Gorham, ME

Contact Name
Kate Beever
Project Dates
May 31, 2014
Creative Health! was a one-day conference with workshops led by art, dance, and music therapists. Attendees included artists, educators, self-advocates, and health professionals including PTs, OTs, speech therapists, and counselors. The initial goal was to educate health professionals about arts therapies; many connections were made that led to post-conference collaborations between the arts and health sectors. We also had support from local businesses through sponsorships and donations. The conference was meant to be a one-time program, but is now an annual event.
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:
- Building a regional community of creative arts therapists
- Increasing awareness of the health benefits of the arts
If the goals change over time, please describe how:
We received interest from professionals outside of Maine, so we included presenters from Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and expanded our marketing demographic for year two (upcoming). We also realized that community collaborations were born out of the conference, so we wanted to find ways to support these collaborations- we became a contact portal for artists, art therapists, and healthcare professionals who wanted to work together.
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):
Maine Music & Health (Kate Beever), University of Southern Maine School of Music: hosts. USM provided the location, the programs, the catering, and helped with promotion. Kate Beever put together the speakers, the sponsors, and the schedule. Dreamland Technology filmed throughout the day for future promotion. Zombisbee designed the logo and marketing materials. Presenters included twelve certified creative arts therapists. Sponsors included arts organizations River Tree Arts, Musikata, Maine College of Art, The Studio, The State Theatre; healthcare organizations Vast Horizons, Holistic Pathways; and businesses Casco Federal Credit Union and Gorham Savings Bank.
How does this project relate to a larger community development strategy?
The population of Maine is spread out over a large amount of land. There are many arts organizations doing wonderful things, and healthcare organizations with populations who could benefit from the arts. We'd like to see more connections being made between the two sectors to improve patient care and to increase funding and access to the arts for underserved populations. We'd also like to see the other sectors to view the arts in a more positive light.
What projects or places, if any, inspired your approach to this creative economy project?
Many of the conferences I've been to in the past- I have a lot of speaking engagements throughout the year- both at arts conferences (i.e. American Music Therapy Association) and at healthcare conferences (i.e. Maine Health Care Association, Canadian Down Syndrome Network). I was familiar with the model enough to put together a conference, and have networked with other professionals enough to be able to reach out and ask what they'd like to see in an arts and health conference.
Project Specifics
Please list the steps taken to implement the project:
I met with the director of the USM School of Music, and staff, to outline the goals of the day and what the structure would be. I then met with the USM Marketing team to discuss marketing strategies- and subsequently did a piece in the Bangor Daily News, and on WMPG radio show to promote. My graphic designer created a logo for the conference and designed posters, which I posted throughout Southern Maine- and mailed to folks in Central and Northern Maine. I created a form online for presenters to apply, and kept track of these as they came in- thanking each applicant and sending questions or suggestions as needed. The schedule of presentations was the most difficult part, wanting to spread things out. USM set up an online registration page, and as registrations came in we ordered catering and programs for attendees. Lastly, I put together gift baskets for each of the presenters.
If the project steps changed over time, please describe how:
This year, I'll certainly be asking for more help from people who have offered- both in getting sponsors and promoting the conference, and in organizing the day- specifically, having more volunteers on hand to assist the presenters in setting up power points or carrying supplies to their cars, would have been helpful.
What were your major obstacles for the completion of the project?
The biggest obstacle was that there weren't enough creative arts therapists in the state! Specifically music and dance therapists- so tracking down potential presenters was a big job. And then getting the word out about the conference on a very limited budget.
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
Having the support of a university was very helpful- it was beneficial to them, because USM is going through a rocky time- so they were able to host a conference that reached some new supporters of the school of music. Not having to rent a space or pay for catering (these were covered by the low conference fee - $40/person) made it possible to use funds for marketing.
Finding the therapists was a matter of networking, which was a goal of the conference anyway! We contacted the national associations for art, dance, and music therapy, and tried to connect to schools in New England whose graduates may be close by. From there, it was just word of mouth.
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
1. Put together a small board to assist with planning and implementing the conference.
2. Start early- we only had two or three months to put this together, I would prefer at least six.
3. Be clear about the goals of the conference when asking for presenters and in your marketing materials.
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?
We've seen artists taking the initiative to get more involved in the community and offer more outreach programs. Many attendees were artists who wanted to help underserved populations, but weren't sure where to start.
There have also been some great collaborative projects started by attendees who work for nonprofits and healthcare organizations. Specifically, Pine Tree Society brought a music therapist in to their social skills group (children with autism) and is working with local musicians at Pine Tree Camp to incorporate music into their communications camp. This year, we'd like to better track how each presenter and attendee sees changes in their community or in their projects after the conference.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
There is definitely a network of creative arts therapists- many of them are getting together socially, and professionally- I believe two arts therapists even opened a space together in the Yarmouth area. And there have been many offers to help with the conference from attendees and presenters alike. We've also seen a much better awareness of what arts therapists do.
How did you measure this success or progress?
We had surveys that each attendee filled out at the end of the day. There were measurable results (1-5 scale) for
1. I learned new information at this conference.
2. I am leaving this conference with ideas and concepts I can use.
3. I have an understanding of the definitions and uses of art, dance, and music therapies.
and there were also spaces for attendees to answer the strengths and weaknesses of the conferences and suggestions for future topics or changes.
Please describe any unexpected impacts:
The amount of positive feedback received from attendees- there were even four people- two attendees, the filmer, and a reporter, who had only planned to stay for an hour and ended up staying all day.