Portland Museum of Art is looking for young artists fighting climate change

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The Portland Museum of Art is looking for emerging artists across New England who are exploring ideas for sustainability and climate change, and has created a cash prize to recognize and encourage them.

The Tidal Shift Award invites nominations of up to five works of art from artists aged 14 to 22 who are doing work related to the climate crisis or offering solutions. The museum will award three cash prizes of $ 5,000 to artists aged 19 to 22 and three cash prizes of $ 2,500 to artists aged 14 to 18.

PMA is partnering with the Climate Initiative, a Kennebunkport-based organization to empower young people to tackle the climate crisis. It is funded by King Philanthropies, which was founded by Bob and Dottie King of Kennebunkport and supports solutions to climate change.

“The real work will be done by the next generation, not my generation,” museum director Mark Bessire said. “My generation didn’t do a very good job. The best thing we can do is empower young people so that they can make changes. Art brings people together, and artists are really good at imagining the future, but also very good at seeing the moment in a way that we don’t see for a few years.

The awards are open to artists from the six New England states and the Abenaki, Maliseet, Micmac, Mohegan, Narragansett, Nauset, Nipmuc, Passamaquoddy, Pennacook, Penobscot, Pequot, Wabanaki, Wampanoag and Woronoco nations. In its explanation of the rules, the PMA encourages artists of racial, ethnic and gender diversity “to create a work of art envisioning a problem and / or a solution to a crisis your community is facing as a result of climate change. “. Participants can use any medium, including painting, printmaking, photography, sculpture, video, and paper or a combination of mediums, as long as it meets specific size requirements.

A five-person jury will select the winners, who will be announced on Earth Day in April. The submission window is open and the deadline is January 20. The finalists will be announced on February 28. Details of the initiative are available on a new website created by the PMA, tidalshiftaward.com.

It’s a jury centered on Maine:

• Samaa Abdurraqib, associate director of the Maine Humanities Council and leader of the national organization Outdoor Afro, which connects black people to each other and to nature through outdoor experiences;

• Zanagee Artis, 21, from Connecticut, a student at Brown University and a key member of the Zero Hour climate justice organization;

• Sophie Davis, musician – and originally from Waldoboro – who uses music and art to raise awareness about climate change as a founding member of the Halcyon ensemble and through other musical activities;

• Darren Ranco, president of Native American programs at the University of Maine and protector of Wabanaki culture through his work as a member of the Penobscot Tribal Rights and Resources Protection Board and other consultative work with museums;

• Dave Reidmiller, director of the Climate Center at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute.

By connecting artists with jurors, the museum can help create connections that lead to climate solutions, said Graeme Kennedy, director of strategic communications and public relations for the museum. “We can’t do it alone, but PMA is a platform and a community center, and a center for sharing ideas and connecting,” he said.

PMA has secured three years of funding for Tidal Shift. At the moment, there are no specific plans for an in-person exhibition, but it could and probably will happen in the future, Bessire said.

Tidal Shift is part of a larger sustainability initiative for the museum and links with other public efforts, said Elizabeth Jones, the museum’s senior deputy director.

In February, the museum will inaugurate the North Atlantic Triennial, an exhibition in collaboration with museums and artists from Iceland and Sweden. This exhibit will highlight Maine’s role in international trade, regional culture, and the shared concerns of regional artists and cultural institutions regarding the climate crisis. On view now is Clifford Ross’ large-scale photography exhibition titled “Sightlines,” which attempts to engage viewers in awe of nature in a time of climate change.

Behind the scenes, the museum recently incorporated sustainability and stewardship into its core mission, along with courage, fairness and service, and hired a Director of Campus Sustainability, whose job it is to s’ ensure that PMA operates in an environmentally sound manner. It means investing in solar fields and promoting offsite solar development and doing things onsite like minimizing solid waste generation, moving to paperless systems, and rethinking how it ships art globally and other.

“Shipping artwork around the world is incredibly expensive and inefficient,” Bessire said. “We’ll be thinking about the whole idea of ​​shipping art and what it means to ship art.”

More generally, sustainability is also at the heart of the museum’s commitment to diversity, equity, access and inclusion, he added. “None of this will work if it is not sustainable,” he said.


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