It’s a busy week for the Maine Arts Commission. Not only is the organization readying its inaugural Maine International Conference on the Arts, set for Oct. 24-26, at the Collins Center for the Arts in Orono, but it also announced on Friday the awardees of its annual Fellowship grants.
The Fellowship grant is a $13,000 award given to five Maine artists at the top of their fields in the areas of functional craft, traditional arts, visual arts, literary arts and media and performing arts. The jurors that award the grants are all from out of state, to avoid conflicts of interest.
“This year’s fellowship awardees represent a wide array of artists from across the state. We congratulate them on this special honor,” said MAC executive director Julie Richard, in a press release sent out Friday. “We also thank the Maine Community Foundation who worked with us to support these amazing artists. With their assistance we have once again been able to offer the functional craft fellowship.”
Awardees this year include Robin Martin-Cust of Deer Isle, given the functional craft award for her forged steel jewelry; she learned blacksmithing from her grandparents while growing up in North Carolina. The traditional arts award was given to Watie Akins of Brewer, a Penobscot Nation Elder who has dedicated more than a decade to the research, collection and performance of the traditional music of his tribe, which he performs using the hand drum and shaker.
“This art form is important to me because it helps to preserve a part of the traditional style music that has been forgotten or lost to my people,” said Akins. “My goals are clear: to retain the culture of my people and to recover what we have lost.”
Alicia Eggert, from Portland, is the MAC’s 2014 visual arts fellow. She is an interdisciplinary artist whose work primarily takes the form of kinetic, electronic and interactive sculpture. She is an assistant professor of art at Bowdoin College in Brunswick.
In the field of literary arts, Jason Anthony of Damariscotta was given the award; he is the author of “Hoosh: Roast Penguin, Scurvy Day and Other Stories of Antarctic Cuisine,” a non-fiction book detailing the peculiar eating habits of the earliest Antarctic explorers.
Sumner McKane, from Wiscasset, was given the 2014 media and performing arts fellowship. McKane’s project “In The Blood” is an illustration of the life, skills, and character of turn-of-the-century Maine lumbermen and river drivers. It is a documentary film, as well as a live “docu-exhibit”: a combination of film, oral histories, sound design and music.
“Receiving [this] fellowship is a magnificent honor and extremely encouraging,” said McKane. “It will help immensely in giving me the freedom to take my projects to a higher level, and will provide me the opportunity to bring my vision of what I ultimately want my live productions to be, to fruition.”
In the midst of all the award-giving, the MAC is preparing for the Maine International Conference for the Arts, which will kick off on Thursday, Oct. 24, at the Collins Center with a symposium on arts education, drawing arts educators from all over the state.
On Friday, the conference moves into more generalized topics in the arts and is open to artists and other creative people of all stripes. Performances from Maine musicians, tours of Hudson Museum and the new media facilities at the University of Maine and an art walk in downtown Bangor are interspersed throughout both days.
“The [conference] provides the perfect opportunity for artists, arts administrators, arts educators and community leaders to learn from top professionals in their field,” said Maine Arts Commission assistant director Darrell Bulmer. “There will be workshops, keynote speakers, performing arts showcases, hands-on learning opportunities and ample opportunities to network and share ideas.”
Keynote speakers include Lynn Tuttle, director of arts education for the state of Arizona; Doug Borwick, an arts educator and writer for ArtsJournal; and Peter Watson, director of the National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement at the University of Southern Maine.
Acclaimed playwright and storyteller Mike Daisey will close out the conference on Saturday afternoon. Daisey, a Fort Kent native, is a highly acclaimed storyteller and playwright, whose one-man shows, including “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” and “The Last Cargo Cult,” have been praised by The New York Times and The Guardian and have been nominated for both Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards. The night prior, Daisey will perform his newest piece, “The Secret War,” at 8 p.m. Friday at the Collins Center.