The New Commons is a public humanities initiative of the University of Maine at Farmington, Maine’s public liberal arts college, in partnership with the Maine Humanities Council.
Our goal is to build a cultural commons for our community at UMF and for the state of Maine: a collection of 24 cultural works proposed by students, faculty, and members of the community, and selected on the basis of their potential value to the community.
Through the building of the commons we hope to increase access to these works, and to the scholarship and creative works they’ve inspired, by means of public lectures, seminar-style discussions, an open access digital portal, and campus-generated community engagement projects. More broadly, we hope to foster awareness of arts and literature as a common good to which all are entitled access, and in which we all have a stake.
WHAT IS A COMMONS?
A commons is something that belongs to all of us, a communally held resource from which no one can be excluded, and for which we are all responsible. At the New Commons Project, we believe that art, literature, and ideas are a commons.
WHY A COMMONS?
While we see the New Commons as a bearer of cultural memory, somewhat like a canon of cultural works, a commons differs from a canon in a few significant ways. First, a commons is not universal but place-specific. Our commons will focus on what we need as a particularly located community in the twenty-first century, and will be derived in part from resources we already have, in the form of student, faculty, and community expertise. Second, a commons is a resource for use. Our central criteria for the selection of works will be their value for us in our lives here and now, in the twenty-first century: understanding both “use” and “value” in their broadest possible definitions. Finally, a commons is a collective endeavor. The twenty-four works we choose will reflect a diverse and vital inheritance, and our project will ensure that access to this inheritance is as broad as possible.
HOW ARE THE WORKS CHOSEN?
Here’s where you come in. What do you think should be on the list? What work or works do you think our community needs most right now? The work you nominate can be anything from Paradise Lost to a comic strip, from Stravinsky to Beyoncé. Works are chosen by a group made up of community members and UMF faculty and students, on the basis of their potential value to the community. It’s up to YOU to make an argument about why and how you think the work is valuable. We are committed to choosing diverse works by diverse authors, submitted by a diverse group of Mainers.
The New Commons Project is made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon foundation.