On Wednesday, Jan. 10, the Maine Arts Commission will launch its 2018 Arts Iditarod, a long and undoubtedly snowy regional tour from Kennebunk to Houlton and Lewiston to Ellsworth.

The four regional meetings will provide professional development workshops, information and discussion opportunities to the state’s far-flung, diverse arts and cultural organizations, as well as artists, arts educators and community policy makers and members interested in development in and through the arts.

“We’re the most rural state in the nation, and people often have to travel long distances to get services,” said Julie Richard, MAC’s executive director. “We’ve discovered these regional sessions to be the best way to stay connected and offer broad access to our programs.”

The tour kicks off Jan. 10 at the Houlton Higher Education Center, in cooperation with the Tri-County Regional Creative Council. Event registration, also available online, will open at 12:30 p.m. with sessions running from 1 to 4 p.m. All of the Maine Arts Iditarod events are free and open to the public.

Each of the four gatherings will include three intensive workshops: Cultural Tourism; Strategic Planning for both Arts Organizations and Artists; and How to Be and Build a Better Board. In addition, information and updates will be provided on several MAC initiatives, including the commission’s new nonprofit advocacy and support organization, ArtsEngageME; local and state economic impact data for the arts; and grants. Refreshments will be served.

After Houlton, the 2018 Arts Iditarod moves on to The Brick Store Museum in Kennebunk Monday, Jan. 29; an Ellsworth location TBA Tuesday, Feb. 6; and the Gendron Franco Center in Lewiston Wednesday, Feb. 14. All sessions will run from 1 to 4 p.m. Advance registration via EventBrite is suggested, in case weather necessitates schedule changes.

The commission’s five-year cultural strategic plan, adopted in 2015, and information regarding programs and Iditarod location and agenda details are available at mainearts.com. One can also register at the website to review, as of Jan. 2, the new year’s grant program guidelines and open applications; to receive the commission’s monthly e-newsletters, containing information about grant and other opportunities and awards; and to follow the Commission on social media.

The Maine Arts Commission supports artists, art organizations, educators, policy makers and community developers in advancing the arts in Maine. For more than 50 years, the Commission has encouraged and stimulated public interest and participation in the cultural heritage and cultural programs of our state; has worked to expand the state's cultural resources; and encouraged and assisted freedom of artistic expression for the well-being of the arts, to meet the needs and aspirations of persons in all parts of the state.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.