Twice a year, we at Love Maine Radio are fortunate to take part in a daylong gathering of creative Mainers of every description called “Maine Live.” Today we speak with two of our upcoming Maine Live speakers: Maine’s current poet laureate, Stuart Kestenbaum, is the interim president of the Maine College of Art; Donna McNeil is the former director of the Maine Arts Commission.
Stuart Kestenbaum is the author of four collections of poems, most recently Only Now (Deerbrook Editions). He has also written The View from Here (Brynmorgen Press), a book of brief essays on craft and community. He was appointed Maine’s poet laureate last March. He was the director of the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, Maine for twenty-seven years, and was elected an honorary fellow of the American Craft Council in 2006. He is also the recipient of the Distinguished Educator Award from the James Renwick Alliance. This year he’s serving as interim president of Maine College of Art.
In 1999, Donna McNeil sold her gallery and home in Massachusetts, and moved her life and livelihood to Maine. Just four years later, she started working with the Maine Arts Commission, and in 2009, she was named the director of the organization. During her time there, McNeil initiated the Good Idea Grant, seed money that helped fund artist-led projects across the state. Under McNeil’s leadership, the Maine Arts Commission helped to establish Maine as the state that boasted the highest individual award for artists, $13,000 in five genres, given annually. She oversaw the creation of Creative Communities Equal Economic Development, which provides funding for communities to foster their creative industry and work collectively with government, business, and the arts. After retiring from her post at the commission in 2013, McNeil has continued to support the arts in Maine, serving on the board of directors at Friends of the Blaine House, on the grant committee at Maine Women’s Fund, and on the Insight Committee at Space Gallery.