“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 deepen and diversify their networks of connection by tapping into the transformative power of the arts through year-long partnerships with local artists.
Meeting Place was selected by the National Endowment
for the Arts as part of their Our Town initiative.
Learn more about the project by reading this
wonderful project profile published by the NEA.
Conceived and designed by Art At Work director Marty Pottenger, Meeting Place asked artists to lead monthly arts-based workshops on neighborhood-related topics to increase civic engagement, pride, and unity, culminating in the creation of four neighborhood “gateway” arts celebrations.
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:
- engaged, active members that reflect the diversity of the community
- a collaborative culture with recognized and supported leaders
- a knowledge of its challenges and assets
- good relationships with other neighborhoods and city government
- an environment of respect, caring, hope and vision
The project focused on four neighborhoods: Libbytown, West End, Bayside, and East Bayside. Workshop topics included:
- “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
- “Economic Vitality” with the city’s Greg Mitchell
- “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, Bayside / East Bayside and Libbytown / West End hosted two citywide festivals that included included a neighborhood open house / trail, storytelling / spoken word performances, a Somali poetry reading, and art exhibits.
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, Espo’s 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.