February 11, 2021
“When we work with our hands, sometimes it’s not valued as much in our culture. It’s a different way of creating the world, and to me that is valuable.”
Jess Muise, the new Executive Director of Engine, grew up in a mill town similar to Biddeford. She comes from a long ancestry of tradesmen who work with their hands, like her Dad who's a carpenter and her grandfather, a copper, who made barrels for Sam Adams.
Her dynamic arts background includes research and development as well as community outreach and engagement. She’s worked at the Artisan's Asylum, The Umbrella Center for the Arts, and the New England Foundation of the Arts. Jess is still learning all of the pieces of Engine, but her background has prepared her for her new role.
“Engine has been a catalyst for what's happening in Biddeford,” Jess said, “and in a lot of ways it's about the returning home of what's been previously outsourced. There’s something magical about people having a shared experience of industry that supports the town. I think we’re seeing a rebirth of that with a focus on neighborhood. You can feel people truly wanting to be in a community with each other. I am really excited to be part of that.”
Moving to another mill town in New England was an exciting step for Jess. She felt an instant connection to Biddeford. As she prepared for her move to Maine, Jess reminded herself that you can never predict the next step or where you end up, and she’s still learning not to be afraid and to be gentle with herself.
Jess has been transformed by arts and wants to give that to other people. She joked coyly, “I was prepared to fully immerse myself in the arts and the community. I still laugh when I enter my living room because I turned it into a jewelry studio, I don’t even have a TV.” Her personal mission is to use arts influence to transform individuals and therefore our communities, which is the manifesto of Engine. “I love making stuff and I love people who make stuff. I see value and potential in things that others might discard.”
In her new role, Jess looks forward to being a steward of Arts and Culture in the community of Biddeford. She plans to create a welcoming and inclusive community space that integrates people's voices and shaping how we move forward in a meaningful way. “My goal is to meet those needs,” she said, “and I have an opportunity to be a good channel for that.”
If you’re interested in learning more about Jess, and Engine, she would love to hear from you! You can reach Jess at: director at feedtheengine dot org