For the twin cities of Lewiston and Auburn, the arts conference that’s coming to the community this week is a case of good fortune and good timing. The conference presents an opportunity to showcase the arts-based economic development that’s happening in town, said Louise Rosen, director of LA Arts, the local arts agency.

She began her job this summer, after directing the Maine Jewish Film Festival. Rosen lives in Brunswick.

She took the job because of the diversity of the community and the potential for growth. The community has theaters, museums and a world-class dance festival that draws artists from across the globe. And it’s poised for more, she said.

“In many respects, Lewiston-Auburn is the ultimate example in Maine of the way the arts and culture can help transform communities. In my short time here, I have found that both of these cities are open and receptive to the role that the arts and culture can play in terms of development,” she said.

As an example, she cited a recent $20,000 pledge to LA Arts from the local JCL Foundation. Half of that money has been funded, and the rest will follow if LA Arts can match the original $10,000.

The JCL Foundation pledge follows a $50,000 National Endowment for the Arts grant that LA Arts received in the spring to spur economic development. The Our Town grant enables LA Arts to partner with Maine College of Art and the Lewiston/Auburn Economic Growth Council to identify the physical space, technical requirements and business needs of artisan-based manufacturers. The money also will develop brand identity associated with the local arts industry, Rosen said.


She envisions a makers forum, pop-up retail space and an exhibition highlighting the region’s traditional past, present and future.

She loves this project because it combines the textile manufacturing traditions of the region with textile traditions brought into the community from new Mainers who have arrived from Africa, as well as the textile program at MECA.

“This will allow us to draw up business plans and give us access to financing, and it will stimulate new artisan-based manufacturing,” she said.

Rosen has worked in media and the arts for more than 25 years, with experience in fundraising, programming and marketing.

Among her tasks, Rosen is preparing to implement the new L-A Cultural Plan, funded through a Maine Arts Commission grant and matching support from the cities of Auburn and Lewiston. The support of city governments with private enterprise and local nonprofits bodes well for the future, she said.

“The renaissance of New England is peppered with post-industrial mill towns. Some have begun the process of re-emergence, others are further along,” Rosen said. “I would argue that Lewiston-Auburn is an example of a place that is further along the development timeline and ready to burst forth.”


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