Belfast Creative Coalition awarded $5,000 arts expansion grant

Money to be used to help promote local artists, farmers
By Ben Holbrook | Dec 04, 2012

Belfast — The Belfast Creative Coalition received a $5,000 Main Community Foundation Arts Expansion grant, which will help the organization showcase local artists and farmers.

The funding will allow the Coaltion to hire someone to do data entry and design maps and to cover printing costs. The data entry is especially important, as the Creative Coalition and the Maine Farmland Trust are partnering to give more exposure to 50 local artists and farmers, Kimberly Callas, Belfast Creative Coalition coordinator, said.

Callas explained that the artists and farmers could agree to become a “site,” which means the farm or gallery would become a destination for tourists and other individuals to visit. As an example, Callas said some farms are also operating as bed-and-breakfasts where guests can milk a cow or gather eggs.

“They want an authentic experience,” Callas said of the guests who are attracted to such venues.

For the artists, participating in the project could mean that they agree to allow people to visit their gallery, or even to host a workshop. Additionally, Callas noted, the farmers and artists could agree to be either an open site or a closed site. The open sites would allow people to stop in without calling ahead of time, while the closed sites would require advance notice.

As an added bonus, Callas said, many of the creative establishments in the county are close enough that visitors can hike, bike or cross-country ski between them.

Callas said the 50/50 mix was chosen because the Creative Coalition would like to begin placing advertising by March and April in anticipation of the summer tourist season. The number of farms and artists involved in the project would potentially increase in the future, Callas said.

Looking at ways to strengthen the creative economy in Waldo County is becoming an important focus for the Belfast Creative Coalition, which recently received City Council approval for $10,000 in funding from the city of Belfast for a part-time coordinator. When asked what are the major challenges the organization is facing, Callas said marketing the creative community is an area the Coalition wants to improve upon.

In a report, Callas presented numbers compiled by the New England Foundation for the Arts and the Maine Department of Labor that showed that every $1 spent by a Maine nonprofit arts and cultural group becomes $2 in sales for local businesses. Those figures were highlighted by Callas, who said many businesses look at what towns have to offer in terms of arts and cultural events when deciding where to locate.

There are an estimated 54 creative establishments in Belfast, a number that Callas said does not take into account individual artists who have studios but do all of their showings at local galleries.

“Businesses want to attract talented people and talented people are attracted to arts and culture,” Callas said.

Callas encouraged artists to list events or their own sites on the Creative Coalition website — belfastcreativecoalition.org — in order to get more exposure. She can be contacted directly at kimberly@belfastcreativecoalition.org.

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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