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Meet The Community Program Breaking Barriers and Making Art Accessible

By Michael McCarthy | December 24, 2020 | Lifestyle

MPA_Spring_Benefit_Carbonneau_Hawthorn.jpgLori Carbonneau, executive director of McLean Project for the Arts, and Barbara Hawthorn, board chair.

Lori Carbonneau, executive director of McLean Project for the Arts (, jokes that she brings the art of the spreadsheet to her role. But she and her colleagues—and thousands of patrons who relish in the diverse artists, exhibits and special programming at this dynamic space—know Carbonneau’s tenacity is essential. “I love that the results of my hard work can be seen in the expression of artists, in the deliberately interconnected community we create and serve, and in the joy that my colleagues bring to their work every day,” says Carbonneau, a Harvard Business School grad. We asked her to lend her insights about successful community arts engagement.

MPA_Exhibitions_Joseph_Cortina_2.jpgThe upcoming winter exhibit, Dec. 4 to Feb. 20, at McLean Project for the Arts includes “God’s Man” by Joseph Cortina

How does MPA help break down barriers between collectors, the public and artists?

We have a firm belief that the more you know about the art and the intentions of the artist, the more you’ll get out of it. We also have warm, inclusive opening receptions that offer a chance to meet artists, hear them talk about their work, ask them questions and have conversations. All of this is complemented by educational opportunities in the form of gallery tours, artist talks and panel discussions, and hands-on projects based on the work.

What makes an MPA exhibit so special right now?

We’re installing full exhibitions in our galleries, creating video tours of the work, holding online openings and artists talks, and opening our gallery for reservation-only viewings by groups of six or fewer individuals. The number of artists applying for our juried shows is up 200%, and the number of participants in our online openings and artist talks has grown by commensurate numbers — substantiating our belief that art meaningfully connects communities in good and challenging times.

MPA_Exhibition_Shanthi_Chandrasekar_CosmicDesignSpiralCrisscross.jpg“Cosmic Design” by Shanthi Chandrasekar

What are some MPA initiatives you’re particularly proud of?

MPA art education via MPA summer camp—a hybrid model offering online and limited in-person instruction— exceeded our anticipated summer camp and class enrollment, despite COVID. Last summer’s enrollment of 250 campers was the second-highest enrollment in our program in the past 10 years. Also, MPA ArtReach. It’s our regionally and nationally recognized program serving K-12 students with a special focus on Title I schools, students and adults with intellectual and physical disabilities, and members of senior communities.

MPA_Exhibition_Joseph_Cortina.jpg“Backstory” by Joseph Cortina

What’s next for MPA?

A new arts center at Clemyjontri Park. The design for the yet-to-be-named arts center includes three new galleries, indoor and outdoor classrooms, and an art walk featuring sculpture and public art winding through and connecting it to the rest of the 18-acre park. MPA also is honored to have received a significant gift from McLean-based, internationally renowned sculptor Emilie Brzezinski.

Tags: community

Photography by: courtesy of McLean Project For The Arts