PORTLAND, MAINE | How do art and peace-building overlap? Five Maine Seeds recently discovered when they participated in a day-long printmaking workshop in partnership with the Maine College of Art (MECA).
The workshop, which took place on April 12, came as part of a greater collaboration between Seeds of Peace and MECA. The “It Starts With ME” project series aims to educate students on how to use art and media as tools for social change within their own state of Maine.
“It Starts With ME” emerged in response to the negative stereotypes of immigrants and refugees in Maine. By taking photos of themselves with inspiring messages, Seeds students hope to positively portray the current face of Maine, one that includes an increasingly diverse youth population with their own unique ambitions and dreams. The project presented the perfect opportunity to partner with MECA, as their Public Engagement Minor integrates art, real-world problems and community partners.
MECA Professor Elizabeth Jaber described how the College’s students use “collaborative methods and participatory models to take action as citizens, artists, and designers.”
“As a result, each student gains the skills and confidence to directly impact their culture and society.”
As part of this fifth workshop in the series, the Seeds were able to work with Jaber and Shawn Brewer, a graduate of MECA, to learn printmaking techniques.
In earlier sessions, the Seeds worked with professional photographer and artist Sean Alonzo Harris to take photos following prompts such as “I Am … ”, “I Want to … ”, and “I Will … ”. The Seeds enjoyed a full day of learning how to print the images, working in the darkroom, and playing around with various methods of printmaking to accomplish their desired effect for their project.
The day also included lunch and many chances to sit and discuss art, photography, and the Seeds’ goals for the project.
“I was incredibly excited when I heard Seeds of Peace was beginning to integrate this photography program, because it includes my belief that photography has the power to effect change in a unique way just as effective and sometimes more meaningful than words, speech, and dialogue,” said Sophia Warren, a 2011 Seed.
“Photography, when used right is a very strong way to bring ideas that can sometimes be controversial to a large audience,” said AJ Yarn, a 2013 Seed. “I can talk all day about what I believe and what I stand for but until people see it, they will never really understand.”
At the next workshop, the Seeds will embed text answers to the three prompts over the photos of themselves to create their own personalized works of art. The workshops will ultimately lead up to a culminating public exhibition, which will give Seeds and their peers a public space to tell their stories and display their work.
As the workshop series has progressed, the Maine Seeds feel they have developed their personal relationships and aim to promote this feeling of community through their images. In planning for the gallery show, the Seeds hope for the presentation of the photos to be as interactive as possible. Thus, they can involve the greater Maine community in the artistic and peace-building goals of the project, as Sophia describes:
“Through this program I have discovered a space and community that is both entirely artistic, and entirely committed to a cause of humanitarian causes … we are directing the power of the conversation by showing you what we see through a camera’s lens.”
MAINE COLLEGE OF ART PRINTMAKING WORKSHOP