Homer Fellows step outside the PMA and visit Indigo Arts Alliance

Homer Fellows step outside the PMA and visit Indigo Arts Alliance

Portland’s arts community is a powerful force. As the city grows and shifts, so too do its art organizations and galleries. Indigo Arts Alliance is one such space, giving artists from the African diaspora a residency in which to work, engage deeply with artists from around the world, and enter the larger conversation about Maine’s evolving cultural landscape. Even though the PMA’s history stretches back 138 years, its future is tied to places like these.

On Monday, July 15, the Homer High School Fellows visited Indigo Arts Alliance to speak with Daniel Minter, a co-founder of the space, and Eneida Sanches, Indigo’s current artist-in-residence. The Fellows, who are involved both with art and activism, were eager to go beyond the walls of the museum and see what smaller arts and culture organizations are doing in Portland. To program coordinator Martha Schnee, being outside the museum setting is just as important as being in it. Learning how an institution like the PMA operates within its community requires a deep understanding of the community itself.

“It’s crucial to present opportunities that bring young folks together with local artists and arts organizations, connecting them with pathways and imagined futures that include the arts and the creative process.” says Martha Schnee, who directs the Homer Fellows program.

The Fellows began their visit on the East End by spending time with Daniel Minter’s sculptural installation, Mother’s Garden, currently on view in Kennedy Park. The Fellows observed the five huge painted wooden sculptures, writing down how the brightly colored figures made them feel, how they interacted with the outdoor space, and even composing a poem based on Minter’s piece. The Fellows then heard from Jenny Dougherty, Administrative Director of TEMPOart (the organization that commissioned Minter’s sculpture) about why public art is so significant in a rapidly changing neighborhood like East Bayside. The original idea behind Mother’s Garden was to create a work of art that made all communities (especially those of New Mainers) feel welcome. The art is expressly tied to three public culinary events called “World to Table”, that bring the community together at the site of the art for public meals. Both “World to Table” and Mother’s Garden are using public art to engage with the community in nontraditional ways. For the Fellows, exploring this sculpture opened their eyes to the role of public art in their community and how moving art outside creates room for deeper public engagement. 


Over the course of the day, Minter and Sanches guided the Fellows through art-making activities meant to encourage exploration. Sanches shared the idea of “pyrotechnica lutica” (a form of brainstorming) and how, for an artist, concept development is sometimes more important than the finished work of art. The Fellows learned how Indigo prioritizes process and discovery and, Sanches mentioned, allows artists to “[deepen their] research and...listen and see things from a different perspective.” Above everything, Indigo facilitates dialogue and experimentation for the artist who is not quite ready to present a finished product to the public.

Although they were shy at first, the Fellows began to open up over the course of the session, using short blocks of charcoal to create a self-portrait on an eight-foot-long sheet of paper. Some used figure drawing, while other used words, symbols, and repeated motifs to make up their self-portrait. In the end, you could feel the creative gears starting to turn, as the pressure to perform was lifted. Minter and Sanches shared their studios with the Fellows, giving them an inside look into their processes and their own uncertainties and questions.

This visit was more than just a trip to East Bayside. It was a chance for the Fellows to speak freely and create, and to see how museums exist in conversation with smaller art spaces. As the future of the arts community in Portland, the Homer Fellows gained a greater understanding of how all arts communities come together, and what both the large museum and the small creative space can offer each other.


Every summer, the PMA hires seven high schoolers from greater Portland to work at the museum for the summer. This year’s Fellows are joining us from Portland High School, Casco Bay High School, Baxter Academy, and Scarborough High School.

On Thursday, August 1, the Fellows will incorporate what they learned over the course of their 5-week program to host a Teen Night at the museum. The event is from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and will include art-making activities, food, and live music. The Fellows will lead an evening to connect young people of all ages, backgrounds, and interests by empowering them through activities, workshops, music, and introductions to youth led activist organizations.


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July 29, 2019
Communications Manager

Sophia Namara is Communications Manager at the PMA.