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Beyond shopping: Freeport gets grant for downtown art displays

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Beyond shopping: Freeport gets grant for downtown art displays

FREEPORT — Downtown Main Street will feature art exhibits in previously empty storefront windows through the end of the year, thanks to a grant from the Maine Arts Commission.

The commission awarded the $7,500 Artists in Maine Communities grant to Freeport in support of "Experiencing Freeport – Knowing our Town through Art." The grant proposal included a matching grant of $7,500, funded by Freeport Square Gallery, L.L. Bean, Freeport Community Improvement Association, Berenson Associates and Key Bank.

Freeport Town Planner Donna Larson wrote the grant request on behalf of the Freeport Creative Arts artists collective.

"She and the town have been very supportive of our group, and knew that since we're new and don't have non-profit status yet, we couldn't submit it ourselves " said Kathleen Meade, president of Freeport Creative Arts.

In 2006, Freeport Creative Arts was formed by artists in Freeport, Durham and Pownal to support local creative opportunities making Freeport a creative economy destination.

"What better place than Freeport, the epicenter in Maine for shopping, to showcase the work of its vital artist community in storefront windows?" Donna McNeil, director of the Maine Arts Commission, said in a prepared statement.

"Communities across Maine are taking advantage of this form of Main Street exhibition space with appreciative response from the public," McNeil continued. "Artist intervention in commercial windows enlivens downtowns, inspiring community members, entrepreneurs and developers. Like viewfinders, they give pedestrians and motorists vignettes, places to pause and think. It's a wonderful project in the perfect community and represents the kind of partnership that will help communities catalyze economic revitalization."

Meade said the grant was written at a time when there were a lot of empty storefront windows in downtown Freeport, so it made sense to use that space to display local artwork. "The locations of the art exhibits will be constantly evolving, which is totally OK with us," she said, "based on when new businesses move in."

Right now, many of the art installations are at Village Station, but Meade expects that to change. "We're happy to see new businesses move in, and we'll accommodate to that," she said.

Artwork selected for the storefront exhibits depicts the natural environment or history of Freeport. Background information will accompany each piece of artwork with the hopes of encouraging the viewers to extend their visit beyond Main Street retail stores.

Local artists whose work will be displayed are Freeport Creative Arts members James Chute, Sebastian Meade, Becca Case, Karen Pettengill, Kathi Peters, William Larkins, Jennifer Moore, Kathleen Meade, Natalie Nye, Petrea Noyes and Alice Kirkpatrick.

The public is welcome to meet the artists and celebrate the art displays at a reception from 5-6:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 4, at Freeport Village Station. The reception, sponsored by Berenson Associates, will include refreshments by Dinner at Your Door and music by Not too Shaap!.

Directions to featured art exhibits beyond the Village Station will also be available at the reception.

Heather Gunther can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 115 or hgunther@theforecaster.net.