September 28, 2010

Maine arts leaders convene for cultural summit

They hear that economic development in the arts begins with quality of place – which Maine has.

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

DEER ISLE — Under a blanket of heavy mist, 75 artists, arts presenters, administrators and educators gathered at the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts on Monday to share ideas, talk about their latest projects and, in many instances, simply introduce themselves.

"Cultural Summit 2010: A Gathering of Maine's Arts Leaders" drew participants from across the state, including several museum directors who are new to Maine.

Dan Mills, director of the Bates College Museum of Art, has been on the job less than two weeks. Chris Brownawell, director of the Farnsworth Art Museum, has spent just six months at the institution in Rockland.

But most of the people who came to Haystack for a 24-hour summit on the state of the arts were familiar friends, and the gathering gave them a chance to pause their busy lives and see how others in the business are coping.

They came to compare notes, trade strategies and talk about programs and initiatives that are working and those that are not.

"It's a chance for everybody to get together and see how we're doing," said David Greenham, producing artistic director of the Theater at Monmouth.

Stuart Kestenbaum, director of Haystack, talked about "the great line of creativity and ingenuity in Maine," and suggested that the summit provided a platform to sharpen and develop those ideas.

Monday's keynote speaker was Richard Barringer, a research professor at the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine in Portland. His talk, "The Creative Economy in Changing Times," made the case that real economic development in the arts begins with quality of place.

One of Maine's key assets is its quality of place, statewide and on the community level. "What attracts people and what keeps them are place and amenities, and that's especially true with the skilled workers that we need today," Barringer said.

Quality of place means unique and active downtowns, natural attractions and cultural opportunities.

Maine has those in urban and rural settings, Barringer said, although he suggested that Portland "is not in its heyday anymore" and "is trying to get back there."

Mark Bessire, director of the Portland Museum of Art, addressed the gathering Monday night.

Today, Aimee Petrin, director of Portland Ovations, and Linda Nelson, executive director of Opera House Arts in Stonington, will talk about their organizations.

 

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at: bkeyes@pressherald.com

 

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