Belfast, ME

Contact Name
Emily Baer
Project Dates
October 2016 - held annually
Tags
Event
Developed by the Belfast Creative Coalition, the Cultivate Farm & Art Fall Tour highlights the richness of art, culture and agriculture in midcoast Maine. Held annually on a beautiful fall day, Cultivate is an open studio and farm tour with special workshops and demonstrations. Waldo County is a vibrant Maine community made up in part by a unique combination of farmers and artists. Here, farmers are creatives and the artists tend to keep a ‘hand in the dirt’. Some farmers make fiddles, create original woodcuts or bring their visions to life on canvas. There are artists raising sheep, making cheese, harvesting and processing food. The love of place, embracing the handmade and being “local” are ubiquitous. The Cultivate Fall Tour celebrates and appreciates this universal spirit.
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:
This project allows BCC to fully embody our mission by uniting the diverse sectors of the creative economy in our community. By fostering a connection between traditional artists, entrepreneurial crafters, and creative agriculturalists, we are able to highlight and celebrate the web of connectivity between these diverse economies. The rural nature of Waldo County presents unique challenges to our efforts but also underlines the importance of this work. The tour is a celebrated event attended by locals and visitors alike and has created incredible opportunities for growth and development as we continue to fine-tune our work.
If the goals change over time, please describe how:
This project is now four years old and while the goals have remained consistent over time, our structure has evolved to better serve participating artists. Each tour focuses on specific communities (generally 3 to 4) and rotates throughout the County over time. The goals and structures now align to serve each participating site with greater impact and attention.
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):
Our project relies on relationship building between various economic sectors and is developed in part by each site participant. Originally, the program was developed as a partnership with Maine Farmland Trust and we continue to rely on them for introductions to farmers but have also grown our own network to be able to connect with community participants directly. Our stakeholder base is made up of various artists, small business owners, gallerists, and farmers. However, project implementation is led by BCC staff and Cultivate Committee Members.
How does this project relate to a larger community development strategy?
This project relates to our larger community development strategy by focusing on the breadth and depth of our relationships with individuals. As we grow these relationships over time, we are able to more clearly understand, articulate, and celebrate the impact of the creative economy in Waldo County.
What projects or places, if any, inspired your approach to this creative economy project?
We were inspired by a variety of rural studio arts tours throughout the country and continue to draw inspiration from projects that work across sector lines to fully embody the spirit of the creative economy field.
Project Specifics
Please list the steps taken to implement the project:
The project began with community outreach and relationship building with interested site participants. Slowly, as we got to know more artists and farmers, we were able to build a web of collaboration and develop a tour that combined all the elements of our project mission. In 2016, the tour highlighted artist studios, galleries, an orchard, a farmstead, and a co-operative market - all of which were accessible on a looped route throughout Waldo County. The outreach and relationship building will continue now through the fall of 2017 as we build on this year's momentum to develop and implement another fantastic tour.
If the project steps changed over time, please describe how:
Our methods for doing outreach to farmers and artists have been refined over time - instead of only putting out an open call to interested sites, we have found that specific asks to individuals has been highly effective. Similarly, we have grown increasingly reliant on social media to connect us to folks we hadn't known before and that has led to some really exciting new developments! The scale of the project has also changed dramatically - before Cultivate was a two day, county wide affairs whereas now it takes place on one day only (10am-3pm) and is built around 3-4 specific communities within Waldo County. This has allowed us to focus our mission, develop high impact publicity materials and focus attendees
Obstacles
What were your major obstacles for the completion of the project?
The biggest obstacle in the completion of the project is managing our capacity - both in terms of people power and financial resources. Building the relationships between farmers and artists takes great care and attention and requires incredible focus/dedication. Without a committed group of committee volunteers and passionate org staff, the work is impossible. Similarly, the project has always been very well received (as an idea) by both individuals and funders, but the scope of work actually needed to carry it out successfully has been difficult to fully communicate and meet.
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
We have been fortunate to work with a small group of dedicated committee members who have helped imagine, develop, and implement the Cultivate Farm & Art Tour over time. They have been instrumental in building relationships, maximizing resources, and building a strong reputation in the communities we serve.
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
1. To build a strong community driven work committee to plan and implement the program. By having dedicated community members working on the project, communications, expectations, and evaluations can happen coherently and intentionally.

2. Make sure that you are not trying to do too much with each iteration of the project; we have learned that serving a smaller area better has greatly impacted our ability to meet goals and serve the mission of the Tour.

3. Build a strong network of collaborators in addition to sites and committee members. The network will facilitate promotion, help develop relationships in unexpected sectors/places, and create a diverse and dynamic experience for participants.
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?
The tour celebrates and showcases the creative economy by its very nature, but economic transactions and development also take place as a result of it. Audience participants are encouraged to 'shop' throughout the day and spend their money at participating sites and also at gas stations/restaurants/cafes not implicitly connected to the Tour. Due to the promotion and marketing of the event, participating sites benefit from increased visibility in local media outlets and are featured throughout the year and our website and social media pages. The lasting impact of the tour is evident in the increasing visibility of the various components of the creative economy and people's understanding of them throughout the County.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
We do consider the project successful but would like to grow attendance and participation in the coming years. Similarly, we are working to streamline planning efforts but consider the current model effective in meeting our goals.
How did you measure this success or progress?
The success of the project is measured through community impact surveys that are completed by participating sites and audience members (attendees). Similarly, staff and committee members debrief the Tour is the months following the event itself to evaluate what worked, what didn't work and what should be changed.
Please describe any unexpected impacts:
Any unexpected impacts have generally been relationships that have developed between sites, partner organizations or BCC. We always hope to build new sites in to our membership pool but have been pleasantly surprised at how successful that has been. As the tour has grown, we've also become increasingly aware of similar tours in the area and are always thrilled to connect with colleagues doing similar work throughout rural New England.