What were the specific goals of this creative economy project? Describe the community development challenge or opportunity that your project was designed to address:
Schoodic Arts for All was born in 1999 as a grassroots citizen’s group to address the dire economic impact on the town due to the closure of the Winter Harbor Navy base. The loss of $11.5 million dollars in payroll and another $9 million in losses to vendors of equipment, supplies, and services to the navy cut the population by half, leaving only 23 students in the school and 100 empty buildings in town. Our task was to bring back life and vitality through increased visitation and economic opportunity.
One early answer to the question of how to save the community was to hold a two-week arts festival.
If the goals change over time, please describe how:
Schoodic Arts for All has since grown to a year-round arts organization presenting 18 ongoing community programs, 85 performances, 15 art exhibits, and almost 100 workshops annually. Today Schoodic Arts for All is an economic anchor and a magnet for creative businesses and individuals to relocate to our area. Board member Jane Keegan reflects:
We moved to Winter Harbor largely because Schoodic Arts for All exists. Its annual Art Festival, a “perfect storm” of workshops, performances and events is eagerly anticipated by me, my artist friends, and visitors who come to participate each year. Volunteers are thrilled to make this happen. Everyone involved feels they are part of something big and important. It’s a two-week love affair—intense, uplifting, energetic, creative. Schoodic Arts for All benefits everyone whether they participate directly or not. We saved an historic building, filled it with music, art, and performances, and everybody is welcomed to enjoy it all!
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):
A major project requires a reservoir of good working relationship, careful planning, and regular input from all partners. The Schoodic Arts for All Schoolhouse Artist Incubator building would not have been possible at all without the support of our Town Manager and Select Board. They courted us for two years prior to this proposal to populate the old town office building with creative activity to further enhance the downtown. Other examples of cooperative effort on which the proposed project draws include:
• Joint planning with the public libraries and historical societies and the Acadia National Park Schoodic Education and Research Center (SERC) Institute
• Sharing in the development and retention of a diverse corps of volunteers committed to cultural preservation and the economic benefits it brings to our corner of Maine
• Collaboration with local schools includes our Merit Award for Outstanding Engagement in the Arts, an experiential learning scholarship, and the EdGE afterschool program serving rural at-risk youth through creative engagement.
In addition, the Chamber of Commerce meets in our building, the Scout leaders meet here, the annual Winter Harbor Town Meeting is held here—not to mention the many memorial services held here for community members.
How does this project relate to a larger community development strategy?
We work hard to make sure our region continues to develop and grow, and local economic development is a top priority. Every dollar and hour we spend is a vote for how we want our peninsula to be. It is imperative to invest locally in the Creative Economy. Making an investment in arts-related activity will drive other local economic development. By setting up shop in key historic locations we preserve the architectural flavor that is so important in preserving the identity of our communities. We need to support arts entrepreneurship and promote our cultural flavors to the benefit of all.
We are confident the proposed project will enhance cultural and intellectual environment that will attract even more residents and visitors to the area. Consider the following testimonial from a recent arrival, Bob Bovee:
After considerable time traveling about I have located an amazing venue that brings wonders of the world to a single location. Picture it: authentically costumed Fijian "warriors," a whitebread steel drum band, Stan Jones' "Ghost Riders in the Sky" on ukuleles, classically trained hula dancers, more art and craft classes than can be imagined, a Theremin concert, Pecha Kucha Night (yes, look it up), an amazingly humorous theater lab presentation on local down east life, and free lunch time music programs every day of the festival. And you ask where does this spectacular entertainment occur? Only in Maine of course. It is the Schoodic Arts for All Festival in Winter Harbor, Maine. We'll see you there next year.
Schoodic Arts for All encourages participation of residents, families, school children, and the many visitors to our region. The actors and musicians who practice their art as part of our programs benefit from working together, painters and sculptors have an opportunity to exhibit their artwork, and community members attending these events gain further insight into their lives and those of their community, enriching the quality of life for all involved.
While we are very aware of the Festival’s importance as a marketing tool, and are working to boost the number of in-state/out-of-state tourists, we see the primary value in terms of our identity as a community. One illustration of the importance to the community is the value of the time shared by so many local people. The Schoodic Arts Festival would be impossible to stage without the help of many volunteers. A conservative estimate of time this year was 600 hours contributed by people who set up road signs, posted flyers, served food, collected tickets, greeted instructors, gave information, set up and cleaned up workshop spaces, and registered students. The Independent Sector calculates the value of volunteer time in Maine at $21.31 (https://www.independentsector.org/volunteer_time), or $12,786 for the 2016 Festival. Our challenge as we move into a new growth period is staying true to our roots as a community of artists committed to making a living through our creative endeavors—and thereby enhancing the lives of all who live here.
What projects or places, if any, inspired your approach to this creative economy project?
In a region with little industry, most of the people who live here are engaged in creative occupations. These include the visual arts, music, craft, writing, design, architecture, and organic agriculture.