“My take away [from Meeting Place] is that I feel honored and fortunate to be an East Baysider. I moved here in May and I feel better about my choice to live here every time I meet someone. I’ve been dying to come to one of these meetings, I skipped class to be here tonight and I’m so glad I did.”
Melissa Hoskins, former president of EBNO
Meeting Place was a multidisciplinary arts project to help four Portland neighborhoods develop and deepen their networks of connection by tapping into the transformative power of the arts through year long partnerships with local artists.
Vibrant neighborhood organizations are one of the most significant untapped assets available to cities as they struggle to face increasing challenges amidst diminishing resources. Portland has a rich tapestry of 19 diverse neighborhoods, all with the potential to play central roles in ensuring the well-being of their residents through civic engagement, local organizations, institutions and community planning.
In order to have impact, a strong neighborhood organization needs 1) engaged, active members that reflect the diversity of the community; 2) a collaborative culture with recognized and supported leaders; 3) a knowledge of its challenges and assets; 4) good relationships with other neighborhoods and city government; and 5) an environment of respect, caring, hope and vision. The project focused on building relationships in four neighborhoods in Portland, ME: Libbytown, West End, Bayside, and East Bayside.
Meeting Place artists led monthly arts-based workshops on neighborhood-related topics that increase civic engagement, pride, and unity and culminate in the creation of four neighborhood art projects, called ‘Gateway Arts Projects’ celebrations.
Workshop topics include “Stories and Places of Meaning” with photographer Tonee Harbert; “Neighborhood History from Dinosaurs to Now” with the Maine Historical Society and former Maine Poet Laureate Betsy Sholl; “Mapping Relationships, Assets & Challenges” with USM Muskie School’s Charles Colgan and visual artist Daniel Minter; and “Economic Vitality” with the city’s Greg Mitchell; and “Leadership and Followship” with chorale director Andrea Kelley Rosenberg.
As part of building neighborhood capacity and organizational muscle each neighborhood worked with a professional fundraiser to assist them in raising $5,000 toward the cost of their ‘Gateway Arts Project.’ In addition to the ‘Gateway Arts Project’ the two citywide festivals, hosted jointly by Bayside / East Bayside on September 22nd and Libbytown / West End on September 29th, included a neighborhood open house/trail, storytelling/spoken word performances, and art exhibits.
Selected by the National Endowment for the Arts as part of their Our Town initiative, Meeting Place re-envisions and resets Portland’s identity as a diverse, welcoming and innovative city with an engaged vital partnership between her neighborhoods and city government. You can learn more about the project by reading this project profile published on the NEA website.
Meeting Place was made possible with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Arts Our Town program, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Maine Arts Commission, the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation, Maine Community Foundation, the Edward H. Daveis Benevolent Fund, Gorrill Palmer Consulting Engineers, ICMA-RC, Sebago Technics, Inc., Delta Dental, Espos Trattoria, Anania’s, Clarion Hotel, Tony’s Donuts, East Bayside Neighborhood Organization, West End Neighborhood Association, Bayside Neighborhood Association and the residents of Libbytown and the City of Portland.