Partners in the arts

UMA: Collaborative Portrait Project

Thursday, January 16, 2014 from 5-7pm
Charles Danforth Gallery at the University of Maine at Augusta 

Farmers from 10 Maine organic farms, 10 area art teacher and over 200 of their students will gather to assemble 10  large scale collaborative portraits. There is magic in collaboration which this project makes palpable: a collaborative community project led by Susan Bickford with support from the Harlow Gallery. Photographs by Allison McKeen. This project was inspired by the Harlow Gallery’s 2012 project CSA: Community Supporting Agriculture. Generously supported by the UMA Art Area, The Harlow Gallery, The Oak Grove Foundation, UMA Presidential Mini Grant, Artist + Craftsman Supply, A. C. Moore with special thanks to Tanys Rothrock.

Susan Bickford with portraits

The Collaborative Portrait Project: Farmers’ Edition opens January 16 at the Danforth Gallery in Jewett Hall on Campus at the University of Maine at Augusta (UMA), with a reception and farmers market from 5 – 7 pm.  The event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

On display will be ten large-scale portraits of local organic farmers produced collaboratively by students from nine area high schools and one elementary school, the result of a community arts project led by UMA adjunct Art Professor Susan Bickford.  Those in attendance will have the opportunity to witness the magic of community-based art in practice as each portrait is assembled on site. The Collaborative Portrait Project: Farmers’ Edition will be on view from January 16 to February 21, 2014.

photo by Allison McKeen
Photo of Taryn Hammer and Ben Marcus of Sheepscot General Store in Whitefield with grid markings. Photo by Allison McKeen.

 Participating Teachers, Schools:

 Mary K. Dyer: Winthrop High School
Meghann Gipson, Gardiner Area High School 
Melissa Hunnibell, Whitefield area home schooler and residents
Katrina Billings, Winslow HIgh School
Linda Phillips, Maranacook Community HIgh School 
Jason Morgan, Cony High School
Kyna Pitula, Lewiston High School 
Shalimar Poulin, Wiscsset High School
Carolyn Brown, Camden Hills Regional HIgh School
Kathy Sparrow, Palermo Consolidated School 
Participating Farms:
Wholesome Holmstead, Winthrop
Dig Deep Farm, Woolwich
Sheepscot General at Uncas Farm, Whitefield 
Winterberry Farm, Belgrade
Treble Ridge Farm, Whitefield
Goranson Farm, Dresden
Fresh Start Farms, Lewiston 
Morning Dew Farm, Newcastle 
Crescent Run Farm, Bremen
Pagett Farm Palermo
The Collaborative Portrait Project was directly inspired by Harlow Gallery’s CSA: Community Supporting Arts project from 2012, which matched 14 Maine artists with 13 area farms (Susan Bickford was one of those artists). The artists visited ‘their’ farms regularly and created art inspired by their farmers’ lives, work, landscapes, challenges and ideals throughout the growing season. The project culminated in a series of eight art exhibits that took place in central and coastal Maine between October 2012 and February 2013.  The purpose of the project was to promote local art and local food, and to educate the community about the value of the local farming economy.  The Collaborative Portrait Project builds on and extends the connections, excitement and goodwill generated by CSA: Community Supporting Arts.

This past fall, students in ten art classes throughout central Maine worked on group-created collaborative art portraits depicting some local heroes: local farmers growing healthy organic food for their communities. Each portrait started with a photograph of the subject by Gardiner photographer Allison McKeen, which was enlarged to 4 foot x 4 foot square and then divided into a grid of thirty-six eight inch squares. Each square is given to an individual student to create their own artistic interpretation using various multimedia techniques. “When [the portrait] gets assembled up on the board, a magic happens.  The individual pieces come together to form more than the sum of their parts,” said project leader Susan Bickford, “The project allows students to experience the transformative power of assembly and offers an opportunity to incorporate civic lessons into art techniques and vice versa.

This is only one example of the ways in which UMA art faculty are reaching out to public schools. Our professors have also supported high school art exhibitions at UMA, developed an after school program in Gardiner, and have worked with Winthrop schools to bring students into a working art studio space,” said Gregory Fahy, Dean of UMA’s College of Arts and Sciences. “In an era where public school art budgets are declining, it is critically important for university faculty to help public schools provide valuable arts education for all Maine students. UMA is committed to doing this,” he added.