Unveiling of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, by Tim Rollins and K.O.S.

2016 Nelson Social Justice Fund Lecture

Portland Museum of Art | September 16, 2016


Introductory remarks

Craig Collins, Maine Center for Creativity Executive Director

(with thanks to PMA Chief Curator Jessica May)


“Thank you Mark for the kind introduction, thank you for bringing all of us together here at the Portland Museum of Art, and thank you for the invitation to join tonight’s very special lecture event.

My thanks also to the Leonard and Merle Nelson Social Justice Fund for making this evening possible.

On behalf of the Maine Center for Creativity, we are thrilled and honored to be part of tonight’s program, and to have made possible the addition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream to the museum’s permanent collection.

Before I introduce tonight’s distinguished speaker, I would like briefly to explain why we, on the initiative of our Board President Joe Porta, have done this.

Maine Center for Creativity is a non-profit dedicated to forging alliances between arts and industry that make Maine more vital economically, more vibrant culturally, and more visible as a place where innovation and creativity thrive.

We envision a state where art and creativity reshape our communities and empower our citizens, as seen in the re-launched Art All Around community art initiative this year in Westbrook.

This August’s Art All Around, which involved hundreds of volunteers, city leaders and 15 partner organizations, is the beginning of a statewide program engaging the diverse members of our cities and towns in an open, collaborative and creative process that brings people closer together, celebrates local identity and changes attitudes about what is possible.

Rollins’ work strikes a chord with Maine Center for Creativity, modeling artistic collaboration, challenging notions of accessibility to art and creativity, and inspiring and complementing our vision of empowering Maine communities to embrace art and creativity as a force for positive change and discourse.

Based on these common themes, we felt it important to bring more of Tim’s and Kids of Survival’s work to Maine as a permanent cultural asset.

All this, and we at Maine Center for Creativity are also firm believers in Mark’s vision for PMA, Your Museum, Reimagined, changing how people interact with and experience art, changing how a museum interacts with and impacts a community. Art is for everyone, and access to it can unleash the creative potential in all of us.

We are incredibly proud to partner with the Portland Museum of Art to bring A Midsummer Night’s Dream to communities of Maine.

I am honored to now introduce Tim Rollins, whom I’ve had the pleasure to meet and get to know this year.

Tim is a Maine native and studied at the University of Maine prior to receiving his BFA at the School of Visual Arts, New York. He also studied art education at NYU, and studied with the American conceptual artist Joseph Kosuth.

One of Tim’s great innovations as an artist has been to approach teaching and pedagogy as a medium unto itself. In addition to his work with young people, which continues to this day, Tim also teaches at the School of Visual Arts. He has honorary doctorates from the University of Maine and the Maine College of Art.

Tim began working in the New York City public schools in the early 1980s, and quickly formed a study group that named itself K.O.S., or Kids of Survival, in the South Bronx. Their shared experience of reading and listening to great works of literature (and music) led to creating art together. They began showing together in 1982, and participated in the Whitney Biennial in 1985—their first of several appearances in the biennial. They have participated in exhibitions all over the world and have had dozens of solo exhibitions, including a retrospective organized by The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College in 2009.

K.O.S. has been working collaboratively ever since, although the group has grown and its original members have grown up (Angel Abreu, an original member, is with us this evening). Together they have achieved a level of critical success that is rare for an individual artist, but even rarer for an artist collective.

What is unique about the work of Tim Rollins and Studio K.O.S. is their continued collaborative art making decades after those first workshops in the 1980s. Their work speaks to our collective and inclusive inheritance of the cultural legacy of Western art, literature, and music.  Shakespeare and Mendelssohn are not for someone else, they are for all of us.  Tim and K.O.S. signal this to the world through their extraordinary works of art, like those on view as part of the exhibition and in the new work A Midsummer Night’s Dream, that is now part of the Portland Museum of Art’s permanent collection.”