Speaker Bio

Erin Maile O’Keefe

Director of Human Connection Project

What does Rural Creative Placemaking Look Like?

Erin Maile O’Keefe is a grateful settler on the indigenous lands of the Sokoki Abenaki here in Southern Vermont. Born and raised in Hawai’i, Erin Maile is supported and nourished by her Hawaiian ancestry, culture, and continued mentorship from her elders. As an educator, trainer, and community artist/activator, she has developed kinesthetic, multigenerational curriculums that facilitate group inclusion, connection, co-authorship, and empathy. Erin Maile’s background in dance, theater, and architecture has made the crafting of temporal spaces and community arts engagement at the core of much of her work. With the completion of a Master Certificate in Creative Placemaking at Ohio State University, she started The Human Connection Project and focused on activating communities through municipal-wide arts projects, creative placemaking, and experiential engagement. Community partners include local arts institutions, schools, businesses, organizations, municipalities, and unsuspecting pedestrians. In 2016, Erin Maile co-founded Tiny House Fest Vermont, focusing on regional housing solutions, innovations, and resources and hosting meaningful conversations about “place.” During the pandemic she turned towards her creative community to collaborate on projects with wide public benefit—Brattleboro Area Mutual Aid (BAMA) and the Handy Station Project. Erin Maile sits on the board of Vermont’s Yestermorrow Design/Build School and is also a design instructor there. She believes in the importance of the arts to strengthen our community and support social and economic development. She works through an asset-based lens and knows that effective creative solutions emerge when everyone has a seat at the table.

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