Volunteer Spotlight- Amy!

Meet Amy, this week’s volunteer spotlight!

Amy’s volunteering began when she started attending FoCSP operations meetings shortly after starting to work for Portland Downtown in 2016. Amy serves as the Program Director at Portland Downtown which supports cleanliness and safety in the community which means her work is directly linked to the goings on in the park.

She describes her evolution into more volunteering by saying, “After getting to know board members, staff, and other volunteers, I wanted to do more. In addition to the operations meetings, I helped early this season with planting and weeding in the park, and I assist other volunteers with park set-up each week – cleaning tables, arranging tables and chairs, picking up trash, etc.” Her handy work in the park each week is part of what keeps it an inviting and vibrant space!

Her favorite part about volunteering is meeting community members in the park! She finds that while relaxing or volunteering in the park, she always sees someone she knows or gets to make a new friend! The phenominal familiarity of the space reminds us that though Portland may feel increasingly urban, it still holds the charms of small town interconnectedness and interactions. Amy tells a tory that is a great example of this.

“While gardening in the park, I met a woman who turned out to be a yoga colleague’s mother (I’m a yoga student and teacher). Portland is such a small town!”

In Amy’s perfect day, she makes time to be in Portland’s pockets of nature to rejuvenate. She enjoys any of the downtown’s ten public parks, the Longfellow House garden, or by enjoying 70 miles of trails and green space supported by Portland Trails.

Amy is such a warm and cheerful presence in the Portand community and we are so lucky to have her as a volunteer! Thank you, Amy. WE APPRECIATE YOU!

To meet Amy and other awesome volunteers in the park, stop by one of our upcoming events here: http://congresssquarepark.org/events/

And to learn more about volunteering with us check out: http://congresssquarepark.org/volunteer/ OR contact: <volunteer@congresssquarepark.org>

Building Safe and Supportive Community

Friends of Congress Square Park is invested in safety in the park for all visitors. This year, we’ve been offering training resources to our volunteers, community partners and open space groups, and the general public. We believe that the more informed we are, the better we can create a welcoming space and assist neighbors in need.

We recently partnered with the Portland Needle Exchange to host a public Overdose Response Training hosted by Zoe Brokos, Community Health Promotion Specialist from the Needle Exchange Program. 

Portland Needle Exchange is a tremendous local resource! Zoe works with participants to provide risk reduction education, overdose prevention education, supplies like naxalone, case management services, and testing for HIV, Hepatitis C, and STDs. She also provides referrals to drug treatment programs upon request.

 

In the training, Zoe covered:

  • How to recognize an overdose
  • Risks of an opioid overdose
  • How to respond as a lay person to overdose
  • All about Naloxone- what is it? how to use it? who can carry it? 

Did you know that all Portland emergency responders carry Naxalone (also known as NARCAN) to treat overdoses? And did you know that the drug is simply an opioid blocker that you simply spray in the nose? It stops the opioid from slowing heart rate and breathing so the person experiencing the crisis can breathe normally again. You can never hurt someone by administering NARCAN, you can only help.

People who attended the workshop said they felt the training helped to reframe internal expectations about what it meant to intervene. Witnessing an overdose and trying to help can feel scary, but upon learning about effective and safe ways to assist, participants felt more confident in their ability to comfortably make a difference until Emergency Medical Services arrive.

Slides from Zoe’s presentation are available here and here. Read them, share them, and ask more questions!

The Portland Needle Exchange Program (NEP) is located at 103 India Street in Portland and can be reached via phone at (207) 756-8024. To learn more about trainings and resources available through NEP, contact Zoe Brokos or view their Website.

For more resources in Portland, view the list below.

 

Volunteer Spotlight-Pat!

Meet Pat, this week’s volunteer spotlight!

Pat is one of the original advocates for Congress Square Park. She joined a group in 2012 to oppose the sale of the so-called failed space to a hotel to be used as private event space. Since the formation of the Friends of Congress Square Park in 2013, Pat has served as the Vice President, Treasurer, and Secretary of the board at different times. She helped Friends of Congress Square Park attain its non-profit status and set up our accounting system! She remains an integral part of the board today and participates in our Safety Committee. She was one of the first to show her passionate care for the space and her devotion is such a gift to us!

Beyond her wisdom on the board, Pat volunteers in the mornings as a park steward ensuring the cleanliness of the furniture and attending to general park maintenance. This simple task helps maintain the beauty of the space! And when she is not volunteering in the square she can be found, wearing awesome hats, at Movie Nights or at Chase the Chill Knitting in Public group.

Her favorite part of volunteering is meeting new people. She describes how fun it is to talk with people from out of town who are shocked to hear that Congress Square Park was once called a failed public space.

Thank you, Pat for being such dynamic and caring presence in the space! WE APPRECIATE YOU!

To meet Pat and other awesome volunteers in the park, check out one of our upcoming events here: http://congresssquarepark.org/events/

And to learn more about volunteering with us check out: http://congresssquarepark.org/volunteer/ OR contact: <volunteer@congresssquarepark.org>

Volunteer Spotlight- April!

Meet April, this week’s volunteer spotlight!

April is one of our newest volunteers and in her short time volunteering in the square has already made a big positive impact. April volunteers as an Event Ambassador in the Square. She was inspired to join us after watching an elementary school talent show, where she was reminded of how much she loves being involved in the arts community of Portland!

Throughout her experience volunteering in the Square, April has been able to reconnect to the arts community that she loves and meet many new people! She describes, “There’s such a variety in who comes to – or even performs for – these events and it’s amazing to be able to interact with all of them and share the experiences we have together in Congress Square.”

She has enjoyed being a part of the connection in the Square that happens both during and outside of events. For example, one night as April was walking through the Park with a fresh Otto’s pizza, she met a woman named Kathy. Kathy and her, complete strangers, sat sharing a pizza and chatting about their favorite events that happen in Congress Square Park. Kathy solidified for April how important it is to maintain free and public space in urban areas.

Outside of volunteering April does illustration, programming, and co-runs an independent game company called Lonely Cryptid Media. She describes the components of her perfect day as nice weather, a great breakfast, and a plethora of time to make art!

Thank you, April for cultivating connection and sharing your artistry with us in the Square! WE APPRECIATE YOU!

To meet April and other awesome volunteers in the park, check out one of our upcoming events here: http://congresssquarepark.org/events/

And to learn more about volunteering with us check out: http://congresssquarepark.org/volunteer/ OR contact: <volunteer@congresssquarepark.org>

 

July Printable Calendar Available!

July is jam packed!

What’s notable in July? Well, you’ll get to enjoy:

  • More weekly wellness offerings – including Nia and Zumba!
  • The weekly Saturday Snack Shop with sweet and savory treats from Fork Food Lab (visit the painted OpBox in the Square to check it out!)
  • Really special events like the opening of Pianos in the Square (come play a public piano every day this month) and the Social Justice Street Fair
  • Portland Summer Films every Sunday at dusk
  • Soooo much more!

Click here to download a printable version of the July calendar!

 

Volunteer Spotlight- Maya!

This week’s volunteer spotlight is our dear Maya!

Maya has been involved in volunteering in Congress Square Park as an integral member of our Audience Engagement Committee! The Audience Engagement Committee is responsible for creating all of our fabulous programming throughout the season. Their main goal is to find effective ways to integrate various art forms and public space event programming to mirror the diverse interests of the community. Maya brings her vibrant creativity and artistic wisdom to that process!

Her favorite part about volunteering in the Square is getting to witness other artists and organizations in action. She volunteers at many of our events setting up and breaking down and generally supporting our performers. In this way she is able to meet artists from outside her personal sphere and experience new types of art! Maya’s help at events makes them run smoothly for everyone performing and in attendance!

Maya’s ideal day is perhaps a Tuesday full of sunshine. On Tuesday nights at Bull Feeney’s at 8PM Maya runs a weekly open mic series called Port Veritas. Clearly, she brings her creativity and flare for hosting fun events to many aspects of her life!

 

Thank you from the bottom of our PARK! WE APPRECIATE YOU!

To meet Maya and other awesome volunteers in the park, check out one of our upcoming events here: http://congresssquarepark.org/events/

And to learn more about volunteering with us check out: http://congresssquarepark.org/volunteer/ OR contact: <volunteer@congresssquarepark.org>

Volunteer Spotlight: David!

Meet David, this week’s Volunteer Spotlight!

 

David is one of the original founders of Congress Square Park in 2014 and has been serving the park in various capacities since playing an obviously major role in its creation. He worked with other volunteers Frank Turic and Rob Levin to incorporate the Friends of Congress Square Park and make it a 501 c(3) nonprofit. Since rescuing the park, David has served as the President, Vice President, Chair of the Operations Committee and the park’s most diligent plant waterer. Needless to say, he knows Congress Square Park like the back of his hand!

 

Though his roles are many, and wide ranging, David most cherishes the space for the way it connects him with the people involved in and enjoying the park. He also loves nothing more than the zen task of watering the garden beds. In fact, David’s perfect day begins with a sunshine and watering in the park with our other dear volunteer Karen Perry. He says, “It is very peaceful and beautiful. After starting the day that way, everything else is good.” As long as there are no pigeons around, an animal he particularly dislikes, the Square is his favorite start to the day!

 

Over the years, David has collected many touching and humorous stories from his time in the park. He shared one that particularly captured the essence of Congress Square. He writes, “ I think the most touching was last year when talking to a homeless man playing the piano. He told me about how his mother was a piano teacher and taught him how to play. He expressed how wonderful it was for him to be able to play piano again. He was really good!” What a gift to hear how public space can provide access to the means for creativity!

 

Thank you David, for all you have done to create and maintain the beauty of Congress Square Park! We appreciate you!

Volunteer Spotlight – Tim!

Meet Tim!

This week, I am pleased to present Tim as our volunteer spotlight! Tim hosts a weekly Check Mates event in the square during which he coaches chess players of all levels on how to improve their game! Tim’s extensive chess knowledge and skill which began on his high school chess team, has been honed throughout years of practice. He began volunteering in the Square to interact with other chess lovers and we are so lucky to have his expert skills on Saturday mornings!

Tim favorite part about volunteering is the way in which he is able to connect with people over a shared interest and pass on some of his wisdom. One of his fondest park memories is of witnessing blooming friendship! He describes noticing two ten-year old’s, his friends’ children, happen to be in the same park at the same time and having the perfect place to play together.

For Tim, there are few things more delightful than teaching chess outdoors on a Saturday morning. Tim’s perfect day he says, is a Saturday! He describes it by saying, “…above 65, sunny, not too windy is a good start.  Having 3+ boards going is nice.  Familiar faces and smiles are good.  A pastry never hurts!” He also says that in two years, he has only been forced inside on a Saturday maybe three times. His passion for chess thrives rain or shine!

You bring so much wisdom, Tim. WE APPRECIATE YOU!

To play Tim at chess and meet other awesome volunteers in the park, check out one of our upcoming events here: http://congresssquarepark.org/events/

And to learn more about volunteering with us check out:http://congresssquarepark.org/volunteer/ OR contact: <volunteer@congresssquarepark.org>

Printable June Calendar Available!

June is jam packed!

What’s notable in June? Well, you’ll get to enjoy:

  • More weekly wellness offerings – including Nia and Zumba!
  • The brand new weekly Saturday Snack Shop with sweet and savory treats from Fork Food Lab (visit the painted OpBox in the Square to check it out!)
  • Really special events like the First Friday Art Walk sound and puppetry installation by Sea Level & The Memorial Skylight featuring Figures of Speech Theater
  • The new Open City nights every Wednesday, artful opportunities to learn about important issues in our community and share your thoughts
  • Portland Summer Films every Sunday at dusk
  • Soooo much more!

Click here to see a printable version of our June 2019 Calendar!

 

Volunteer Spotlight: Karen Perry!

Meet Karen, this weeks Volunteer Spotlight!

This week our volunteer spotlight is Karen Perry, also known as Creative Karen. She’s been a staple in the park for 4 years, cultivating beauty as a member of our gardening team (especially watering!), taking countless photographs of the fun in the Square and advocating both locally and nationally for accessibility in public spaces. Karen is an artist and self-professed “people person.” She seems to know everyone in the city!

You’ve probably seen Karen downtown. She’s always dressed in bright colors, with a funky hat and jewelry. Even her walker has dazzle! She started volunteering because she believes parks can be windows into other worlds. Meeting new people who become friends, sharing creative activities, designing a healthy and green environment – she says, “it moulds happiness!”

Karen shared, “When I first started to volunteer I had trouble at the time with talking. Everybody at CSP was very patient with me. It served as win-win situation for me.” Karen has aphasia, which results in the loss of ability to understand and express speech. Feeling stuck at home for a while, she found the park was an outlet for socialization and a way to make an impact in a city she loves.

One of her favorite memories from the Square is when she invited her friends for a “celebration of life” party or “Fun-eral.” Karen had been going to the Death Cafes at the library and she wanted to celebrate her friendships now, rather than waiting. The Square was a setting for friends to listen to music, enjoy a pot-luck picnic, and spend time with each other.

When asked what her ideal day would be like, she said she has simple needs: being with people, looking them in the eyes, listening, and sharing stories. That’s Karen, our social butterfly!

You bring so much joy, Karen. WE APPRECIATE YOU!

To meet Karen and other awesome volunteers in the park, check out one of our upcoming events here: http://congresssquarepark.org/events/

And to learn more about volunteering with us check out:http://congresssquarepark.org/volunteer/ OR contact: <volunteer@congresssquarepark.org>

Volunteer Spotlight: Nina Frank!

Meet Nina, this weeks Volunteer Spotlight!

Nina (pictured on the right) began volunteering in 2015 when she came to the coast of Maine in search of connection within the Arts Community of Portland. She stumbled upon the square and was so delighted to meet the Friends. She has been involved ever since that first year when she helped plan the “Pumpkins in the Square” Event. She now serves on our Board and is a regular Event Ambassador throughout the season!

When asked what her favorite part about volunteering is, she responded, “My favorite part about volunteering is it allows me to feel like a part of the city. I’m passionate about supporting arts events that are barrier-free and welcoming of everyone.” She loves the park for its ability to bring community members together in the name of free and public art, to foster as she puts it so beautifully, “a deepened sense of connectedness to the place they live.”

Nina describes this deepened sense of community in a story from this years Yellow Tulip Project’s Hope Day event. It was a celebration of mental health awareness which included musical performances and storytelling from young community members. Hearing teenagers share so freely was a beautiful way to emerge from winter and into that connectedness that comes with Spring in the Square. This event blended two of Nina’s personal passions: people and art! As a recent graduate of the University of New England’s Master’s program in Social Work, Nina is super excited to be a mental health clinician and advocate for art-as-therapy.

Finally, when asked what her perfect day included, she responded, “Fresh air, hugs, exchanges with strangers, music, and tears of joy.” It is a good list, I’d say and thankfully, all of which, are available at Congress Square Park!

Thank you so much for your vibrant presence! WE APPRECIATE YOU!

To meet Nina and other awesome volunteers in the park, check out one of our upcoming events here: http://congresssquarepark.org/events/

And to learn more about volunteering with us check out:http://congresssquarepark.org/volunteer/ OR contact: volunteer@congresssquarepark.org .

 

 

Volunteer Spotlight: Mark Wakefield!

This week our volunteer spotlight, is long-time park participant, Mark Wakefield! Mark is a local Portland crossing guard who take wonderful pride in what he does to give back to his community. In the park, Mark is present for all volunteer events, always willing to help enthusiastically with maintaining the beauty of the space. We can always count on Mark to have an eye on the weather forecast and to keep us in the loop on the probability of sunshine.

Among all of his helpful tasks, Mark’s favorites are putting up the umbrellas every morning and interacting with all of the friendly people in the Square. He loves to be there to experience the bustling hubbub of events. He is especially happy when there is live music, people dancing, and the smell of the Hot Dog Stand grilling delicious food!

When asked what his ideal day would be like, he responded with, “A lot of Tina Turner music. Maybe an all-day Tina Turner concert.” Maybe someday we can have a Tina Turner Dance Party in the park and make our dear friend, Mark’s, dream come true!

            Thank you for the light you bring to Congress Square!

 WE APPRECIATE YOU!

To meet Mark, and other awesome volunteers in the park, check out one of our upcoming events here: http://congresssquarepark.org/events/

And to learn more about volunteering with us check out:http://congresssquarepark.org/volunteer/ OR contact: volunteer@congresssquarepark.org .

Volunteer Spotlight: Julia Whyel!

Welcome to a new season of vibrant fun in Congress Square Park! Despite the rainy day, we are choosing to shine some sunlight on what makes Congress Square Park thrive. This year, we will be posting weekly Volunteer Shout Out’s to highlight our fabulous community of hardworking, helpers!

To kick off the season, I am so glad to announce our first shining volunteer, Julia! Julia began volunteering in January of 2018 and volunteered as an Event Ambassador during the 2018 season. She started volunteering after being a regular attendee of Congress Square Park Events. She described marking events on her calendar as “Must-see’s” while also enjoying the park on her walk home from work as a nice spot to simply rest in the sun for a few moments and hear some great music.

She began volunteering because she says, “I feel strongly about creating, preserving, and celebrating equitable public spaces that are accessible to all community members at all times, and providing a place for a broad spectrum of the arts to be showcased.” Her favorite part of being a part of Congress Square Park’s volunteer crew has been watching diverse groups of people make the space their own and seeing how it becomes a haven for human connection.

I asked Julia if she had a favorite memory in the Square and she shared a beautiful story with us: “A moment I think of often was during one of our Salsa lesson nights last summer. A young father approached the dance floor with his small daughter who was eager to participate but a little shy. He encouraged her saying ‘do your best and have fun!’, and the folks on the dance floor welcomed the little girl in and danced with her while her dad watched and took photos. It was such a special example of community members connecting with each other and with the art and music in the park in a meaningful and easy way.”

Finally, to get a sense of the full extent of Julia’s awesomeness, we asked her what her ideal day included. She says, “My perfect day has coffee, warm sunshine, music, and lots of laughing with friends. And tacos. Oh, and poutine. Also a cheeseburger. Two cheeseburgers.” If you ask me, that sounds like a fun day to be a part of! Also, she likes to do cartwheels. Another bonus.

Thank you, Julia for all that you have brought to the park as a volunteer! We appreciate you!

To meet Julia and other awesome volunteers in the park, check out one of our upcoming events here: http://congresssquarepark.org/events/

And to learn more about volunteering with us check out:http://congresssquarepark.org/volunteer/ OR contact: volunteer@congresssquarepark.org .

MECA Student Sculpture featured throughout May!

Student artist Justin Love will install a sculpture “Woman + Snake” in Congress Square Park this May thanks to a partnership between Friends of Congress Square Park (FoCSP) and Maine College of Art (MECA), and with the support of the Portland Public Art Committee. Standing at 8 feet and made of painted plywood, the piece is the second student installation in the Square in two years. Both FoCSP and MECA hope this is the start of a more regular display of student-made temporary public art pieces in 2019 and beyond.

According to the artist’s statement, “Woman + Snake” is “made in honor of the women from Love’s life who have found ways to flourish under heavy oppression.” The piece was made by Love while studying Studio Art and Sculpture in MECA’s graduate program.

Love moved to Portland from Jackson, Mississippi last June to study at MECA. The artist says having the opportunity for mentorship throughout the process has been invaluable. “The opportunity to have my work displayed for Portland to see is a huge gift,” said Love. “I know Portland to be a city that loves art, and being so heartily welcomed into that fold and celebrated has made me very grateful and happy. I’m appreciative of the Friends of Congress Square Park and MECA for the invaluable support they have provided along the way.”

“We’re committed to being a venue where both new and established artists can experiment feel welcome,” says Dela Murphy, Executive Director of Friends of Congress Square Park. “This program is a way to provide emerging artists with the support they need to bring their work into the public realm successfully, perhaps for the first time. Hopefully, seeing work like this in spaces we share will encourage other emerging artists, too. We’re grateful to MECA for making this possible.”

Joshua Reiman, Assistant Professor of the MFA in Studio Art and Sculpture at MECA, advises Love. “The Friends of Congress Square Park have been extremely generous in providing a public platform for visual culture by mentoring our students through the process of producing works in the park for the past two years,” says Reiman. “It is so rewarding to see young artists who are able to articulate their ideas out in public through the generosity of our neighbors in Congress Square Park. This experience for our students is invaluable, and we look forward to continuing this wonderful collaboration for years to come.”

Friends of Congress Square Park is the nonprofit place manager of Congress Square Park. Established in 2013, FoCSP seeks to build community and to create a vibrant public gathering place through community-led creative placemaking. FoCSP presents a season of more than 150 free public arts events from May through October of every year, offers public amenities like seating an free wifi, and engages volunteers in stewardship. They are celebrating their 5thanniversary this season.

Founded in 1882, the Maine College of Art is the oldest arts educational institution in Maine. The school delivers a transformative learning experience within an intimate and demanding educational environment by preparing students in the areas of artistic excellence, creative entrepreneurship, and civic engagement.

An opening for “Woman + Snake” is planned in Congress Square Park during the First Friday Art Walk on May 3, 2019, from 4-8pm. That evening, the public can also enjoy the opening night festivities for FoCSP’s season, featuring a public dialogue on social justice topics hosted by MECA students at 4pm and a performance of “Are We Great Yet?” by Circus Ole at 6pm.

“Woman + Snake” will be on public view in Congress Square Park throughout the month of May.