MISSION

Connecting regional arts, culture and heritage through advocacy, education, promotion and celebration.

Our region includes twelve communities in Midcoast Maine: Brunswick, Harpswell, Topsham, Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Richmond, Bath, West Bath, Phippsburg, Woolwich, Arrowsic, and Georgetown.

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EVENTS
> CREATIVE ECONOMY

  • Creative Economy Meetings
  • News and Oppurtunities
  • Forum Reports

Creative Economy Meetings:

Songwriter and Creative Economy Networking

When/ Where: Cafe Creme in Bath EVERY THURSDAY NIGHT at 6PM
What: Oppurtunity for feedback about work and progress and networking tips for the working musician.
For more information: www.davidbullard.com

Crossroads for Community Arts Conference
October 18, 2007, Lewiston Maine

Juice: Powering the Creative Economy. Conference in Camden and Rockland, November 16 & 17. http://www.juiceconference.org/

News and Opportunities:

Creative Economy Reports now available online

Governor John Elias Baldacci officially received two reports on Maine's creative economy at the Bates Mill complex in Lewiston on June 29, 2006. 

The first report from the Creative Economy Council was published by the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine; the second report featured a "how to" handbook created by the Creative Economy Steering Committee, an interagency coordinating body managed by Jeff Sosnaud at the Department of Economic and Community Development.  The handbook’s guidelines provide strategies to attract large technology-based industries to Maine while still supporting small arts-based endeavors.

Both the Steering Committee's handbook and Council's report are available as PDF files on the DECD website

Business Workshops and Training

MAINE BUSINESS WORKS WEBSITE 
www.mainebusinessworks.org is an excellent source for business management trainings, workshop announcements and more. This site lists training opportunities in the state by region, provider, and topic.  The site is a resource for the creative business sector as well as the business community as a whole.

Women, Work & Community offers free workshops for entrepreneurs. http://www.womenworkandcommunity.org/scripts/training.php

Most of these workshops are free and are appropriate for self-employed artists, artisans, and entrepreneurs. 

For description of these workshops contact Eola Ball for more information about the above services: eola.ball@maine.edu; Rockland Office: 596-2616 or toll free 877-421-7916 ext. 62616; Tuesdays in Bath Office: 386-1664.

For additional information visit www.womenworkandcommunity.org.

 

Forum Reports:

A Community Development Block Grant is supporting planning to address the following needs of Midcoast Maine’s arts and cultural sector. These meetings were held in February - May 2006.

Report: Executive Summary, September 25, 2006. A Community Development Block Grant supported planning to promote Midcoast Maine’s Creative Economy. 

This Community Development Block Grant provided the essential means for municipalities, artists, businesses and organizations in the midcoast/Five Rivers Arts Alliance region to develop strategies to strengthen and improve the economic future of the arts, culture and heritage sector in the region.

The grant was executed largely as outlined and involved these basic steps:

  • Survey the sector (and translate this new knowledge into strategies)
  • Educate the public about the creative economy
  • Address specific needs identified by the sector, especially:
    • Business training and networking for artists and entrepreneurs
    • Marketing the region’s arts, culture and heritage
    • Space for artists (for work, retail and living) emerged as a topic to continue to look at.

In addition, the grant process, forums and survey reinforced the need to strengthen the capacity of Five Rivers Arts Alliance to improve its ability to implement these plans and continue to improve upon them. 

The project benefited from timing of other initiatives (Women, Work & Community) and grant opportunities (Five Rivers Arts Alliance received additional grants from National Endowment for the Arts and Maine Community Foundation to strengthen regional identity and address regional marketing).

Plan for Midcoast/Five Rivers Region Creative Economy

1. Business Training & Networking

  • Work with organizations that do business training to promote their programs
  • Develop a strategy to provide business training for artists and entrepreneurs on issues not covered by other organizations
  • Provide ongoing access to resources, information, opportunities (especially via Five Rivers website and listserv)
  • Hold monthly Creative Economy Meetings to offer networking opportunities and information
  • Continue to survey the creative sector

2. Strengthen regional identity, cooperation and marketing

  • Develop regional relationships and strategies to promote the region’s arts, culture & heritage
  • Use Creative Communities Institute to address these goals
  • Use Five Rivers Identity and Communications committee as core group to create web and print materials
  • Explore other collaborations and marketing opportunities, including: web representation, cooperative marketing opportunities, trade show/home show representation of region’s artists and craftspeople
  • Strengthen relationships with Chamber of Commerce, Office of Tourism, municipalities & regional and state publications and websites
  • Use new www.fiveriversartsalliance.org website as vehicle to promote the region and expand scope of content, links, dynamic quality of site

3. Strengthen Five Rivers Arts Alliance organizational capacity to address these goals

  • Develop stronger financial support (membership, business and municipal) of Five Rivers Arts Alliance
  • Use website as tool of communication and means to strengthen organization

4. Address space needs as possible.

Full Report, September 25, 2006: A Community Development Block Grant supported planning to promote Midcoast Maine’s Creative Economy. 

The $10,000 CDBG Planning Grant was awarded to the Town of Brunswick, with partners Town of Bowdoinham, City of Bath and Midcoast Council for Business Development and Planning.  The project sought to update information on the region’s creative sector and hold forums to address needs of the sector.  The scope of this grant included the twelve municipalities in the Five Rivers Arts Alliance (formerly Midcoast REACH) region: Bath, Brunswick, Bowdoinham, Topsham, Harpswell, Bowdoin, Richmond, West Bath, Phippsburg, Woolwich, Arrowsic, and Georgetown. 

This grant funded forums and planning to support and grow Midcoast Maine’s arts and cultural sector, including updating information about the region’s arts & cultural sector, educate the public about the Creative Economy, improve business and networking skills of the sector, and develop a plan for marketing the region’s cultural assets.  These plans address the fact that although creative workers contribute to our state’s economy and quality of life, “Maine’s creative workers on average earn less than their counterparts in the state’s general workforce [$3,000 - $4,500, depending on measurement used].1.”Research shows that these creative workers in our region of Cumberland and Sagadahoc Counties fall within low-moderate income levels, on average.

Outline of activities

I. Research cultural assets: Original database was completed in 1997-99.  Creative sector data was updated through surveys (distributed by mail, email, web, meetings & events).  Survey data helped identify breadth of sector and identified business needs of the sector. (Data also to be shared with Maine Arts Commission and New England Foundation for the Arts New England Cultural Database.)

II. Public meetings:  Four public meetings were held in collaborating communities (in Bath & Brunswick), each with specific focus:

  • A public forum about Maine’s Creative Economy, announced planning process, goals of forums, and distributed cultural asset survey.
  • A public forum to address specific resources and actions artists/craftspeople need to enhance their economic development; focus on networks & business training.
  • A public forum on regional marketing strategy: including discussions of web, tourism, publicity to media, new markets for crafts and goods. 
  • Public forum to review committee recommendations and set priorities.  Agree on next steps to take. 

Report on activities and planning

The Creative Sector Survey 

Updating the data on the creative sector (original data is from the late 1990s) included updating data about the types of artists and creative endeavors in the region and inquired what tools or skills individuals needed to succeed. 

One hundred thirty surveys were completed.  Interns from Bowdoin College and staff at Five Rivers Arts Alliance distributed surveys and solicited feedback in many ways (at forums, via mail, email and interactive survey at www.bowdoinham.com).  Most survey respondents are visual artists or craftspeople.  The number one issue identified by solo artists and small businesspeople was improving marketing.  Surveys identified top needs in order of first priority: 

  • more opportunities to show work and meet the public directly,
  • local exhibit/sales opportunities,
  • networking opportunities/idea exchange,
  • website development,
  • digital photography training. 
  • Assistance with developing business plans and more specific business needs were also identified.

Public Creative Economy Forums

The project included four public forums, to increase public knowledge about the Creative Economy and to address issues of special interest to the creative sector.  Forums addressed introduction to the creative economy, business skills and networking, marketing the region, and space needs for the sector.  In addition, focus groups met and sought to refine planning to address needs and follow up plans have been created.

February 13 Forum featured Trudi Van Dyke, John Rohman and Jeff Sosnaud; Maine Sound Stage, Fort Andross, Brunswick; 148 attendees

The former director of The Torpedo Factory in Alexandria VA, Van Dyke offered a detailed description of the art center’s development, economic impact and provided cautions about a one size fits all solution to forming an art center.  Jeff Sosnaud and John Rohman spoke to audience about Maine’s Creative Economy, its scope and promise.  This event was attended by 148 individuals (in the about-to open venue Maine Sound Stage), and began the discussion about the space needs of artists and creative businesses as well as the upcoming forums.  John Rohman and Jeff Sosnaud reported on planning activities by state to enhance the creative economy and to give communities to tools to build stronger local economies and communities.

March 6, 2006 Forum: Business Training and Networking, Chocolate Church Arts Center; 75 attendees

Christina Sklarz-Libby, Business Development Specialist, Department of Economic and Community Development outlined state’s commitment to small business and the department’s many programs available to small businesses. Brad Swanson, Certified Senior Business Counselor, Small Business Development Centers outlined the SBA’s services.  Deb Laughlin, USM Outreach Coordinator, outlined the university’s degree programs including a BA, BFA and Bachelors of Art in Studio Art and Entrepreneurial Studies.  Small business owners Kat Logan owner/operator of Maine Street Art, Brunswick and Tracy Wilson owner/operator of Saltbox Pottery, Woolwich spoke eloquently of their on the ground experience building up their businesses and the challenges they faced (along the way and today).  Eloise Vitelli of Women, Work and Community described workshops offered by her agency.  This forum succeeded in highlighting state’s commitment to, and programs for, small businesses, and highlighted a variety of needs of artist-entrepreneurs. 

April 3 Forum: Marketing our Region, Chocolate Church Arts Center; 48 attendees

This forum focused on the challenge of looking beyond individual marketing needs and thinking about the marketing of the region as a whole.  Speakers included Kathleen Mundell, Folklorist, Cultural Resources, Inc Director who spoke on identifying cultural assets.  Abbe Levin, Kennebec-Chaudiere International Corridor, Office of Maine Tourism spoke about cultural tourism as a part of the “Creative Communities” part of the creative economy. Discussion of cultural tourism focused on added benefits of helping preserve local culture and natural assets; creating community pride, having an impact on the local economy, educating residents and visitors about the community, and celebrating what is unique.  Peter Rinck, Rinck Advertising, Auburn presented on Branding and tackling Cultural Tourism, encouraging the audience to see themselves as tourists and assess how visitors find out about our region, and how we can improve our presentation to visitors.

Focus Group Meetings, 40 attendees

Between April and May public forums four focus group meetings were held: two on marketing, one on space needs and one on business training.  The work of these focus groups was integrated into final forum and report.

May 1 Forum, Old Brunswick High School, 50 attendees

Final forum included Success Stories of the Creative Economy (Maine Fiberarts Tour Map by Christine Macchi, Longfellow Days presentation by Maryli Tiemann, and Digital Arts for the Creative Economy, Mark Leaman), Reports on Creative Sector Survey; Reports from Focus Groups (Space Needs, Business Skills & Networking, Marketing the Region); and Announcements of upcoming opportunities:

  • Women Work & Community Creative Enterprise Workshops
  • Publicity Workshop with Dept Of Tourism’s Public Relations firm Nancy Marshall Communications
  • Creative Communities Institute, June 8 and 21, in Bath & Brunswick
  • Rollout of new name and logo for Five Rivers Arts Alliance
  • Outline of plans to address needs identified in surveys and forums

Work since the Creative Economy Forums.  Work has included refining a plan for supporting and growing the region’s creative economy and implementing the first parts of this plan.  Three primary areas are identified with a strong emphasis on providing artists the tools they need to succeed as businesspeople, on strengthening regional identity and relationships within the region’s cultural sector and on developing regional strategies for promoting the arts, culture and heritage of the midcoast region.  This work pointed to the necessity of strengthening Five Rivers Arts Alliance as the local arts agency with the capacity to address these issues.  A fourth area, creative space, is also of interest.

1. Business Training & Networking, “Prepare the Workforce”

  • Provide business training for artists and enterpreneurs
  • Promote Women, Work & Community workshops and others that address business education
  • Develop additional business or marketing workshops as needed
  • Provide access to resources, information, opportunities (through website, listserv, etc)
  • Hold monthly Creative Economy Meetings to offer networking opportunities, and assess programs, progress of creative economy initiatives and training
  • Continue to survey the creative sector

2. Strengthen regional identity, cooperation and marketing

  • Develop regional relationships and strategies to promote the region’s arts, culture & heritage
  • Use Creative Communities Institute to address these goals
  • Use Five Rivers Identity and Communications committee as core group to create web and print materials
  • Explore other collaborations and marketing opportunities, including:
    • cooperative marketing opportunities
    • trade show/home show representation of region’s artists and craftspeople
    • website visibility and representation
  • Strengthen relationship with Chamber of Commerce, Office of Tourism, municipalities & regional and statewide organizations and publications
  • Use new www.fiveriversartsalliance.org website as vehicle to promote the region
  • Improve content, links, and dynamic quality of site

3. Strengthen Five Rivers Arts Alliance organizational capacity to address these goals

  • Develop stronger financial support (membership, business and municipal) of Five Rivers Arts Alliance
  • Use website as tool of communication and means to strengthen organization

4. Address space needs as possible.

  • The issue of artists’ space was of great interest and discussion.  However no single need was identified as a primary one with critical mass of support.  Different creative workers have different needs (some individuals seek studio/retail, other studio/living, etc.).  In addition, many studio rental and gallery exhibit opportunities do exist locally.  While examples such as The Torpedo Factory aroused interest, it is clear that low cost and overhead expenses are critical ingredients to attract significant interest.  Five Rivers Arts Alliance and the Development Offices of Bath and Brunswick agreed to act as sources of information about studio and retail space available in the region and be a contacts for future discussion on the subject.
  • Affordability was usually discussed in terms of studio and retail space.  However development of the region is putting pressure on affordable housing.

We have a number of accomplishments to report that are direct outgrowths of the CDBG grant:

  • More than 300 individuals (close to 400) participated in this series of forums, surveys and meetings.
  • The forums received widespread press, were videotaped for local access television coverage, and improved the visibility of, and public knowledge about, the creative economy.
  • The Times Record, in particular, covered the forums and continues to cover artists-entrepreneurs and the creative economy.
  • The forums provided an opportunity for artists to assess their place in the regional and state economy and think and act proactively about their future. 
  • Artists have reported that a benefit of participating in the forums includes a greater sense of cooperation among artists and a better understanding of artists and cultural organizations as part of an economic sector.
  • Immediate opportunities exist:  Through a grant from DEDC, Women, Work and Community is able to provide excellent workshops for entrepreneurs, especially for those at the early stages of business.  Approximately artist/entrepreneurs have participated in Creative Enterprise training through WW& C and more are scheduled.

Success stories: 

  • Bath artists organized to now put on a monthly Third Friday Art Walk, beginning in June 2006.  Five Rivers Arts Alliance is sponsor and promotes the event statewide.  The event has up to 26 sites.
  • Brunswick’s Second Friday Art Walk features more than 20 sites each month and participants decided to continue through December at least. Possibly year-round.  (Last year the event ended in October.)
  • Brunswick Downtown Association will sponsor a first-time downtown sidewalk sale of fine art, with space for 50 artists, in Brunswick in summer, 2007.  Five Rivers Arts Alliance will work closely with BDA to help organize and promote this event.
  • Maine Street Art (Brunswick) gallery owner Kat Logan was featured on a special “Made in Maine” program on the Creative Economy on MPBN in summer 2006.  This is an outgrowth of forums.
  • Creative Communities Institute (funded with grants from National Endowment for the Arts and Maine Community Foundation) was offered in June-15 participants from across the region took an in-depth look at regional identity and marketing and will work, with Five Rivers Arts Alliance, toward developing marketing materials about the region’s arts, heritage and culture.  This group continues to meet to work through the state’s Creative Communities Workbook 10 Building Blocks exercise and will work together on marketing the region.
  • Five Rivers Arts Alliance website is now live and will provide greater capacity to promote the region and educate residents about creative economy and about the region’s arts, culture, and heritage sector. 
  • Five Rivers Arts Alliance improved regional publicity in summer 2006 through greater outreach at festivals, fairs, and local farmer’s market; research and updates of publicity lists and mailing list; added publicity of cultural events through new hospitality listeserv.
  • On September 27, Charlene Williams and Nancy Marshall of Nancy Marshall Communications will present a local publicity workshop for artists and others who want to improve their publicity skills.

Next steps:

  • Develop online version of a regional “cultural map & guide,” based on input from forums, Creative Communities Institute and 10 Building Blocks exercises.
  • Continue to improve and evaluate publicity efforts, including adding greater visibility of the creative sector (with online database, or list) on Five Rivers Arts Alliance website.
  • Strengthen Five Rivers Arts Alliance organizational capacity (by addressing need for additional time and money) through membership, sponsorship and general fund drive.

Notes:

1. “The Creative Economy in Maine: Measurement & Analysis” by the Center for Business & Economic Research, NEEFS, University of Southern Maine.

 

 

 

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CONTACT: Five Rivers Arts Alliance 108 Maine St. Brunswick, Maine 04011 (207) 798-6964 info@fiveriversartsalliance.org

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