FARMINGTON — For anyone who wants the opportunity to contribute to a gallery of creative works that will be viewed, discussed and shared by an extensive public audience, the University of Maine at Farmington has announced the fall kick-off of the New Commons Project.

The project is building a contemporary cultural commons of 24 works of art, literature and ideas that are submitted by members of the Maine community. Twelve will be shared this year through a number of unique events, public discussions, talks and community engagement projects. These 12 works have been selected from more than 150 submissions by community members from a dozen Maine counties and include a critically acclaimed TV show, public art installations by an anonymous artist and a jazz elegy.

The first work to be explored is HBO’s “The Wire.” Created by former Baltimore Sun reporter David Simon, it is considered to be among the best television series ever produced. Set in Baltimore, “The Wire,” which ran from 2002 to 2008, focuses on a different urban institution each season: the drug trade, the commercial harbor, city government, the school system and the media.

The show was hailed by critics and viewers for its sprawling, epic storytelling, compelling characters and analysis of urban life. According to Simon, the show is “really about the American city and about how we live together. It’s about how institutions have an effect on individuals. Whether one is a cop, a longshoreman, a drug dealer, a politician, a judge or a lawyer, all are ultimately compromised and must contend with whatever institution to which they are committed.”

“The Wire” was submitted to the New Commons Project by a Scarborough community member. To reinforce its community connection, the New Commons will hold an event in the home town of the contributor of each of the 24 final works in addition to the following events on the UMF campus:

• “The Economics of ‘The Wire,’” 11:45 a.m. Friday, Sept. 14, 2nd floor of UMF Mantor Library. John Messier, UMF professor of economics provides a unique perspective on the drama’s local economic systems.


• Keynote event : “’The Wire’ Today,” a dialogue with Brian Purnell and Jason Mittell, 11:45 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 19, Emery Community Arts Center; 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 19, Scarborough Public Library. Brian Purnell, Geoffrey Canada associate professor of Africana Studies and History and director of Africana Studies Program at Bowdoin College, and Jason Mittell, professor and chair of Film and Media Culture at Middlebury College, will focus on “The Wire” as a lens for understanding contemporary issues around police shootings and the criminal justice system.

• “‘The King Stay the King’: The Game and the War in ‘The Illiad’ and ‘The Wire,’”11:45 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2nd floor of UMF Mantor Library. Jeffrey Thomson, UMF professor of English, undertakes an original comparative analysis of strategic warfare in “The Wire” and Homer’s “The Illiad.”

The New Commons Project is a public humanities initiative of the University of Maine at Farmington, Maine’s public liberal arts college, in partnership with the Maine Humanities Council. It is made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

To learn more about the New Commons Project, or to submit a nomination for the next round of selections to be announced in 2019, visit the website at

Brian Purnell

Jason Mittel

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