Creating Welcoming, Inclusive Art Spaces: Continuing the Conversation

  • February 25, 2021

Creating Welcoming, Inclusive Art Spaces: Continuing the Conversation

In January, the Maine Arts Commission hosted a panel discussion called Creating Welcoming, Inclusive Art Spaces during the Virtual MICA conference. Panelists discussed experiences with creating more inclusive arts spaces, for both artists and the communities these spaces serve.

Attendees can join us on Zoom or watch live on the Maine Arts Commission's Facebook Page. In this continued conversation , moderator Marty Pottenger will again be joined by Samuel James, Brigid Rankowski, Chris Newell, Nyamoun Nquany Machar (Moon), and Bridget Matros to discuss the long term work needed to make our spaces and programs more all-embracing, accessible, and genuinely welcoming to our increasingly diverse community of Mainers. 


*Registered attendees will receive a Zoom link on Thursday morning. Discussion Presented in Partnership with Art At Work


Samuel James was born the last in a long line of performers including dancers, storytellers, choir singers, jazz pianists, and porch-stomping guitar thumpers dating back to the 1800s. With a voice of grit and gravel, he sings with an authenticity lost in time. A modern guitar master, James' skill has a depth and range that seems impossible for a man with only two hands. An award-winning songwriter, innovative guitar player, and a Moth-featured storyteller, a live performance by Samuel James is part theratre concert, part stomping-on-the-porch dance party, and part stand-up comedy. His critically acclaimed trilogy of albums, Songs Famed for Sorrow and Joy (2008) For Rosa, Maeve and Noreen (2009) And for the Dark Road Ahead (2012) for Toronto's Northern Blues label has gained Samuel praise not only for carrying on great traditions, but for being a true innovator. His latest album Already Home Recordings Vol. 1  has been called a "rich narrative... fascinating... vital to our cultural dialogue." 

Nyamuon Nguany Machar (Moon) is a spoken word poet and an advocate for disproportionate and minority youth in the mental health field. Moon emigrated to the United States from South Sudan as a child and uses her and her family’s experience and trauma to educate and enlighten providers, consumers, policymakers, and community members about the importance of inclusion, as they serve increasingly diverse communities. Having emerged as a public speaker, she has collaborated with renowned educational institutions, such as Harvard University, Bates College, and Georgetown University, to provide talks and workshops for students who will be tomorrow’s service professionals. She is also involved in Maine’s South Sudanese community providing mentoring to young immigrant professionals, advocates, and aspiring change-makers, seeking to instill in them the value in potently representing their communities’ respective identities in whatever fields they enter.  As a spoken word poet, Moon works to motivate others to find strength in their voices through creative means. She uses her own struggle and represents it in her artistry in order to help break down the stigmas that stunt voices.

Bridget Matros has been an educator for over fifteen years, teaching at all levels and settings, from preschool circle-time to computer literacy for the elderly. She designed and ran the Art Studio exhibit and program at Boston Children’s Museum for ten years, developing best practices for informal art education with families. Nationally recognized as an upcoming arts leader, her call to arms for quality creative experiences for all during early childhood was published in “20Under40: Reinventing the Arts and Arts Education for the 21st Century” (AuthorHouse, 2010). In addition to teaching and creating community programs in Belfast, Maine, Matros provides creative development trainings and school programs as a visiting artist throughout New England. Bridget’s artistry includes visual art in a range of media in addition to acting, producing, singing, and performance.

Chris Newell is the Executive Director and Sr. Partner to Wabanaki Nations for the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, Maine. He was born and raised in Motahkmikuhk (Indian Township, ME) and a proud citizen of the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Indian Township. He is a longtime member of the Mystic River singers, an internationally acclaimed and award-winning intertribal pow wow drum group. He served for six years as the Education Supervisor for the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center. Out of the museum, Chris and his museum colleagues co-founded the Akomawt Educational Initiative as a response to observations of the public school system and the lack of representation of Native history and social studies. Along with his work in education, Chris has also appeared in feature films and was the Senior Advisor on the documentary Dawnland chronicling the historic first-ever government-sanctioned Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the State of Maine.

Brigid Rankowski is a disability advocate and performer. She works with the Maine Teaching Artist Leadership Initiative to help teachers and professionals learn how to better educate those students with disabilities by using different artistic methods. She also is the head of the education committee for the Autism Society of Maine helping to create new material for her state. She continues to work as a disability advocate at a state and local level with a vested interest in women’s issues, LGBTAQ issues, and promotion of the arts as a creative outlet as well as a career path. In her “free time” Brigid also performs as Brigid Sinclair with an award-winning Vaudeville Troupe and an all-female fire troupe. 

Marty Pottenger (Moderator) is a theater artist, playwright, activist, and pioneer of arts-based civic dialogues. She is the founder of Art At Work, a national initiative putting creativity to work strengthening city governments’ ability to meet challenges of inequity, partisanship, and climate emergency. Marty received an OBIE award for a performance and five-year community art project called City Water Tunnel #3, and has been a MacDowell Fellow. She is currently creating MAINEUSA – a performance project about the history of Maine from the Ice Age till now that will inspire Mainers to come together with a fierce determination to combat climate destruction.

***Everyone attending this event  is encouraged to watch the first session from the Virtual MICA conference:


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Ryan Leighton

193 State Street
SHS 25
Augusta  ME  04333