create a shared collaborative vision to translate science into visual and interactive art. This effort supports numerous graduate students in an effort to increase awareness and understanding, working to create mobile art installations that can be strategically placed. The goal of the project is to foster future collaboration, increase awareness in ecology, through the arts and create additional synergies that might lead to additional opportunities for collaboration.

Projects are expected to be completed within a twelve-month period.

The University of Maine Arts Initiative was launched in 2021 by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School (OVPRDGS) and is a collaborative of faculty, administrators, staff, and students committed to the principle that the arts play an integral role in public research institutions. Its mission is to “advance the integral role of the arts in enriching the lives of individuals and communities through the creation, experience, research, and enjoyment of the arts.”

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.