Arts Alliance's goal to bring community together

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RAYMOND — One year after joining forces with the Raymond Village Library, the Raymond Arts Alliance continues to “bring community together around inspiring and fun things.”

President Mary-Therese Duffy said the group began as the Raymond Hill Community Center in early 2017 to encourage community “to make more fun.” In October 2017, the group disbanded as its members moved on, but Duffy was approached by the library, which offered financial support.

“To us, it just really made sense. It was the kind of umbrella that we really needed at the time if we were going to stay viable and continue what we wanted to do,” she said.

The alliance’s goal is “to support artists, have them have a place to bring their work and to make artists more visible,” she said.

The alliance focuses on “opening up people’s minds to different things beyond what they’re familiar with or maybe they want to learn a little bit more about,” Treasurer Brenda Olsen said.

That focus is what led Olsen to become involved with RAA. The alliance hosted a poetry reading at Raymond Village Community Church, which it partners with.

Olsen is involved with the church, so she volunteered at the event. She was skeptical at first but enjoyed it so much that she signed on as RAA’s treasurer.

“I think that we’ve kind of lost touch with community-based events where people get together and form relationships and friendships and talk to their neighbors. People have become content to stay home and get their entertainment on whatever media they have at home,” she said.

The board of RAA meets once a month and holds one to two events each month at venues ranging from Raymond Village Community Church and the Raymond Village Library to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s boyhood home.

Events include writing workshops, poetry readings, qigong classes, comedy and magic shows, community sings and concerts.

Olsen said the alliance struggles to get the word out and attract attendees to their events.

“It’s really hard to get people to come out and do things as a community,” she said.

The alliance has an event proposal form on its website and encourages residents to contribute suggestions and ideas.

“I’d like to see the community make this their own,” Duffy said.

On Jan. 5, the alliance is hosting “Side by Each,” a night of Franco-American fiddling with a touch of bluegrass, with National Heritage Fellowship recipients Don and Cindy Roy and Erica Brown and Matt Chipman.

In February, there will be an event with a Native American flutist, flute maker and storyteller, and in March, there will be a performance by an Irish storyteller who combines music with storytelling.

“The arts are an avenue of bringing people together, no matter what their differences are. It’s a great unifier,” Duffy said.

Jane Vaughan can be reached at 780-9103 or at jvaughan@keepmecurrent.com.

Magician Randy Judkins performed with resident Briana Bizier at a show last spring.