Portland’s non-profit art collective, the Constellation Gallery, needs a new home

A call to action for the city’s only art collective gallery, which is a venue of discovery and education

June 17th, 2014 · Filed under: Arts & Entertainment, Creative Economy

Congress Street in Portland closed partly to cars drew in more visitors to galleries                                                                                     and restaurants during the Friday Night art walk of the Old Port festival,                                                      including the Constellation Gallery.photo by Ramona du Houx

Congress Street in Portland closed partly to cars drew in more visitors to galleries and restaurants during the Friday Night art walk of the Old Port festival, including the Constellation Gallery.photo by Ramona du Houx

The Constellation Gallery offers people a chance to experience art from a variety of disciplines and styles. The diversity on display in the exhibits and studios are exactly what the collaborative of artists likes to offer.

The recent exhibit, Dreams, had 14 different artists, displaying 27 artistic expressions of dreams that stirred one’s imagination. There was something for everyone, which made the exhibition stand out. Many galleries often have solo shows that require the viewer to devote themselves to one artist’s vision. Here there were14 different flavors to choose from. This collaborative approach is key to the mission to Portland’s only non-profit art gallery collective.

“We’re a collective helping to build the creative economy of Portland by engaging the community with what we do at the gallery and through our art, our programs and community partnerships,” said Jos Ruks, President of the Maine Artist Collective. “We’re a group of around thirty individual stars that together form this constellation; I like to call it the Star Gallery. We have members from around the world, now living in Maine, which makes a richer art experience with cultural insights coming through the work.”

The collective is structured democratically, so members can choose the leadership of the organization and participate with the running of the gallery and it’s educational programs.

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Nouveau Cirque Theater comes to Maine with Bowdoin College’s Harrison Bergeron

April 19th, 2014 · Filed under: Arts & Entertainment, Community Maine, Creative Economy, Issue 40

Harrison Bergeron Escapes from the Zoo was Maine's first Nouveau Cirque play. photo by Ramona du Houx

Harrison Bergeron Escapes from the Zoo was Maine’s first Nouveau Cirque play. photo by Ramona du Houx

Harrison Bergeron Escapes from the Zoo was a theater in the round production with aerial dance and multimedia messaging— using iPads. No matter where you looked something was happening from the ceiling to the floor and in the balconies above the stage. This nouveau cirque production incorporated aerial silks, dance, original music, seamless choreography, theatre, clowning, visual art, and media design all into a high impactful story of forty-two minutes.

For Maine, Harrison Bergeron Escapes from the Zoo was the first true nouveau cirque play.

Adapted by the cast from Kurt Vonnegut’s eight-page story, Harrison Bergeron is a social satire, set in the future where citizens have been rendered equal by having their talents handicapped. The thought provoking show, put on by Visiting Assistant Professor of Theater and Dance, Kathyrn Syssoyeva, and her class at Bowdoin College, enticed and delighted as the audience witnessed the resilience of the human spirit and an iron fist that controls— by restricting creativity.

Harrison Bergeron, the play, photos by Ramona du Houx

Harrison Bergeron, the play, photos by Ramona du Houx

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Report shows Maine leading the way in farming revival

July 18th, 2014 · Filed under: Business & Innovation, Community Maine, Farming, Issue 41, Issues

Organic Farm, photo by Ramona du Houx

Organic Farm, photo by Ramona du Houx

Statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that farming in Maine is on the increase, with Maine leading New England in the number of farms in operation.

“The farm economy in Maine is alive and well and growing,” said.Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. “It’s grown by almost 25 percent over five years and Maine farmers are younger and more likely to be women than in the country overall. And CSAs are more popular in Maine than in nearly any other state in the country.”

According to Gary Keough, a statistician for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, agriculture sales increased by 24 percent from 2007 to 2012. The average age for Maine farmers is 1.3 years younger than the national average, and 29 percent of Maine farmers are women, compared to just 17 percent nationally. And Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) arrangements, where consumers pay a fixed price for a share of a farm’s output, are more popular in Maine than almost anywhere else in the country, with Maine ranking third in the number of farms participating in CSAs.

“You can see Maine people take high quality local food and farming seriously,” said Pingree. “Just look at the growth of organic farming, which increased by over 50 percent in five years.”

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Congressman Mike Michaud leads the race for governor in new statewide Maine poll

July 18th, 2014 · Filed under: Capitol news

The Michaud for Maine campaign today released the results of a new statewide poll that shows U.S. Rep. Michaud leading the race for governor, with Gov. Paul LePage stuck in the 30s and independent Eliot Cutler dropping further into the low teens.

The poll, which was conducted July 14-16, found Michaud leading the race with 41 percent of the vote, while LePage had 37 percent and Cutler had 13 percent. Only 7 percent of voters were undecided.

“Our most recent poll confirms what we have seen consistently throughout this race. Congressman Michaud is maintaining a small lead over Gov. LePage, while Eliot Cutler is far behind, even after his supporters spent $125,000 on television commercials trying to boost his campaign,” said Matt McTighe, campaign manager for Michaud. “Congressman Michaud remains the candidate to beat in this race and has the best chance to unseat Gov. LePage.”

The three candidates in the race are well-known and have strong name identification, with 98 percent of respondents identifying LePage, 92 percent identifying Michaud and 81 percent identifying Cutler.

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LePage held back $4.6 million in state funding to play politics with nursing homes

July 18th, 2014 · Filed under: Capitol news, Health Care, Healthy Lifestyles

Maine State Capitol photo by Ramona du Houx

Maine State Capitol photo by Ramona du Houx

 Top Democratic leaders slammed Governor Paul LePage’s administration for playing politics with money that could help struggling nursing homes across the state. LePage announced that for weeks his administration has been working on a plan to provide $4.6 million in state funding to nursing homes, in addition to the $12 million already provided by the Legislature as part of LD 1776. Funds were allocated by the Legislature without LePage’s approval for nursing homes.  But for weeks LePage has been inaccurately blaming Democrats for failing to fund nursing homes. And at a press conference the Governor bizarrely claimed credit for the bill, that helps nursing homes, although his signature is not on the law.

“The Governor’s announcement is more proof that he’s been playing politics with nursing homes. Why would he sit on $4.6 million in savings when nursing homes were struggling? And why would he call on lawmakers to return to Augusta when he already had the funding?” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves. “The timing of this announcement is clearly meant to distract from his poor track record for Maine seniors and his latest out-of-touch comment labeling Social Security as Welfare. It’s smoke and mirrors.”

In addition, LePage has consistently taken funds from healthcare initiatives to help balance his budgets and give a substantial tax break to Maine’s 1 percent. LePage raided the Fund for Healthy Maine, which are monies the state receives from the federal government as part of the nationwide tabacco settlement. Governor Baldacci, LePage’s predecessor, never allocated money from the Fund for a Healthy Maine for anything other than healthcare related issues, as a matter of principle. Baldacci had stated, “the health and well being of Maine citizens has to be any governor’s top priority.”

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Cain for Congress reports more than $375,000 in 2nd quarter fundraising

July 15th, 2014 · Filed under: Capitol news

Rep. Emily Cain in Augusta. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Cain for Congress is reporting $379,093 in fundraising for the second quarter in Emily Cain’s campaign for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District. That total includes $270,239 in fundraising since the last reporting deadline on May 21, 2014. This report brings the overall total for the campaign cycle to $871,491 raised by Cain for Congress.

“Emily Cain is the candidate that will represent the values of the 2nd District in Washington, period,” said Levi Knapp, campaign manager of Cain for Congress. “She advocates for the working class families in the state, and isn’t afraid to work together for the best interests of Maine people. She knows the values of the district because she shares those values. And that’s why most of her money has come from within the state – because she’s running against someone who is a millionaire who believes that rules don’t apply to him. And that’s not the voice that this district wants in Washington.”

The fundraising report, which will be reported to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) later today, shows the campaign with more than $243,000 cash on hand at the end of the quarter.

“Maine voters have a clear choice in November,” said Knapp. “Bruce Poliquin supports budgets that ultimately cost seniors more money and is out of step with Maine voters on issues like abortion and choice. On the flipside, Emily is the best candidate to represent the views of the 2nd CD in Washington because she shares our values, and knows how to work for the people she represents.”

Cain’s campaign has been endorsed by the AFL-CIO, EMILY’s List, League of Conservation Voters, IBEW Local 104, Equality Maine, The Maine State Association of Letter Carriers, The American Federation of Teachers, The American Nurses Association, American Maritime Officers, International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots, Seafarers International Union, Marine Engineer’s Beneficial Association, Human Rights Campaign, NARAL, The Women’s Campaign Fund, WUFPAC, The Council for a Livable World, and dozens of current legislators, former legislators, and town and county officials throughout the district.

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Statoil pumps $2.5 billion in UK offshore floating wind project instead of Maine

July 15th, 2014 · Filed under: Business & Innovation, Energy Issues, Environment

Hywind Scotland Park Overview, courtesy of Stratiol

Statoil Oil is investing $2.5 billion in the Dudgeon Offshore Wind Farm project off the shores off the coast of Norfolk, UK.  Statiol’s 30 MW pilot project under construction will consist of five, 6 MW floating turbines operating in waters exceeding 100m of depth. The Pilot Park objectives will demonstrate cost efficient and low risk solutions for commercial scale parks. The project was destined to be in Maine, until Governor Paul LePage got involved. He forced through a bill revoking an agreement between the state of Maine’s Public Utilities Commission and Stratoil to build an offshore wind farm, with help from rate payers. Once the company learned that Gov. LePage would not honor the business agreement they decided to build the wind farm in the UK.

The technology that will be used in the pilot project has been tested in a demonstration project off the coast of Norway and with tests in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. Statoil had plans for four test turbines off Boothbay Harbor. The company pulled out of Maine in October, 2013, saying it would focus its research and development in Scotland, which had a clearer policy on offshore wind energy.

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President Obama orders review of the effect of pesticides on bees

July 15th, 2014 · Filed under: Economy, Environment, Farming

President Barack Obama, on June 21, ordered environmental regulators to review the effect that pesticides may be having on bees and other pollinators that have suffered significant losses in recent years. Bee’s are essential to our ecosystem.

The order signed by President Barack Obama also called for a sweeping strategy for all government agencies in the next six months that would protect pollinators by improving their habitat. “Over the past few decades, there has been a significant loss of pollinators, including honey bees, native bees, birds, bats, and butterflies, from the environment,” said President Obama.“The problem is serious and requires immediate attention.”

The European Union has already banned three common pesticides, known as neonicotinoids, on the basis that they were making bees sick.

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The Maine Artists Collective is proud to present The Stories and Life of Beatrix Potter

July 14th, 2014 · Filed under: Arts & Entertainment, Books

The Constellation Gallery, home of the Maine Artists Collective, is proud to present The Stories and Life of Beatrix Potter, on July 17th at 6pm. Potter is an original play written and directed by Lisa A. Crothers, performed by Danielle Jarosz.

Lisa’s work as a social-documentary photographer incorporates writing and photography. She gives a needed voice to critical social issues of our time. She is a member of the Maine Artist Collective and has work on exhibit at the Constellation Gallery that conjures deep emotions.

Crothers is an independent community educator, who passionately advocates for the arts & humanities. She teaches courses in both English and the Humanities at the higher education level.

“My role in the community is advocacy for the arts and humanities. I work on projects that blend literary works into events or performances for people to enjoy. I want people to experience classical literature— visually,” said Lisa. “This comes from my love-hate relationship with Shakespeare. I always hated Shakespeare’s work, until I started working in the field of literature and discovered that the bard’s work was meant to be experienced— not read. That can be true for many works of literature.”

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Michaud and Pingree help restore funding for tidal power in Federal Spending Bill

July 11th, 2014 · Filed under: Business & Innovation, Community Maine, Energy Issues

Congressman Michael Michaud and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree helped restore $9 million in funding for a program that has already invested over $18 million in Maine tidal projects since 2008. Michaud, who had previously led a House effort to support funding for the program, joined Pingree, a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, to successfully push for an amendment to the bill that sets spending levels for the Department of Energy. Their amendment, which was also sponsored by Rep. Suzanne Bonamici of Oregon, passed the House today by a wide margin, including the support of dozens of Republicans.

“The Water Power Program supports critical private-sector research, development, deployment and commercialization for marine hydrokinetic energy technology developed here in Maine,” said Michaud. “Other countries have already shown interest, presenting great opportunities for exporting American technology. Now is not the time for a drastic cut to this important program. I look forward to working with the Senate to increase funding even more.

The amendment restores $9 million in cuts to the portion of the Department of Energy budget that funds the Marine and Hyrdokinetic Energy Program. That program promotes research and development of emerging technology that generates clean energy from the nation’s oceans and rivers. Michaud and Pingree’s amendment pays for the restored funding by cutting the budget for the Department of Energy’s administrative expenses.

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Maine panel tasked to create a plan to improve access to food for hungry children meets

July 8th, 2014 · Filed under: Capitol news, Community Maine, Public Safety

Maine State Capitol photo by Ramona du Houx

Maine State Capitol photo by Ramona du Houx

The Task Force to End Student Hunger convened yesterday in Augusta for its first of five meetings focused on developing a multi-year plan to improve access to food for students and end child hunger in Maine.

During today’s meeting, the panel focused on gaining an understanding of the scope of hunger among school-aged children in Maine and the numerous programs and agencies involved in providing meals to Maine’s students.

“The reality is that student hunger connects every part of our state. It is a Maine problem,” said Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland, who serves as the co-chair of the task force. “If we want our students to be successful then we must improve the reality that almost one in four school-aged children in Maine is hungry.”

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Portland City Council might vote tonight to repeal the city’s buffer zone outside of health centers

July 7th, 2014 · Filed under: Civil Rights

We Must Move Forward to Protect Women’s Access to Reproductive Health Care Services

Portland City Council might vote tonight to repeal the city’s buffer zone outside of health centers.Last month the Supreme Court ruled to strike down buffer zones outside of women’s health centers.

“If elected governor, I am committed to working with the Legislature and Attorney General’s office to move forward with common sense measures that strike the right balance between protecting First Amendment rights and patient safety. These include ‘floating’ or ‘bubble’ protection zones around all health centers, the kind of protected zones that were upheld by the Supreme Court 14 years ago (Hill v. Colorado),” said Congressman Mike Michaud.

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