L/A Arts will continue to provide programs

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The Board of Directors of L/A Arts, the arts agency for the cities of Lewiston and Auburn, has just announced that the agency will no longer employ a full-time staff, but will rely, instead, on individual project leaders under the direction of the board. L/A Arts will also occupy a smaller office space.

These changes, made at a time of financial limitations, are designed to put our resources more fully into our programs. They also allow us to serve the evolving arts needs of our community in new and engaging ways.

Let me explain.

In its earliest decades, L/A Arts focused primarily on presenting arts performances and experiences to audiences in the community, including our schoolchildren. More recently, other arts presenting organizations have grown up to fill that need, and the focus of L/A Arts shifted to teaching artistic skills and promoting the work of local creative artists and arts organizations. We have done that through initiatives that include Art Walk, the community online arts calendar, and the L/A Cultural Plan, which we spearheaded.

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L/A Arts continues to provide critical arts education programming in the local public schools through its Arts in Education Program (AiE), despite the fact that public funding for that programming has virtually evaporated.

Everything that L/A Arts does, and will continue to do, involves efforts to make our community a hub of artistic creativity. That means helping artisans establish workshop enterprises in Lewiston-Auburn through the Place for Makers program (funded by the National Endowment for the Arts). That also means that our Arts in Education programs now bring professional artists into the schools to help students discover the power of artistic expression in themselves, rather than simply to provide them with artistic experiences. It means exhibiting the work of local visual artists and performers in the expanded Art Walk. And it will mean producing exhibits, film showings, performances and economic development projects at sites across the community.

Lewiston-Auburn is home to a thriving, inspiring community of artists and arts institutions, and L/A Arts will keep working with them to develop artistic creativity in the young and not-so-young, building social solidarity and a creative economy in the process. Because we have that artistic community to draw on, we can be a nimbler organization than in the past.

For the past year Louise Rosen, as our consulting director, has provided endlessly imaginative direction to our existing programs and pointed us in promising new directions. We are deeply grateful for her leadership. We thank Jess Lauren Lipton, who has made a brilliant contribution to our programs and online presence. And we salute Penny Drumm who, after 27 years of dedicated service as our business manager, has now established her own business service in the arts, SmART Management.

For the remainder of the fall, Rosen and Lipton will be guiding the art walks and planning future AiE and Place for Makers programs, as well as helping the board make the transition to its new structure.

At the same time, L/A Arts will be asking the citizens of Lewiston and Auburn to offer us ideas for serving the arts needs of the community and to volunteer their expertise and energies.

Jim Parakilas is chair of the L/A Arts board of directors.

Anyone wishing to contribute financial support may contact L/A Arts at laarts.org or 207-782-7228.

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