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Saturday October 1, 2011

Quimby Colony 769 Congress St Portland, ME

Nancy Andrews Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome

Add Verb The Thin Line

Pull-Start Pictures Farm to Table

Art at Work/Terra Moto Civic Engagement

Beehive Collective Environmental Issues

Maine Connected and Consequential Convening: CHANGING COURSE

Below is a summary of the dinner at Quimby Colony October 1, 2011
Artists in Context in partnership with Maine Arts Commission
Written by Jessica Tomlinson and edited by Louisa McCall


Explains her connection to the wolf, the wolfman, to monster movies and ultimately makes the connection to her sense of other because of her genetic disorder.

Her comic work “LOUPETTE” is a comic book focusing on the psychological interior of a character with a genetic mutation.

Andrews suffers from PTSD due to a life threatening surgery, emergency conditions and the influence of heavy drugs.

Her goal: to raise awareness of PTSD not related to the military.

Psychiatrist observation:

“Lots of people are trained to think like me, not a lot of people are trained to think like you.”

Andrews wants to study the effect of soothing music on the neurological state of children in the ICU unit. What does a human brain look like on a ventilator? One more level of not being in control. Is brain behavior different after PTSD?

Her challenge is designing a study that shows the comparison of before and after a trauma. You can’t predict who is going to be involved in a high stress medical situation.

Andrews has a background in developing TV in Johns Hopkins Children's Center, Baltimore

Naming the Work

Nancy is following a trajectory in her work that stems from personal experience. She hesitates to assume the moniker of socially-engaged practice for her work. The work in not planned to facilitate positive change; it is an exploration of personal experience that may or may not radiate out into the world. Naming the work is complicated, but language must be found to describe and narrate this distinct cultural practice -- art that connects to and deals with real-life situations, work that is research and action-based, and art that focuses on the design of new conditions in which to live, think and act – without narrowing focus so fast that we prevent our own learning about the possibilities of hybrid practice.

Role of Research

As artists cross boundaries and delve into new fields and the systems that underlie those fields, there is an increasing need for research skills and research assistance. To be able to “prove” the causal effects of this work, research studies must be undertaken. Outcomes must be described in more than anecdotal terms. But relying on scientific research is not the answer. The co-mingling of quantitative and qualitative -- Empirical research is a way of gaining knowledge by means of direct and indirect observation or experience. Empirical evidence (the record of one's direct observations or experiences) can be analyzed quantitatively or qualitatively. Through quantifying the evidence or making sense of it in qualitative form, a researcher can answer empirical questions, which should be clearly defined and answerable with the evidence collected (usually called data). Research design varies by field and by the question being investigated. Many researchers combine qualitative and quantitative forms of analysis to better answer questions which cannot be studied in laboratory settings, particularly in the social sciences and in education.


Theater for health and wellness education, now located within the University of New England.

Their work addresses public health issues - eating disorders, domestic abuse.

They hand out cards to the audience. Each card represents a question often heard after a performance. Each dinner guest calls out their question.

Add Verb’s work is to hear the questions and connect people to resources. They use playwriting to address an issue. Their motto is to “do no harm.”

Feedback: We know it is an issue, but what do we DO about it?

Question: How challenging is it to insert yourself in a medical environment? “It’s been harder to insert ourselves into an academic environment.”

Question: How do you measure the impact of your work? Currently conducting two studies right now.

Question: How do you address this continuum of raising awareness (qualitative) vs taking action (quantitative)? As artists, we infiltrate the area where results are needed. We need research help. (From Marty Pottenger): Kellogg Foundation provided research funding assistance as a “case making” grant.

Are artists responsible for measurement? There is a disconnect between researchers and artists. Artists are well-positioned to be the catalysts for the first step.

Look at the Maine Development Foundation benchmark study to see where artists should be.

Role of Art

Contemporary art practice operates on a continuum – from critique and raising awareness about issues to direct action about those issues. Add Verb is at the action end of the spectrum, where quantitative data is mandated. A question is, when art becomes useful (artists actively implement the merger of art into society's urgent social, political and scientific issues) is it still art or is it something else? Is the role of art to raise awareness and make catalytic observations that are then taken up by other players – social scientists, researchers, etc.? What are the ethical and legal issues that emerge with this systemic engagement with other fields and systems? Research (again) Three of the five artists’ presentations discussed research and measurement – Nancy Andrews, ADD VERB, and Art at Work. Nancy is looking to begin a research study. Add Verb is currently conducting research studies but with not enough money to do the job they want to do (i.e. have a control group). Marty mentioned a grant program at the Kellogg Foundation that assists art organizations make a case based on research.

Suggested further reading: Art as Research, Stephen Wilson, 1996


Showed one of the “Who’s Your Farmer” shorts. Now working on a feature about MOO Milk.

We are inspired by story.

There is a transformation in Maine. No more papermills. Commodity still has a place but it is now our natural resources. Our agriculture is our advantage.

Maine can feed itself – need to get infrastructure back.

Mike Finnegan shared the story about his time in the banking industry, responding to the first microbrewer who asked for a loan. The bank thought he was crazy.

Art is a valuable pathway to understand a government and its people.

The creative process creates a platform for an exchange of ideas.

Kehben’s wish: The talent of storytelling applied to agriculture. To the story that may be gone in the next ten years. That is the story of the grange halls.”

Maine has the third oldest population overall but the third youngest population of farmers.

The goal is to brand Maine outside of Maine to generate income.

(Eliot wants to connect Pull Start with an MPBN production/ David Camden The Maine Ingredient; meetyour

Art as Brand: The work of Pull Start, in some way, is to market the value of the Family Farm, which stands for security, health, self-sufficiency, nutrition, nurturing, community, compassion, respect. Although the film ultimately moves audience to a market product, it promotes the Values inherent in agricultural practice. Can/ should this work be seen as a different approach to marketing: not commodities but values fundamental to our future?

Back to the Future is art helping us to see that we must finally look back and retrieve some of the ideas and systems that worked in order to move forward? Helping us understand that there is value in history – that we can move backward to go forward



Putting the power of direct creative engagement into the hands of municipal government.

Everyone can do this work.

Art at Work is about identifying critical issues in government developing a strategy that is implemented through an art project, i.e. low morale of police force; racial discrimination in public works Evaluation: 83% of the police participants were impacted by their involvement in the poetry project and had improved morale

How was this outcome measured and proven?

Next project: Meeting Place Five neighborhoods with artists-in-residence

Art as Space to hold contradictions (i.e. seeing police in the human realm), hopefulness


We are accountable to communities we are not from.

We take complex ideas and translate them into animal and nature character drawings.

Our goal is to be cross-culturally accessible so we avoid the use of text and just use images.

Goal: returning half to the community for free.

Our work is anonymously authored and anti-copyright. We are cultural workers who cross pollinate by finding unlikely partners, ie US Coast Guard.

We earn less than 50% from grants. Most from speaking engagements. Goal: Accessibility

We are 25 bees giving 500 presentations.

Question: Why Machias? We want to grow back peoples’ memories. “We are the pedestrians of Machias.”

Question: How to navigate the waters of political activism in places of resistance? “We have this art. It is called ambush. It’s a big cartoon. The cartoon is the story that changes the nature of the conversation. Complicated cartoons communicate the difficulty of the issue. Art is a shock absorber. “

Question: Do you feel threatened? “We are super able to meet people on an issues level. There is so much audience for what we do that we forget that we are revolutionary. We do get out of the box with our style and it allows us to geek out. We do create a space to be uncomfortable. In our culture, we are not often afforded the space to be uncomfortable.”

Question: How do you articulate the value of what you do? “What we do transpires in a magical elusive space and you almost have to be there to be transformed. We are pioneers. We take this big cartoons and take on a tumbleweed of text. We connect by making human-to-human relationships. We interpret the story. Our process involves pulling together the counter-narrative.


There is a lack of knowledge about these socially engaged hybrid practices. The goal of AIC is to create connections of people with similar goals, coming from different places.

Question: How might we think about sustaining, developing, and connecting this work, as a state and as a region? How do you also balance enthusiasm with what is going wrong? The artform is the shining light. Making is “the happy time.” If you can engage the community, that is uplifting and hopeful. The more engaged we are, the more likely we are to solve problems. Making the work is important. Having a witness is important. Some people have a better system. “If I did not take pleasure in the work, I would not do it.” “I could see taking this show on tour to schools, colleges, Rotary clubs, etc. Need to bring the conversation to a larger world than our dinner table. Artists look at problems from every angle. This is the first step in sharing with a larger group.

Eliot shared a story asset valuation in Bath/Brunswick/Topsham where government hired a consultant to evaluate the town’s assets should the naval base leave. Their conclusion: the best area asset is the arts.

Does the average Mainer know we are a top art state? It is part of our brand. There is connectivity and social capital and we need to capitalize on it. Design the architecture of the sector. We need to start at the beginning, do research and development, and it will make the policy self- evident. It becomes clearer in the delivery. Need to generate awareness in the media and the general public.

The old recipe is not working. Old ways of community development aren’t working.

Biddeford trying to create change by becoming part of government. Tammy: “If I get elected, I will draw out others who want to create this type of change.”

Questions for Further Consideration

What is needed to establish the value of hybrid art forms / useful art in the eyes of policy and decision-makers and potential non-art collaborators?

How do we design the architecture of this emerging sector to encourage the flow of media to cover the effects of the work – the “ah-ha” moments that occur in the transformative, complex space that is hybrid artistic practice

Art as Human Story

Cross Fertilization of Art and Social Science

Growing back Memory