Narrator: This podcast is a project of the Mass Cultural Council. We believe in the power of culture, the arts, humanities, and sciences, to enrich communities, advance equity, and foster creativity.
Patrice Maye: I have two sons, and they are now 15 and 10. And I was realizing that those same opportunities don’t exist in the South Shore, and I wanted my boys and just young people in general to understand that yes, the arts are just as important, culture is just as important in the South Shore as in Boston.
Anita Walker: Hello. I’m Anita Walker at the Mass Cultural Council, and welcome to Creative Minds Out Loud. Our guest today is Patrice Maye. She’s Executive Director of South Shore Art Center and Executive Director of the Scituate Harbor Cultural District. Welcome to our program.
Patrice Maye: Thank you, Anita. I’m delighted to be here.
Anita Walker: So, you’ve been working with the Scituate Harbor Cultural District since about 2015. Talk a little bit about how that has developed and what kind of impact it’s had in the community.
Patrice Maye: Sure. So, Scituate has always had a really active merchants’ association, and they decided probably about 2014– They had heard about the Cultural District Initiative, and they thought, “This could be something that could really make a difference,” because we already had quite a few creative organizations. We have an Arts Association, we had jewelry stores, woodworking, all kinds of–
Anita Walker: That music store.
Patrice Maye: The music store–
Anita Walker: The iconic music store <laughs>.
Patrice Maye: Of course! But nothing was really gelled together, and so, we put in an application. You came down and visited. It was just a really exciting opportunity for all of us, and then in the last three years, what we’ve seen is with that designation and putting a name to it, it’s really drawn audiences. It’s really sort of the “If you call to it, it will come,” and it’s worked. It’s been really exciting for us. We’ve been– We had already had an Art Walk and First Fridays, but we’ve been trying to be more intentional about what we’ve been doing, so we added Random Acts of Poetry in April to celebrate Poetry Month, we’re putting together a summer series on the bandstand, which sort of lays fallow during the summer. So, we now have music and performers. It’s really great to see. It’s creative placemaking. It really is. You see people walking through the streets and interacting with musicians and seeing plein air painting. It’s been really, really exciting for me to watch it unfurl.
Anita Walker: One of the ideas behind the Cultural District Program is really to create a framework, to bring people together who were already there– They were already in the frame, but they just hadn’t really focused on a real plan around how they could develop the cultural life of the community.
Patrice Maye: Yes, and I think that that’s been something that we’ve been trying to work on and develop, and people– We have different representatives from all the different committees in town, and so we have people from Economic Development and we have people from the Chamber, and then we have the artists and the creative people. And they all have their different voices and what they want to see done, and it’s been really exciting to see how those different voices become one unified plan for how we can make this more intentional and more activated because I think sometimes a downtown, you think of it as just a downtown. And now, people think of it as a cultural center.
Anita Walker: And an experience.
Patrice Maye: And an experience.
Anita Walker: Now, you have also been involved with this Sister City Project with West Cork, Ireland. Talk about that a little bit.
Patrice Maye: That’s right. So, this is actually the second Sister City for Scituate. We had one already with Sucy-en-Brie in France, and again, that was driven by residents who wanted to have a more robust artist exchange and so they had developed this partnership with this town, and Scituate is the– You may not know this, but it is the town with the highest Irish population in the entire United States <laughs>.
Anita Walker: Scituate? Scituate– say that again– has the highest Irish population in the country?
Patrice Maye: In the country. It does. So, we thought, it’s great that we have a Sister City in France, but we really should be recognizing the largest demographic in the town, which is Ireland. So, we reached out and we explored a couple of different cities. West Cork was the one that had the most synergy with ours, so in terms of– We were looking for one that has a fishing industry and an active waterfront. We were looking for one that had an art center. They have one in Skibbereen. We were looking for one that had restaurants that had the same kind of high-level cuisine. So, this one–
Anita Walker: How do you do this? How did this come together? How do you knock on the door of West Cork and say, “We want to be your sister”?
Patrice Maye: Well, people from the town committee actually reached out to the different towns, and so, some towns submitted. The ones that had the most interest– There was Galway, which is where I’m from so I was a little partial to that.
Patrice Maye: And West Cork. West Cork won, and that’s okay with me.
Patrice Maye: So, we actually have a delegation coming from Ireland. They’ll be in Scituate for a whole week. They’re going to experience everything that the local town has to offer. I’ll also be bringing them to South Shore Art Center, which is in Cohasset, but it’s right on the town border.
Anita Walker: Close enough.
Patrice Maye: And it has a large concentration of Scituate artists, and that will be– I’m really particularly excited about that because we’re going to be having an art immersion, sort of like South Shore Art Center’s Festival where there’ll be music, there will be writing, there will be, of course, visual arts. And they’ll get to see a graffiti exhibit, but they’ll also get to see work created by local artists that are on easels with local scenes of Scituate and, of course, of Ireland <laughs>.
Anita Walker: So, how do you see the Sister City relationship developing? I imagine you’ll have to go to West Cork?
Patrice Maye: I had– I wasn’t able to go on the initial delegation, but I won’t miss the second one.
Patrice Maye: So, the idea is that it will foster exchanges. I’m particularly keen on a language exchange because my mother’s a native speaker in Irish, and it’s sort of a lost language, even in Ireland, but West Cork is one of the areas where it’s still spoken. So, the idea would be that Scituate teams would go to West Cork for a week, and they’d be immersed in the language. West Cork teams would come to Scituate, and they would experience all of the things that we have: our education, our music, our fishing. Adults, of course, would have that, there’d be– We have a restaurant exchange already in the works, and we have an artist exchange that’s happening. But other ways that we’ll promote it stateside is that we are having a film festival, so we have ongoing films every month where in fact we had the United States world premiere of “In the Name of Peace” by John Hume, and that premiered at Scituate’s Performing Arts Theater.
Anita Walker: Wonderful. Now, I have a random little factoid that’s rattling around in my head from my first visit– not my first visit to Scituate, but to the Cultural District– and thinking about why there is such a concentration of Irish in Scituate. And if I’m not mistaken, it had something to do with harvesting moss?
Patrice Maye: That’s part of it, absolutely, but it’s– I think people find each other as well. But yes, there is a particular kind of moss that was collected in Galway, where my family’s from, and it’s also in Scituate. And it’s not in a lot of the other areas, so it’s become a thing. It’s a lost trade at this point, but it was a very active trade where people would harvest the moss and they would use it for– It was for food. It gets put in toothpaste. It gets put in shampoo. It has multiple uses. It’s incredible, and we have a whole Mossing Museum that I think you, if I remember correctly, you toured, that is dedicated to this. Yes.
Anita Walker: This is one thing you can’t forget when you go to Scituate.
Anita Walker: That’s why that stuck in my head, beyond the beautiful scenic harbor, ocean, it’s just a lovely, lovely place. So, it’s interesting because you were actually working in Boston.
Patrice Maye: I was.
Anita Walker: And you became really involved in running the Scituate Cultural District, and now you are definitely all the time on the South Shore.
Patrice Maye: Yes.
Anita Walker: And in a way, it was sort of your entrée into your work at the South Shore Art Center.
Patrice Maye: It was. So, I had been in Artists for Humanity for 16 years, and I love the organization. I think so highly of it. One of the things that was very special to me was that it was investing in young people and giving them pathways to greater experiences in their world. But I have two sons, and they are now 15 and 10. And I was realizing that those same opportunities don’t exist in the South Shore. Now, granted, the young people here are more resourced, but they don’t have the same kind of creative opportunities that they do– It’s a very sports-centric area, right? And I wanted my boys and just young people in general to understand that yes, the arts are just as important, culture is just as important in the South Shore as the sports and as in Boston. And I wanted to make a difference in my own community so that they would recognize that, and I felt like there was a lot of opportunity when the position for Executive Director came about, about a year and a half ago. I thought, “You know what? I think this is what I need to be doing,” and I gained the confidence of it and the knowledge of the landscape down in the South Shore from my experience at the Harbor District.
Anita Walker: So, talk about your ambitions for the Arts Center. It’s a wonderful community resource.
Patrice Maye: Thank you. South Shore Art Center is– I want it to live up to its name.
Patrice Maye: I want it to have greater regional impact. Even though I live just a town away, I, unlike you, didn’t visit it as often as you did. It wasn’t something I really knew about. It wasn’t a place I felt invited in. And it wasn’t because I wasn’t invited in, it’s just I didn’t hear about it. It wasn’t something that was really present in the greater community outside of its physical location in Cohasset. And still, ’till this day, our greatest utilization is by families who live in Cohasset, Scituate, Norwell, and Hingham, and I’m really looking to expand that utilization out to Quincy, Plymouth, Brockton, Weymouth, have a greater use, and I think that I’d like to see diversity in incomes, diversity in demographics. I’d like it to just experience that and have– because I think as you bring those people in then that feeds the creativity and it makes it a more robust and impactful organization. So, that’s my overarching goal for it. And then more immediate ones is to diversify some of our exhibitions, for example, the graffiti exhibit that’s coming up for us next month.
Anita Walker: And even attracting artists from outside of Massachusetts.
Patrice Maye: Exactly. We do have a couple of National Juried Shows every year which do, but I think I’d like to gain greater visibility and even have more international participation.
Anita Walker: So, we move beyond the reputation for moss in Scituate–
Patrice Maye: That’s right.
Anita Walker: — to the more all-encompassing, international relationship with Ireland and the arts and culture. Patrice Maye, Executive Director of the South Shore Art Center and Executive Director of the Scituate Harbor Cultural District, another one of our Creative Minds Out Loud.
Patrice Maye: This was a pleasure. Thank you so much.
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