UMaine Machias receives NEA grant to fund public art and art workshops on wild blueberry cultivation

MACHIAS, Maine — The University of Maine at Machias has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Our Town award in the amount of $60,000 to support arts programming and the creation of a public art installation that addresses the impacts of climate change on wild blueberries and local pollinators. 

The Our Town award is one of 68 grants totaling $5 million awarded nationwide by NEA.These creative place-making grants support projects that integrate arts, culture and design into local efforts to strengthen and engage communities, center equity, advance artful lives and lay the groundwork for long-term systems change.

small potential model for the new sculpture. a wooden base with a diamond shaped piece of blue glass and a wooden honey comb in front of it.
First view of a conceptual study for a potential public sculpture design for Norman Nelson Park, Machias, by Greg Ondo.

University of Maine associate professor of art Gregory Ondo will design, fabricate, and install a sculpture in downtown Machias. George Kinghorn, senior executive director of cultural engagement and arts at the University of Maine and University of Maine at Machias and director and curator of UMaine’s Zillman Art Museum, will work closely with the Machias Arts Council to facilitate visual art workshops for high school students and members of the Machias community.

“We are excited for the hands-on learning and collaboration opportunities that the Our Town grant will provide to make this sculpture possible,” said UMaine Machias Dean and Campus Director Megan Walsh. “Our campus community is excited to partner with the Town of Machias, the Machias Arts Council, and other local organizations to host events about our wild blueberry harvests.”

The Our Town grant will also provide the funding for a full-time doctoral student to receive a paid assistantship for the project. The student will work with the project team on program implementation and public engagement. They will also oversee students at UMaine and UMaine Machias. Additional students assisting with project implementation will connect through projects relevant to climate change, agriculture, economic and community development, education and the humanities.

“Projects like ‘Making Art in Machias: Climate Change and the Wild Blueberry Economy’ exemplify the creativity and care with which communities are telling their stories, creating connection and responding to challenges and opportunities in their communities — all through the arts,” said NEA Chair Maria Rosario Jackson. “So many aspects of our communities, such as cultural vitality, health and well-being, infrastructure and the economy are advanced and improved through investments in art and design, and the National Endowment for the Arts is committed to ensuring people across the country benefit.”

For more information on the projects included in the arts endowment grant announcement, visit