SPACE is honored to award 12 Project Grants and 5 Research and Development Grants in this year’s cycle of the Kindling Fund totaling $65,000 in grantmaking. The Kindling Fund supports inventive, artist-organized initiatives that engage the public and the visual arts in new and meaningful ways. The funded projects below value community, freedom of expression, interdisciplinary, creative thinking, and sustaining artistic opportunity for creative peers. Grantees were juried from a pool of 74 submissions to the Kindling Fund.
The 2024 Kindling Fund Grantees are: Morgain Bailey (Presque Isle), Tehani Baldecchi (Portland), Shawn Brewer (South Portland with statewide and regional artists), Bethany Engstrom with Patricia Brace (Belfast/Portland/Biddeford), Amelia Garretson-Persans (South Portland), Leah Gauthier (Cumberland with statewide collaborators), Tyler Gilroy (Biddeford/Portland), Kehben Grier (Portland with statewide collaborators), Tristan Koepke (Portland), Bridget McAlonan with Inventing Trees (Topsham and statewide collaborators/touring), Lauren Olsen (Hebron/Norway), Jordan Parks (South Portland), Veronica Pèrez (Westbrook), Anna Queen (Rockland/Hope), Brendan Shea (South Portland), Robyn Nicole Towle (Scarborough/Portland), and Sasha Wizansky (South Portland).
The Kindling Fund jury is composed of three individuals, one from the greater Warhol Regranting Program, one past grantee local to Maine, and one art leader who may have opportunity for artists in Maine further afield. This year’s jury was composed of:
Nando Alvarez-Perez – Co-founder of Buffalo Institute of Contemporary Art, artist, and one of our newest partners in the Warhol Regional Regranting Program with the Generator Fund.
Daniel Fuller – Art critic and independent curator based out of Atlanta while teaching at Emory University, former director of exhibitions at the ICA at MECA and former Curator of Atlanta Contemporary.
Jenny Ibsen – 2022-2023 grantee for “Fish Picnic” and printmaker, ceramicist, and storyteller based in Maine.
in/Visible: Rural Queer Portraits
Research and Development Grant
Grantee: Morgain Bailey
Collaborators: Kalisto Zenda Nanen, Pride Aroostook
in/Visible is a project of mixed-media photographic portraiture and community engagement events. With Research and Development funds to support the creation of a new body of work, the grantee aims to work towards an exhibition, workshops, and a Pride Aroostook-sponsored farm-to-table potluck in a community space in downtown Presque Isle.
The goal of the project is to create a temporary physical space that celebrates the extended queer community of northern Maine. The title refers to the wide range of ways that queer people choose to exist in remote rural places. The project embraces the concept of body sovereignty, which means that expressing our individual identities is something that each of us has control over in daily life and also in how we are represented within a project such as this one. Celebrating the diversity of LGBTQIA lives and utilizing art as a way of expressing care, this show aims to provide a temporary sanctuary that will live on in the memories of people who get to interact with the project. The gallery is a small space that has stairs leading up to the front and is wheelchair accessible from the back.
Research and Development Grant
Grantee: Tehani Baldecchi
Nonbinary Indigenous artist Tehani Baldecchi’s project “Wilder Gardens” will integrate art, exploration, and the beauty of the natural world into an original experience made freely available to the public. Twenty-five or more unique, life-sized ceramic sculptures of Maine’s forageable mushrooms will be installed on one of Portland’s public trails, emulating the natural growth patterns and habitats of the species they represent. Chanterelles will be installed by overgrown logs, oysters on dead stands, and maitake at the base of old, rich oaks. Gallery participants will be encouraged to “forage” for the art through exploration of the landscape, challenging them to pay attention to rhythm and flow of the forest. The sculptures will not be easy to find, and there will be those who find nothing at all. The payoff of this exploration is the thrill inherent in discovery, and the freedom to “harvest” (take home) the art they have earned through their effort.
Animation Planet Film Festival
Grantee: Shawn Brewer
Collaborator: Josie Colt
Animation Planet is a regionally organized film festival featuring short animation films and educational workshops provided by Northern New England creators. With the mission to establish an accessible platform for animators, Animation Planet provides a free of charge application process and a public venue for local animators to screen their works. The festival’s aim is also educational. Before the screening, the festival will host educational demos, lectures, and hands-on workshops.
Founded in 2023 by Shawn Brewer and Josie Colt, the festival grew out of a need for a space in which animation and video artists could connect with other artists within regional proximity. The inaugural festival premiered at Congress Square Park in September of 2023.
Performance Art Initiative (PAI)
Grantee: Bethany Engstrom
Collaborator: Patricia Brace
PAI supports exposure, development, and exhibition opportunities for Maine-based contemporary performance artists. Founded by Patricia Brace and Bethany Engstrom, in consultation with artist Deborah Wing-Sproul, PAI is an artist-led collaborative effort that facilitates a deeper, more diverse dialogue of performance in contemporary Maine art. PAI’s goal is to create a community for artists while serving as a resource, providing opportunities for expansion and sharing of the medium through rich dialogue around performance-based work. PAI collaborates with both emerging and established artists with a focus on interdisciplinary and varied approaches to community engagement and outreach.
PAI’s 2024 public programming includes a performance art series, an exhibition of performance-based works, lectures and talks, and ongoing development of PAI’s website.
Grantee: Amelia Garretson-Persans
Collaborators: Pablo Cebollon, Jennifer Debatis, Ben Babcock
Smut Today is a free monthly paper and electronic publication of erotic artwork and art writing by contributing Maine artists. In addition to being mailed electronically to people who sign up for it, Smut Today will be distributed to businesses and organizations in the Portland area and beyond. The project takes local advertising vehicle papers such as Coffee News, a single sheet publication with light stories, astrology readings and more, as its aesthetic inspiration. The hope is that while the title would warn potential audience members of the explicit content of the paper, the format would be intriguing and mysterious, a window of extreme personal intimacy disguised as a mundane capitalist object. Each edition of the paper would feature at least 2 visual artists and 2 writers.
Grantee: Leah Gauthier
Collaborators: Jackie Brown, Elaine K. Ng, Ashley Page
Life Forms is an experiment in artistic community building, and a series of four exhibitions spanning four years. Participating artists all have strong ties with or are living in Maine. Works will be new, or very recently made, at the time of each exhibition, and must be sculpture, or pushing the boundaries of 3D work. The first three exhibitions will be group shows of four artists each and the final gathering will be a show of all twelve artists. We seek to deepen our relationships with each other and the Maine community over the course of this series.
Art making is a solitary experience, feeling even more so in these early post-covid times. We are 12 women sculptors coming together for mutual support, friendship, inspiration, skill building, potlucks and studio visits. We are also gathering to share our work and experiences with the Maine community through exhibitions, artist talks and participatory events. We can only dream right now of how we all might be changed by this undertaking, but already synergy is building and we feel uplifted and excited.
The artists for the first exhibition, Life Forms Grow, are Jackie Brown, Leah Gauthier, Ashley Page and Elaine K. Ng. Themes of our individual inquiries include, Climate change and interconnectivity, the vulnerability, grace, and complexities of the Black experience, physical and psychological structures of site, the potential of our material environment to hold meaning, and blurring of the real and imagined. Each of us are growing new ideas, bending expectations, and will be encouraging ourselves and our audiences to question assumptions and make new connections.
Grantee: Tyler Gilroy
Portland Noise is an online community resource for musicians, audiences, and venues. The project’s goal is to support the local live music scene by being a consolidated source for all live music events in Portland, highlighting Maine-based artists, and, in turn, strengthening the live music scene by mapping out the soundscape of the city on any given night. Portland Noise promotes all shows equally: big or small, DIY or legit, free or ticketed, and is committed to giving equal exposure and attention to both new bands playing their first show and established groups on tour.
Moonbats Postershop: A Culture Wars Lemonade Stand
Grantee: Kehben Grier
The long, cherished History of posters as seeds for grassroots messaging is the story of yet another analog creative medium ripe for revival. The Original Gangster of memes, a simple paper rectangle that visually conveys an idea or an event that one can post up and point to, prompting a memory, battle cry, or story from the heart, perseveres as one of the most contagiously beloved methods of cultural organizing work.
Portland, with its enthusiastic support for alternative arts venues, is fertile ground to launch a Third Space defibrillation of the poster form. Moonbats Postershop is planning to launch a fully bricks and mortar, old-school-simple-as-possible, late-night inspiration dispensary, in the heart of the lively State Theatre block of Congress Street. Open four days a week from Two to Midnight, Moonbats will provide a much needed place for folks to soak and palaver amidst accessible imagery celebrating nature, culture and protest. Artist-led and designed, Moonbats Postershop is an arts and activism solidarity effort, of the no-profit variety. Not a non-profit, and not a place for traditional sales. Heavily distilled from 20+ years of experience directing the Beehive Design Collective and essentially the opportunity for a “best-of solo album” of its founder, Moonbats is the Southern Maine sproutback of the much-loved Beehive phenomenon, with a massive audience both Global and Local, as well as a lifetime of networking with other printmakers and dedicated changemakers aboard. Customer donations will fund a rotating inventory of posters and prints purchased upfront, directly from artists.
Grantee: Tristan Koepke
Collaborator: Emilia Bruno
Emotional Tofu is a multimedia performance project developed by choreographer Tristan Koepke that explores speculative masculinities and the sad boy trope. Koepke and his collaborator, Emilia Bruno, present iterations and complications of white masculinities, as expressed by musician and producer Post Malone in his recent live performances. Koepke and Bruno mine Post Malone’s dance breaks, using them as vehicles to complicate hegemonic masculinity and insisting on the presence of their own queer bodies. Project support will assist in creation and development of the work, building and integrating sound and media from local artists (including videography by Patrick Fogarty, lighting by designer Justin Moriarty, and sound scoring by musician Ryan MacDonald), and pop-up performances in outdoor spaces in and around Portland.
Inventing Trees Pop Up Puppetry Theater and Mobile Makers’ Lab
Grantee: Bridget McAlonan
Collaborators: Timothy Eichfeld, Leonid Eichfeld, and Vivianne Courant
Inventing Trees Popup Puppetry Theater and Mobile Makers’ Lab is the puppet troupe, Inventing Trees attempt to bring more puppetry into community spaces that might not have access to art instruction.
In 2012, Inventing Trees co-founder, Bridget McAlonan started the “Feminist Paper Doll Project,” which sought to destigmatize and globalize feminism. These paper dolls were simple tools that people could use to make self-portraits, images of their heroes or loved ones, and use as a proxy to tell stories about what was important to them. McAlonan facilitated several workshops focusing on the paper dolls to community groups. Because construction of the paper dolls was relatively simple and utilized easily acquired materials, workshop participants of all ages and skill levels quickly became engaged in making. While making is happening, participants also talk about both their stories pertaining the paper dolls as well as sharing knowledge about how to construct them.
The paper dolls are at their basic core puppets (both simple rod puppet as well as shadow puppets.) The dual nature of the paper dolls allows makers to push play and storytelling to new levels. And because they can be made with simple scraps of cardboard, they are accessible. They allow the makers to play more freely with concepts (perhaps because they are not made from precious materials). They are democratic and engaging. They are a way to pull community together.
Blooms and Hues
Research and Development Grant
Grantee: Lauren Olsen
Collaborator: Emma DayBranch, Alan Day Community Garden
In the heart of downtown Norway, Maine, a vibrant community garden is poised to support a living canvas of color and creativity. The Alan Day Community Garden, located two blocks behind the main street, with the work of artist Lauren Olson will become home to a dye garden with a Research and Development Grant. A once-overlooked plot at the back of the community garden is destined for revival as a Natural Dye Garden, for an array of plants that will yield a spectrum of natural colors to breathe life into bold and creative art pieces and provide a center point for educational opportunities. As the seeds are planted, seedlings propagated and flowers are harvested, the community will be invited to partake through one-off workshops. Participants will learn about plant identification, harvesting techniques, and dye methods through the workshops. When they’re ready, the annual dye plants will be harvested during the growing season, to use in the art pieces, while perennials and biennials will continue to thrive, for use in future years.
Emergence: Art in a Free Surface
Grantee: Jordan Kendall Parks
Emergence: Art in a Free Surface temporarily installs environmentally conscious, minimal impact works of art within Portland’s many public green spaces and urban hiking trails. Visitors are invited to interact with natural and human history, while simultaneously viewing contemporary art as part of an intersection of art and the outdoors. These pieces could range from temporary sculptures, canvases suspended within trees or other sturdy objects, audio and visual projections and more.
This project conveys an importance of our connection to the natural world — that we are a part of it and not just from it. Offering an alternative reason to visit these green spaces; i.e. walking through Baxter Woods because you heard there is an art project tucked away among the pines versus just trying to take a shortcut home, provides a sense of adventure and new form of connection to oneself, the land and our city.
Possible install locations include (but are not limited to) Baxter Woods, the trails behind Evergreen Cemetery, Deering Oaks, and Canco Woods.
Grantee: Anna Queen
Inland’s mission is to support artistic practice and amplify the MidCoast arts community through an artist residency and dynamic programming by creating a conduit to the greater contemporary art world. It is a supportive ecosystem for creation and sharing of artistic practices.
Inland values experiential activity, genuine connectivity, and process by utilizing collective knowledge and support. It functions as a bridge between the local arts community and the greater contemporary art world. Inland provides a space to support local artists, welcomes the community in to experience art and programming, and fosters emerging artists. It is intentional about engaging with and bolstering the existing arts community to create connections from here outward towards larger communities. The program utilizes the off season, bringing artists here during the non-summer months to engage and enhance the already vibrant arts community. This structure allows individual artists to dig in during the slowest seasons while sparking public engagement and prioritizing hyperconnectivity of summer.
Inland is located in Hope, a small town in Midcoast Maine.
Research and Development Grant
Grantee: Brendan Shea
Collaborators: Heather Flor Cron and olivier
Neighborhood Spaces is receiving a Research and Development Grant toward their proposal of supporting and facilitating contemporary art exhibits in residential spaces for public viewing. Each resident selects an artist to exhibit in their home and Neighborhood Spaces funds the project and provides organizational support. This organizational support includes creating advertising materials, facilitating documentation, assisting in exhibition programming and providing food/drink.
Neighborhood Spaces praises your residence as it exists. Whether you live in a messy studio apartment, a single-family home, or a campsite, the context of your space becomes the parameters for the exhibition. With the Research and Development grant, Neighborhood Spaces will pilot one exhibition in 2024.
Neighborhood Spaces gives residents and artists the opportunity to exhibit work that feels important to that moment. Institutional exhibition programming is often decided a year in advance with stakeholder agreement, our exhibition model can get a show together in less than two weeks. Our exhibitions can be responsive and adaptive to our rapidly shifting socio-political landscape. Viewing art in people’s homes provides a new context and texture to the work that could not be replicated by any institutional space.
Queer Makers’ Market
Grantee: Robyn Nicole
The Queer Makers’ Market is a monthly market and vibrant community of local makers who identify as lgbtqia+, founded in 2021.
The Queer Makers’ Market is, first and foremost, a gathering of people often frustrated, denied, or at odds with traditional modes of building community and wealth. It is a colorful and heartbreakingly talented group of people for whom life is often a series of arguments about why they should continue to exist.
Grantee: Sasha Wizansky
Pencil Magazine will be a biannual, themed, print publication featuring work created entirely with pencil and paper. Artists and writers will be invited to respond to each publication theme through visual art, writing, or a combination of the two. The mission of Pencil Magazine is to create an opportunity for artists and writers to connect or reconnect with an unsung, basic tool for creative expression — the pencil — and to inspire our readers to make time and space for analog experiences in this digital age. Research is unambiguous that our reliance on internet-enabled digital tools to communicate and consume media is negatively affecting our attention spans, ability to focus, and mental health. Pencil Magazine is an opportunity for creators and readers to reclaim their focus and connect with their creativity through analog means — by using pencil and paper.