The Artists’ Rapid Response Team! is a project of the Union of Maine Visual Artists, and receives additional help from the Broad Reach Fund at the Maine Community Foundation. ARRT! works to give a visual voice to progressive organizations, schools and community groups to educate, confront, or to start a conversation about issues of importance.
ARRTists are UMVA members who communicate with organizations, listen to their goals, research their issues, and design images to visually express the essence of their message. It is an open group, always welcoming new members!
Below are some of the projects from this last quarter of 2018, including some shots of banners put to use by organizations throughout the state.
One project of the Restorative Justice Institute is working with a group of men who are incarcerated at Maine State Prison to improve the culture and potential for healing inside the Prison. ARRT! will be working with them in the coming month. The banner above was just completed in December.
The banner above was created for Portland’s Homeless Persons Annual Memorial Vigil On the Winter Solstice. The group states that:
The Longest Night of Homelessness is an event that belongs to the full community. This banner honors the event and the people we’ve lost.
Often groups will join ARRT! to paint the images with the help of ARRTists. At times they become so involved that they keep returning to work on other issues or work in their own communities to create images for change.
The Heart of Biddeford banner supports their mission highlighting the immigrant history of the city and the current focus on inclusion, equity and justice.
Maine AllCare works to educate Maine citizens and bring healthcare to all Mainers.
LumenARRT! is a branch of the Artists Rapid Response Team! that uses large-scale video projection to call attention to the work of progressive non-profits and highlight issues of concern to the people of Maine.
After 7 years at Cony High School in Augusta, Maine, I have seen many images in sketchbooks and studio projects that give unique perspectives into students’ personal lives. These images open discussions that go beyond technical skills and knowledge. It’s the humanistic side of teaching that helps to foster them and helps us to carefully listen. In the last five to six years, Middle Eastern refugee students have arrived in Augusta, which has helped globalize our classrooms and given a perspective on life beyond Maine, of students who have endured upheaval of their families’ lives beyond what we can imagine. Luckily I had two advisees who helped me navigate my understanding of Iraqi culture and customs, as well as the Muslim religion.
There were many opportunities to have these conversations with students whose families had to escape from war and terrorism in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, as well as families from Puerto Rico who suffered from the hands of Hurricane Maria.
My first insight came from a Syrian refugee brother and sister who migrated from Arizona to Augusta. Their lives shaped a story of hardship and sadness. They asked for a sketchbook for their talented older sister. Not only had the brother and sister proved themselves to be motivated and expressive art students in their own right, but it became apparent that it ran in their family. I was excited to see their sister’s work which they shared a few days later.
“Art is the gateway to help immerse English Language Learners (ELL) into the regular classrooms”, stated Helen Renko from Cony High School Guidance Department.
I support this statement. The “gateway” is in the form of a universal, visual language, which provides opportunities to learn about refugee students and their background– from the displacement from their homeland to arrival in Augusta, Maine. Their verbal language skills varied from limited conversation to a well-developed grasp of English. But most of the conversations and expressions came through their artwork.
Their pride and identity with their home country came through often in student sketchbook assignments. Iraqi and Syrian flags appeared frequently, along with drawings or symbols about their families left behind in the brutal wars and conflicts. In “I Am From”, a poetry/collage project, the aforementioned brother and sister poured out their emotions through few English words and images of a small boy washed ashore (Aylan Kurdi). This photographic image, sketched and photocopied from his sketchbook, is burned into our global mind.
A personal connection to these horrible tragedies in the conflicts in Iraq and Syrian Civil War becomes less about news we read or listen to in a desensitized way and more about the students in my own classroom that have been affected directly, who tell their stories of unspeakable deaths in their families and the severe beatings of neighbors.
The Resiliency Project is an idea that was spurred by my refugee students and students who have faced, or still face, adversity, but still arrive at school every day, participating and coping in a teenager’s daily life.
Despite experiencing the most extreme adverse conditions, refugee students have a very respectful demeanor and exude an excitement to be in a safe and accepting place.
The Resiliency Project’s intent is to put a face on our school community and develop sensitivity to these adverse conditions which refugee students and families have endured, and students who suffer from mental conditions that sometimes make the most mundane challenges monumental. To create a community identity for groups of people that may not have understood or heard their stories, a project was designed and developed by Susan Bickford from University of Maine and Maine College of Art, with the focus on the collaborative process between the subject, photographer, student artists, and the audience. Collaboration for the Resiliency Project began with refugee student volunteers and Doug Van Kampen, a local professional photographer from Brunswick who is “married into” our Cony community. He volunteered his time to this project that just recently made its first gallery debut in November, in the Harlow Gallery exhibition, Immigration: Home Lost, Home Found.
This past November four students joined me on a project with Artists’ Rapid Response Team! (ARRT!), a non-profit organization that collaborates on social-political issues such as immigration, to create a banner for Harlow Gallery’s Immigration: Home Lost, Home Found exhibition. The design process, led by Natasha Mayers and the team of ARRTists, explored the theme of “home lost, home found”. Two students, Rafeef and Zeina Ahmed, told their story of displacement and travels from one temporary home to another, to their settling in their new home of Augusta, Maine. Stories of escape from violence and oppression, and leaving family produced visual images of destruction of their homelands and the rebirth of a new life in the United States. One question Natasha posed was, “What did you carry with you when you left your home?” Answers ranged from the clothes on their back to a family heirloom– a teapot and cups. This process was powerful as these images appeared in their work, along with destroyed buildings, a bridge, and Maine’s Capitol. From start to finish, Zeina held fast to the ARRT! process and finished the banner. It hangs with pride in the Harlow Gallery.
This fall, I was able to visit an exhibition of Bassam Khabieh’s work at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. He is a Syrian photojournalist who has captured the last 7 years of the Syrian Civil War and multiple acts of cruelty against humankind on the sensor of his camera. This exhibit brought my experience together, teaching a new course (UMA/ Cony dual-enrollment digital photography) and working with refugee students, telling stories first hand through the power of visual imagery. This re-sensitized me to situations in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Puerto Rico. I felt I needed to share Bassam’s work with the Augusta community to help visually reinforce the stories that our own community has been sharing for years.
In hindsight, I feel honored and privileged to have had the experience of working with refugee students (“New Mainers”, as the Capital Area New Mainers Project refers to our new families), and sharing conversations through broken English and the common language of visual art. It has helped me expand my cultural understanding of a culture so often under attack. We share many beliefs in common, and we must take care of each other with love and respect no matter our misunderstanding and construed truths. This is what art and art education continue to teach me everyday.
By Jason Morgan, Cony High School Art Department Head and ASD Art Coordinator
Maine artists are participating to help get out the vote in Maine’s 2018 election and the Maine Arts Journal is featuring their efforts here! Click on images below to see them larger.
Maine Citizens for Clean Elections (MCCE) and the League of Women Voters of Maine (LWVME) are non-partisan organizations working to engage, encourage and empower people to vote. ARRT! (Artists’ Rapid Response Team), LumenARRT!, and The Maine Arts Journal: Union of Maine Visual Artists Quarterly are partnering with them to generate a ton of interest and energy in the upcoming election.
MCCE and LWVME decided to ask Maine artists to create t-shirt designs with a motivating pro-voting theme as an awesome and effective way to stimulate interest in the critically important midterm elections. Designs that could also be suitable for printing as a bumper sticker or button were also welcome. The focus is on energizing voters to get out and make their voices heard, not on specific issues, candidates, or political parties.
From designs submitted MCCE and LWVME will select a couple to print on t-shirts for sale with artists donating the use of the designs to them.
As a project of the UMVA, ARRT! creates images for progressive non-profits throughout the state, and on occasion, for special requests for out-of-Maine organizations. ARRT! provides a visual voice for groups which need assistance getting their messages out. Much of ARRT!’s work consists of large original hand-painted banners, but new media and applications are popping up all the time. All of ARRT’s work is done in collaboration, with the belief and proven practice, that our best work emerges through our shared skills, ideas and the lively process of group critique we have developed. See more at www.arrteam.org
During Spring ARRT! sessions the following images were produced:
We Won’t Be Silent Anymore, for the Maine Poor People’s Campaign
Vote, for Maine Citizens for Clean Elections and League of Women Voters, and new project, PollFest
Recovery, for a Community Recovery group in York County
No Single Use Plastic Banner: the organization kNOw SUP in Damariscotta for their campaign to ban single use plastic.
Ad Box Signs for Brooklyn ad boxes on sides of bus kiosks
Maine Inside Out Banner: members of the group joined us to paint . These artists facilitate theater workshops with people who are incarcerated or formerly incarcerated to create and perform original theater.
Maine TransNet Banner: Their mission is: “Supporting and empowering trans people to create a world where they can thrive.”
ARRT! members gathered to create the placards below in support of the national immigration events held on June 30. They will be used in the Augusta rally that day and also at the Whitefield Independence Day Parade.
We are proud to announce that our Artists’ Collective LumenARRT! (a project of the Union of Maine Visual Artists) has been selected to create a site-specific installation for the CMCA 2018 Biennial Exhibition, which will be on view at CMCA from November 2018 – February 2019. We are honored to be exhibiting in the good company of many Maine artists who have shown on the pages of this journal.
Vote! A video projection in collaboration with the Maine League of Women Voters and Maine Citizens for Clean Elections on the Portland Public Library in Monument Square on Monday night, 6/12 at 8:30 PM to call attention to the election the next day to educate the public on ranked choice voting.
Click on image below to see a video of the 6/12/18 projection:
LumenARRT! worked with 90 students and staff at King Middle School in April to compose and create 4 large banners for their Four Freedoms Project.
Our projection on 5/24 called attention to the Biddeford March for Justice and Inclusion on 5/25/18.
RED FLAG Projection: In conjunction with the national student walkout on 4/20/18, LumenARRT! created a projection for the Maine State Capitol. The video highlights the Maine legislature’s inability to act on anti-gun violence legislation, including the one bill before them: a “red-flag” bill that would keep guns out of the hands of people who want to harm others or themselves. #NationalStudentWalkout