Bee Week

Belfast, ME, ME

Contact Name
Jonathan Mirin
Project Dates
June 2017 and June 2018
Tags
Social action and justice, Placemaking/placekeeping, Land conservation/use, Downtown preservation/main streets
A Bee Week is a collection of bee and pollinator related activities organized in a community during a specific week of the year. Activities may include:

- Documentary screenings (examples: Queen of the Sun, Vanishing of the Bees and More than Honey)

- Theatre residencies and performances (in schools and/or for the public)

- Talks and roundtable discussions with beekeepers and other experts (entomologists, scientists who study pesticides/herbicides, biodiversity, electromagnetic radiation, organic lawn care experts, etc. )

- Community planting day(s) where people plant flowers that bees like/need, bee gardens in public and private spaces

- Your local library highlighting pollinator-related resources

- Your idea goes here!
Project Goals
What were the specific goals of this creative economy project? Describe the community development challenge or opportunity that your project was designed to address:
Honeybee, native bee and pollinator populations world wide are in decline. Many native bee species have already disappeared. The personal and financial health of most human communities depend on pollination, a requirement for many of the fruits, vegetables and grains we currently grow to feed ourselves - not to mention the value of species in and for themselves.

By putting a range of activities under one umbrella, bee weeks catalyze community conversation and media attention. There is "something for everyone" and everyone has a chance to help the situation improve in their backyard, on their windowsill and in community spaces.
Who was involved in this project and what did they do? (be sure to include the partners from outside of the creative sector and how local voices were included):
Piti Theatre Company: public performance and school residency of touring musical "To Bee or Not to Bee"
Belfast Public Library: Native Bee Hive Construction Workshop
Belfast Co-op: Activist Art Workshop
Dirigo Learning: Hands on Pollinator Museum
How does this project relate to a larger community development strategy?
By galvanizing public support for pollinators, Bee Weeks raise awareness of their role in agriculture, ie making possible 1 in every three bites of food we eat. Greenfield, MA, now going on their 5th annual Bee Week, has taken their local honeybee history on as piece of their town's identity, creating bee inspired public art.
What projects or places, if any, inspired your approach to this creative economy project?
The root of this project, which has taken place in towns around New England but has so far "taken root" in Greenfield MA and Belfast, ME was inspired by Piti Theatre's To Bee or Not to Bee performance. The show encourages pollinator stewardship and audiences receive packets of bee friendly flower seeds to plant but it was clear that a series of events over the course of a week could help draw media attention and shine light on the work of local environmental and related organizations.
Project Specifics
Please list the steps taken to implement the project:
1. Find one or more local contacts who will help organize/publicize the events as a whole
2. Reach out to potential partners who might be willing to host individual events
2.5. Fundraise
3. Synthesize the events in a press release and online
4. Market the events
5. Hold a Bee Week!
6. Reflect with partners about how to sustain the enthusiasm and connections generated over time
Obstacles
What were your major obstacles for the completion of the project?
Funding is always a challenge.
The most significant challenge is actually trying to move the dial towards sustainability, for example by reducing reliance on pesticides which harm pollinators.
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
Belfast Bee Weeks have been fairly straightforward funding wise as each organization holding an event essentially was self-supporting.
One method for encouraging local nurseries, for example, to not carry plants treated with neonicitinoids is to publish a list of "bee friendly" nurseries along with a list of questions to ask to get a sense of their practices.
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
1. Allow sufficient time to put out a general call through local media for anyone who has an idea or something to offer during Bee Week to propose their idea.
2. Allow sufficient time to fundraise in order to have a bigger impact, ie, in addition to raising awareness have enough funding to create a pollinator garden in a public space with inspirational/educational signage (for example).
3. Brainstorm with partners about how to help the public make the connection between their inspiration/enthusiasm and planting more bee friendly habitat, reducing pesticide use, etc.
Project Impact
How has this project strategically connected arts and cultural activities to social, economic, and cultural issues in your community? What is different in your community as a result of this project?
Awareness and enthusiasm has been raised in Belfast and Greenfield and as described above, the honeybee has now become part of Greenfield's public identity through public art projects. Over the years, the repeated workshops and newspaper articles in Greenfield about planting pollinator habitat have led to homeowners and others dedicating part or all of their yards to pollinator friendly plants.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
We consider the project successful in terms of the relatively large numbers of people reached in these small - midsized towns, the media attention and the happiness/enthusiasm of folks who are given the opportunity to enter the discussion and take small steps towards a sustainable future.
How did you measure this success or progress?
In the short term, we track the attendance numbers, features in local media, numbers of seed packets gven out, numbers of native bee hives built, etc. In the long term, it would be ideal to collaborate with scientists to track pollinator numbers.
Please describe any unexpected impacts:
We were not expecting the Progress Partnership, a group of local businesses and concerned citizens in Greenfield, to take on Bee Week as an annual event but this is an ideal outcome.
In Maine, one of our audience members was a school nurse who has been working to bring To Bee or Not to Bee to her town - we are happy to see the message spread in this way.