‘Magical’ Art All Around back for second year

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This year's Art All Around event, which had a river theme last year, above, will have a theme of diversity and will take place June 16-25.

WESTBROOK — The Art All Around project is back for a second year with a different theme, additional locations and new events.

Art All Around, an initiative by the Maine Center for Creativity, will take place June 16-25. The community art installment was relaunched in Westbrook last year after being in South Portland for several years.

“It was modest last year, but it was magical,” said Craig Collins, the executive director of the Maine Center for Creativity. “People loved it.”

People, primarily students, have been working on art for the event since January. Like last year, most of the art is being made from recycled materials such as newspaper and plastic bottles.

According to Collins, the project will be installed on Friday, June 16, and the kickoff event will take place the following morning. Art All Around will primarily be installed at Blue Note Park again, but will also spill over onto the sidewalk along Main Street. There will also be pieces in the park next to the pedestrian bridge near Bridge Street.

The kickoff event will include live music and a parade featuring the Shoestring Theater of Portland. There will be speakers, including Mayor Mike Sanphy, and representatives from the 20 partner organizations.

The theme of this year’s Art All Around event is diversity, which Collins said is being defined broadly.

“When we think of diversity we mean it in every sense of the word,” he said. “Everyone is invited to participate in this project.”

Collins said diversity is often used as an initiative to make something seem more inclusive or unique, but he said the theme was chosen because it reflects the everyday experience of Westbrook residents.

“(Diversity)’s not an attraction in Westbrook,” he said. “It’s a way of life.”

The art installation will feature different languages and express various cultures, races, genders and personalities. Collins said it’s important for everyone in the city to feel represented by the project.

“(Diversity)’s a very real thing,” he said. “We thought it was a great way to say something positive about the community and the people who make it up.”

Since the project is so focused on bringing the community together, Collins said, “It’s certainly an art project, but it’s so much more than that.”

Abigail Cioffi, the executive director of the Downtown Westbrook Coalition, said last year’s Art All Around event brought a lot of people to the city’s downtown area.

“There usually aren’t many people at Blue Note Park, but last year during the event we saw people there every day, which is really good for the park,” she said.

This makes the event a big economic driver for the city, Cioffi and Collins both said. It gives exposure to the businesses on and around Main Street and introduces people, both residents and non-residents of Westbrook, to what’s available downtown.

“It’s very much about attracting people to the downtown and utilizing this under-utilized are,” Collins said.

Cioffi said in addition to bringing attention to an under-used part of the city, participants in the project also get to discover their own personal potential. She said she likes that the art for the event is made by people who aren’t all professional artists.

“Art is so often looked at as something artists do,” Cioffi said. “This allows people to use the creative part of their minds that they’re not always encouraged to use.”

Cioffi said it’s important “for kids to have a sense of ownership in their community and in their downtown” and that this ties in with Downtown Westbrook Coalition’s mission of “making people feel connected to their community.”

Collins said the intention is to make people in other towns feel this way as well. Art All Around will also be taking place in Biddeford this year and the goal is to one day make it a state-wide program.

Collaborative art projects are important, Collins said, because of how they strengthen communities.

“Art is an instrument,” he said. “It’s a vehicle to bring people together.”

 Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

This year’s Art All Around event, which had a river theme last year, above, will have a theme of diversity and will take place June 16-25.

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