The Star-Herald

Maine-based contest to highlight work exclusively from Aroostook County artists

AROOSTOOK COUNTY, Maine — The people behind a Maine-based art contest are seeking submissions from Aroostook County artists on themes of community and reunion during the pandemic.

Lights Out Art Consulting, an online-based business, recently launched #MaineReunited, a series of contests aimed at promoting artistic growth in Maine’s most rural counties. The group recently ended a contest in Oxford County and has now set their sights on finding new and established artists in Aroostook.

The contest is open to adults and children, with a deadline of Feb. 18. 

Lights Out encourages artists of all media to create works inspired by questions such as, “What does reunion look like to you?”, “How do communities face challenges together?” and “How does a common experience like the pandemic unite us?”

Executive Director Daniel Sipe, a native of Presque Isle, said that opening the contest to adults and children can allow for broader conversations within communities on how people experience isolation differently.

“Both adults and children have been feeling the same lack of community during the pandemic. Art can be a way for parents to talk with their children about why community matters,” Sipe said. 

The #MaineReunited Aroostook County Art Contest will award $1,000 prizes in three categories: an Adult Award, Youth Award and People’s Choice Award. All submissions will be featured on the Lights Out Art Consulting Facebook page. Viewers can vote for the People’s Choice Award by liking the post that features their favorite work of art.

Lights Out plans to announce the winners by March 28. All three winners will be featured on the Facebook page with short videos of them explaining their inspirations. Lights Out plans to host a celebration of the award winners in Presque Isle in April, with the exact date and location to be determined.

A full list of contest guidelines can be found on the Lights Out website.

Seven of the nine contest judges are Aroostook County residents, many of whom are involved in local arts organizations. 

They include Maine state Sen. Troy Jackson, Shelby Pelletier, owner of The Common Gallery in Presque Isle; Billi Griffeth, a member of Wintergreen Arts Center’s board of directors; Jason Parent, CEO and executive director of Aroostook County Action Program; Sofia Birden, art exhibit curator and director of library services at UMFK; Alexandria Bishop, a creative project management expert based in Island Falls; and Danielle Hartnett, co-owner of the UnContained Art Center in Houlton.

The list of judges is rounded out by Abdulkerim Said, former executive director of New Mainers Public Health Initiative, and Chanbopha Himm, program manager of the Maine DHHS COVID Social Support.

“We wanted most of the judges to be from Aroostook but also wanted to get the perspectives of people not from the region,” Sipe said.

With the contest, Lights Out hopes to give both amateur and professional Aroostook County artists a larger platform on which to share their work. They also want to use art as a means of spreading community spirit during a time when many need it most.

“We hope this gives people a creative way to express what community means to them and how important it is to be grateful for the communities we have,” said Helen Lukac, director of special projects for Lights Out.

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