AAW Promotional Document AAW Promotional Document AAW Promotional Document About Art at Work

Art at Work Initiative History

"You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited." – Albert Einstein


ART AT WORK (AAW)  is a national initiative to give municipal governments the powerful resource that comes from direct creative engagement. We begin by interviewing key stakeholders to identify critical challenges. We then design a strategic arts project to address that issue, engaging the city workers, elected officials and union members that are connected to the issue. The proccess of making art - poetry, collages, photographs, or music - dramatically increases participants’ ability to actively engage, function as a team, envision a positive outcome, remember their connections and be willing to take inspired risks that lead to innovative solutions.

ART AT WORK employs creative intelligence as a vital tool for municipalities to leverage the talents of their own workforce as well as the communities they serve. In the face of increasingly complex municipal challenges and diminishing resources, ART AT WORK has successfully demonstrated that artmaking is a valuable, cost-effective, sustainable tool to both address intransigent municipal problems and deepen the public’s awareness and appreciation of local government’s role in creating healthy, educated, engaged, economically vibrant communities.

ART AT WORK’s assets-based approach promotes an ingenuity that leads to concrete innovative solutions. In partnership with the City of Portland, Maine since 2007, ART AT WORK  has put creativity to work delivering measurable outcomes to improve police force morale, deepen cross-cultural understanding among Public Service workers and raise public awareness and appreciation for the role of government.

ART AT WORK/Portland has succeeded in fostering a culture of collaboration that has directly involved over a hundred city employees and more than fifty local artists. City employees have created hundreds of original artworks, performances, poetry readings and civic dialogues that have engaged over 25,000 people in the region and reached over a million people through local and major media outlets. City workers' posters, prints, photographs, and poems hang in galleries, city parking garages, lunchrooms, recycling centers, police stations, libraries, conference rooms, and maintenance shops, increasing awareness, respect and pride.

Created by the arts non-profit Terra Moto Inc, and led by the award-winning theater artist Marty Pottenger, ART AT WORK has been selected by the National Endowment for the Arts for it's national Our Town initiative and nominated for a National Leaque of Cities Best Practices Award. ART AT WORK is currently focused on partnering with five more cities over this year and it's two citywide Portland projects - Meeting Place and Portland Works.



American Festival Project's Art & Democracy Gathering at Appalshop in Whitesburg, KY hosted a panel organized by Pottenger "Performance to Policy: the use of the arts in developing municipal policies"



'Home land security' opens to sell-out crowds at Portland's Center for Cultural Exchange. A community performance written and directed by Pottenger, performers included the Mayor, Fire Chief, NAACP President and leaders from the MicMac, Sudanese, homeless, Latino, African American, Franco, Kurd and Somali communities.



Bi-monthly exploratory/planning meetings with Pottenger and Portland's Director of Multicultural Affairs Rachel Talbot Ross, City Councilor Duson, Deering HS Principal Kunin and Portland's Director of Multilingual Education Valenzuela



• With first year funding from Nathan Cummings Foundation and the Maine Community Foundation and a 3 year contract with the City of Portland, Pottenger moved to Portland from NYC to begin developing the "Arts & Equity Initiative" a program of arts nonprofit Terra Moto Inc.

• Established pilot program Arts & Equity at City Hall



• Artists Elizabeth Jabar, Head of Printmaking at Maine College of the Arts and Daniel Minter, artist/illustrator and Marty Pottenger became the first 3 AEI artists.

• Workshops led by Elizabeth Jabar with the Dept of Health & Human Services, "Ties That Bind"

• Workshops led by Daniel Minter with the Dept. of Public Services, "Public Works"

• Readings and workshops led by Marty Pottenger with the Police Department, "Thin Blue Lines"

• City Hall's Chambers Gallery founded on the 2nd floor of City Hall.

• "Ties That Bind" and "Public Works" exhibition of city employees work at City Hall's Chambers Gallery

• Police Poetry Calendar 2009 published to international media attention



• Police Poetry Reading from the 2009 Calendar Book held at Portland Public Library, April

• City Writers Group began, inviting all city employees to participate

• Work chapbook by the City Writers Group is printed which included essays, poems, stories by city employees.

• 16 Work posters exhibited at City Hall's Chambers Gallery

• 16 Work posters installed at employees' worksites including parking garage and departments and offices including Treasury, Custodial, Parking, Survey/Planning, Dispatch, Fire, Construction and the Portland Public Library

• AEI's name changed to Art At Work

• Police Poetry Calendar 2010 published

City Hall