In the past few weeks three dynamic community leaders have joined the board of the Maine Alliance for Arts & Education (MAAE), helping to cement the organization’s position as the state’s only non-profit advocate for ALL the arts and for quality arts education for all Maine students.  Odelle Bowman, executive director of L/A Arts in Lewiston, was elected to the board in December and has assumed the role of Vice-Chair.  Con Fullam, director of Portland-based Pihcintu (a 30-voice girls’ chorus composed entirely of children from immigrant families), was elected in January; and Sandra Ruch, a documentary filmmaker, former director of marketing for New Line Cinema, and former director of the International Documentary Association, was elected in February.

“We are incredibly lucky to have these talented and enthusiastic individuals on our board of directors,” said Elizabeth Watson, MAAE’s board chair. “Each of them brings remarkable talents, connections, and creativity to our organization at a time when we are most in need of those qualities. In the wake of the nation’s financial crisis MAAE, like many other non-profits, saw a dramatic decline in revenues, and during 2012 we scaled back programs while transitioning to new leadership.  With Peter Alexander now serving as our executive director we have broadened our name and mission and are restructuring our operations and programs. Our new board members are a big part of this.”

Julie Richard, the new Executive Director of the Maine Arts Commission echoed these sentiments. “I am pleased that the Maine Alliance for Arts & Education is expanding its mission and it’s board of directors,” she said. “The Maine Arts Commission anticipates working closely with MAAE in the future to advocate for the arts and arts funding here in Maine.”

MAAE was founded in 1973 as one of thirty-three state affiliates of the Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education Network to ensure that every Maine student has life-long access to high quality arts education.  “We are still true to this mission,” said Alexander, “But to be even more effective we need to bolster the arts in every aspect of the community, because arts education gets a lot more attention where the arts play a central role in a community’s economy and quality of life.  Our board understands this, and our new members, as leaders of arts organizations themselves, will be instrumental in charting our course forward, each of them assisting in unique ways that draw on their particular skills and passions.”

Alexander explained further that Sandra Ruch is helping develop and promote a new membership program with an array of valuable benefits for both individuals and institutions, such as fiscal sponsorship and access to foundation funding resources and low-cost insurance.  Con Fullam is helping develop a series of “Careers in the Arts” symposiums that will bring students from all over Maine into direct contact with nationally known professional musicians, artists, dancers and actors.  Odelle Bowman, through her extraordinary work at L/A Arts, is already demonstrating the guiding principle of MAAE’s new direction: that students, parents, school administrators, and elected officials place greater value on arts education programs when the role of the arts and culture is prominently featured in the life of the community.