Art at Work: An Arts & Equity Initiative

Location:  Portland, ME
Project Description: 

Art at Work, founded by Marty Pottenger in 2007, is a national initiative piloted in Portland, Maine, designed to improve municipal government through strategic art-making projects with city employees and elected officials. Since 2007, the project has fostered collaborative efforts between artists, city departments, unions, and elected officials that have yielded posters, photographs, prints, and poems crafted by city workers. Art at Work is grounded in the belief that art serves as a way for government workers to share their experiences with the broader community. This art can serve to advance public understanding of what government workers contribute to society, foster reflection that improves municipal operations, and strengthen awareness of their significance to the community. Art produced as part of the project serves to enhance dialogue between government workers and the public, and also to foster understanding of diversity among workers. The Police Poetry Project, an example from the Art at Work initiative, pairs poets and photographers with members of the Portland Police Department to create art about the daily work of police. Each year, the resulting photographs are assembled as a calendar, and distributed as a focus for departmental and community dialogue. Other programs of Art at Work have paired printmakers with employees in the Local Health and Social Service Department and the Public Works Department to produce art that has strengthened team mentality, heightened morale, and improved the operations of the municipal government. Art at Work is currently meeting with other cities in order to replicate this project nationwide.