Fuller hired as director of The Rig

By Jenna Lookner | Nov 16, 2012
Photo by: Jenna Lookner The new director of The Rig, Nicole Fuller, left, and outgoing director Frances Wheeler-Berta in front of The Rig's Elm Street space.

Camden — Camden's downtown spot for teens has hired a new director. Nicole Fuller, 30, took the reins at The Rig on Nov. 1.

The Rig has been a gathering place for teens since 2010. The Elm Street space is open several days a week after school and for a variety of special events, and is aimed at providing a space for teens in grades nine through 12 to convene. The Rig isn't just a hang out, as outgoing director Frances Wheeler-Berta explained, it's a space where teens congregate to brainstorm, discuss and realize their ideas through empowerment and a pervasive culture of respect.

Wheeler-Berta said she and Andy Schlebecker co-founded The Rig in 2009. Then a junior at Camden Hills Regional High School, Schlebecker is now in his sophomore year at Emerson College in Boston. The pair initially met at a community vision day hosted by Friends of Midcoast Maine at Camden Public Library. Schlebecker voiced his desire for a place where teens could gather that would facilitate a roll in the Camden community. Wheeler-Berta said she began meeting with Schlebecker to "think and conceptualize," and with the support of a core group of high school students The Rig hosted an event at a Bayview Street gallery during Christmas by the Sea in 2009. Wheeler-Berta said the attendance and reception were wholly positive.

"After that, we knew we were ready to find a home," she said. The Rig moved into an Elm Street location in May 2010 and has remained there ever since. Wheeler-Berta explained that The Rig has a small board and is fiscally sponsored by The Friends of Midcoast Maine.

"Growing an organization like this is kind of like raising a child," Wheeler-Berta explained. "There comes a time when it's ready to leave the nest."

She said she is elated to have Fuller as her successor at The Rig and Wheeler-Berta will continue to serve on the advisory board.

"I'm really excited that Nicole is taking over," she said.

Fuller, who is a California native, echoed Wheeler-Berta's sentiment. She said the moment she heard about the position at The Rig she knew it was an opportunity she wanted to pursue.

"My ears perked right up," said Fuller with a smile.

Fuller said her first day was Nov. 1 and she is in the process of getting to know the teens that are part of The Rig. While gatherings can attract up to 50 teens, Fuller and Wheeler-Berta said The Rig doesn't quantify success by how many teens come through the door. A Facebook group boasts more than 100 members and Fuller said social media is a key tool in communicating as a group.

Fuller said she was attracted to the democratic process employed at the rig, and the culture of empowerment and acceptance toward one and all.

"There's a real ownership here," Fuller explained.

Fuller also spearheads the Youth Filmmaking Program at Julia's Gallery and will continue to work at both jobs. She originally came to Maine as an intern at Maine Media Workshops in 2008 and said she "fell in love with the community here." She stayed on as a student at Maine Media College.

Fuller said she began participating in "various after school programs" after she was hired to document summer camps for a nonprofit in Lincoln County.

"It re-sparked my interest in working with youth," she said. "That's when I realized that this is what I want to do."

A photographer and filmmaker, Fuller has produced a number of films with teens at the helm during her time at the Youth Filmmaking Program. Additionally she has worked with teens through Youthlinks and Five Town Communities That Care. She said she is excited to contribute her creative spirit to facilitating projects with members of The Rig.

"This is a very project-oriented space," she explained. "I'm coming in with a lot of ideas."

Fuller said she's looking forward to The Rig's inaugural Thanksgiving pot-luck on Saturday, Nov. 17. The idea was proposed by one of the teens, she said.

"The Rig is not so much about what the youth needs, it's about what they can contribute," Fuller said.

She and Wheeler-Berta explained that part of The Rig's mission is to encourage teens to take leadership rolls and to create community.

Fuller said her new position as director of The Rig provides an opportunity to "bring all of [her] interests together." She said the position appeals to her love of collaborations and artistic projects, and to her desire to take on a leadership roll and "have a stake in something."

Fuller said her roll includes day-to-day operations at The Rig in addition to behind-the-scenes work like grant-writing.

"To get involved with the community, with teens, what more could I ask for?" Fuller said.

Courier Publications reporter Jenna Lookner can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at jlookner@courierpublicationsllc.com.


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