What’s Art Got to Do With It?

First annual Arts in Action Project and Conference in Belfast

Tickets, registration now available
Sep 19, 2019
Vijay Gupta opens the First Annual Arts in Action Project in Belfast.

BELFAST — Addiction, social justice and the opioid crisis in Maine. What’s art got to do with it? Find out at the First Annual Arts and Activism Conference beginning Friday evening on Nov. 1, when the public is invited to the keynote-performance at the Bayview Point Event Center Theatre, also the site of the United Farmer’s Market at 18 Spring St. Events continue throughout that weekend.

Keynote speaker Vijay Gupta is an esteemed performer, communicator and citizen-artist, and a leading advocate for the role of the arts and music to heal, inspire, provoke change and foster social connection. He was recently interviewed by PBS NewsHour and appeared on NBC’s Dateline after he was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2018.

He will perform and speak practically and tactically about how he uses his talent, skill and passion, and that of his Street Symphony and Urban Voices, to impact the lives of people living on the streets or those incarcerated. Gupta will be joined by Maine dignitaries and special musical friends.

“Gupta is one of the most radical thinkers in the unradical world of American classical music,” explains Alex Ross, in a recent New Yorker article about him, “with Street Symphony, he has created a formidable new model for how musical institutions should engage with the world around them.”

Belfast Creative Coalition Director Larraine Brown conceived the project as a way for communities to summon the power of the arts to deepen healing and recover ourselves.

“Using the tools of writing, visual arts, performance, theater and music, creatives, educators and interested people from all disciplines and sectors will consider the opioid epidemic through the powerful lens of creative expression,” Brown said.

Doors open on Friday, Nov. 1, at 6 p.m. and will begin with music and an interactive arts installation that is a visual arts response to social justice issues and addiction from our community. Tickets for Friday night are $30 each and are available on belfastcreativecoalition.org.

On Saturday, Nov. 2, the conference continues featuring a full day of "artivism" workshops in partnership with University of Maine Hutchinson Center. Workshops at the Hutchinson Center, 80 Belmont Ave., include four tracks: Visual Arts in Action, Written Word in Action, Performing Arts in Action, and Musical Arts in Action. Morning presenters include Natasha Irving & the Artist Rapid Response Team from Portland; writer and poet Joe Jackson, director of the Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition in Augusta; and storyteller Gerald Stropnicky from Bloomsburg, Penn. Morning workshops are followed by an afternoon masterclass with Vijay Gupta.

Gupta’s Saturday afternoon masterclass offers participants deeper insight into his work with Street Symphony and Urban Voices, inspiring conference attendees to effect change in their own communities, empowered by their own human, civic and artistic voices.

The conference concludes Sunday morning, Nov. 3, with a final session of Imagining Solutions at the Basil Burwell Community Theatre (BAZZ), 17 Court St., a continuation of the recent Community Conversations series sponsored by Belfast Creative Coalition and RAW 4 Change. Concluding talking circles, led by trained facilitators, support participants in exploring concrete, sustainable ways to engage in creative and artistic efforts in their own communities to address the opioid crisis and related social justice issues. Brunch is provided by residents from the Maine Coastal Regional Reentry Center. For more on the Community Conversations series go to belfastcreativecoalition.org.

Robyn Goff, conference chair and program director at the Maine Regional Coastal Reentry Center (MRCRC), became involved in the project through the work she is doing at the Waldo County Recovery Committee and other organizations relating to the opioid epidemic. “Our state is the midst of an opioid epidemic and Waldo County has not been spared,” says Goff. “We need every avenue available to address it. Like many other people, I get tunnel-visioned on forms of treatment out there; medication-assisted treatment, counseling, religion, support groups and our newly added Recovery Coach Program at MRCRC. But when my friend Larraine told me her idea for this event in November, it was like, ‘Oh yes....we cannot forget about the arts as a pathway to recovery either!’”

Every day Goff looks up at the Volunteers of America mission statement on her office wall: "Guided by faith, with the talents of many, in the spirit of compassion and collaboration, we will be innovative agents of social change, positively impacting lives." Goff said, “I take that very seriously and if this project is not an example of that, I don't know what is.”

Tickets, registration and full schedule are available online at belfastcreativecoalition.org. For more information, email info@belfastcreativecoalition or call 218-1144.

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