Grantee Spotlight

Grantee Update: Mayo Street Arts

Mayo Street Arts began as a nonprofit performing arts center housed in the historic former St. Ansgar’s Church in Portland’s East Bayside neighborhood. Founded in 2009, Mayo Street Arts has grown over the past decade to serve as a vital community hub not only for visual and performing artists but also for youth and families in the surrounding neighborhood. Located on the edge of the Kennedy Park Housing Development, the arts center abuts the most ethnically-diverse and densely-populated square mile in Maine. With more than 150 programs presented annually, audience members and artists are from Maine, Somalia, DR Congo, Angola, Honduras, Iran, Iraq, and the Sudan. Since 2013, the Sam L. Cohen Foundation has made three grants to support Mayo Street Arts and its efforts to strengthen their neighborhood through arts and community activities.

Mayo Street Arts has seen rapid growth in the number of program participants and recipients of services offered at the art center. The Sam L. Cohen Foundation’s initial support helped Mayo Street Arts bring together a small group of students to participate in their weekly “Club Hip Hop”. Since that 2013 grant, Mayo Street Arts has more than tripled the number of neighborhood children who participate in programs. This impressive increase can be attributed to Mayo Street Arts’ small and dedicated staff that relies on their creativity and their ability to engender robust community partnerships. They host a wide range of arts programming including classes led by students in Maine College of Art’s Public Engagement program, puppet theater for neighborhood children, and the continued success of “Club Hip Hop” led by teachers from Portland Youth Dance. Intersecting with their arts programs, Mayo Street Arts has become a hub of community services. Mayo Street initiated a Neighborhood Watch program and hosts the National Night Out Neighborhood celebration each year. The Bangor Daily News documented the August 2018 National Night Out with a colorful photo essay. Mayo Street Arts also provides a study center and homework club, and with support from the Sam L. Cohen Foundation the RAD summer program (Reading Art Dance) completed its fourth year, providing free reading tutoring and art instruction for ELL students from the Kennedy Park neighborhood. Mayo Street Arts hosts the East End School’s summer tutoring program and was the site for the neighborhood’s free summer meals program. They also work closely with East Bayside Community Policing, and the arts facility is a regular stop for the Portland Public Library Bookmobile.

The community’s affection for Mayo Street also played a role in a recent fund-raising effort by the center. A routine fire inspection revealed a necessary overhaul to the sprinkler system, and Mayo Street Arts was able to raise $14,000 in four days. More than 100 of the contributions were $25 or less, and most were small contributions from “friends of friends” of the art center. Mayo Street Arts continues to make improvements to their historic building, and this past summer constructed an outdoor classroom and theater space in the church’s backyard. Mayo Street Arts is in the final months of their 2017 operating support grant where Sam L. Cohen Foundation funds support the 2018 season of international music, dance, and art that reflects and celebrates the diversity of the neighborhood surrounding the center.

2018 Sam L. Cohen Pioneer Scholars

The Pioneer Scholar Program, a partnership between supporters and the Mitchell Institute, provides the opportunity to recognize specific Mitchell Scholars and Alumni who, through their contributions to school and community and their demonstration of certain qualities – as students and as citizens – stand out for acknowledgement.

Congratulations to:

Habso Omane - Portland High School * Smith College

Syeda Washima Fairoz - Biddeford High School * Mount Holyoke College

Luke Gosselin - Thornton Academy * University of Maine



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