High Peaks Region receives grant aimed at artistic, economic collaboration
PHILLIPS - Communities in northern Franklin County are expected to benefit from the awarding of a $50,000 state grant, with all funds going toward supporting the development of the region's creative economy.
The High Peaks Region, identified in the grant as including the towns of Kingfield, Phillips, Rangeley, Eustis and Carrabassett Valley, received one of two Creative Communities Economic Development Grants issued statewide, funded through the Maine Arts Commission. An organization in Presque Isle received the other grant.
Local artist Saskia Reinholt began the application process, something she said she had experience with thanks to past efforts to fund community plans and art projects such as public murals elsewhere in the country. Reinholt and the Phillips Public Library, which was the proposal's fiscal sponsor, were assisted by municipal officials, residents like Betsy Squibb and others. They recently learned that the Maine Arts Commission had narrowed the grant finalists to Presque Isle, Bangor, Skowhegan and the Highland Peaks proposals, which Reinholt equated to a 50 percent shot at the funding.
"We're delighted and really excited," Reinholt said Thursday, noting the region had a number of art galleries, museums and other venues that were not as widely advertised as they could be. "It'll help put the area on the map."
The first step of the grant calls for the hiring of a part-time coordinator to assist in the development of plan, followed by the formation of a High Peaks Cultural Council, which will include representatives from local organizations, municipalities and businesses. Data will be collected regarding local offerings, to be incorporated into a website, marketing plan and a map outlining local artistic and cultural offerings.
The grant also incorporates a proposed Multimedia Arts Center in the old school cafeteria, located adjacent to the Phillips Library. Reinholt said that center is expected to include a recording studio and space for art or music classes. The Maine School of Masonry is expected to assist the council in constructing a sign for the center on Main Street. The proposal is tied into other regional assets, including recently-expanded Fly Rod Crosby Trail.
Reinholt said that improving the visibility of local, creative offerings could assist the region in terms of economic development, citing improvements to downtown Kingfield as one example of recent revitalization. Reinholt and others have helped organize art walks through Kingfield, including local art galleries, libraries and museums. For example, the next First Friday Artwalk on Feb. 1, will feature High Peaks region artists, specializing in pieces ranging from paint to clay to stained glass, as well as access to local museums and a horse and sleigh ride. More information about that event can be seen here.
The $50,000 becomes available in incremental amounts, Reinholt said, as the council and organizers meet the goals of the plan. The phases stretch out over the next 18 months, she added, and should leave the region with all the tools necessary for an active and unified promotion of local arts.
In addition to supporting the development of the High Peaks Cultural Council and Multimedia Arts Center, funds will be used to conduct marketing for the Crossroads International Celtic Festival, which is expected to take place in September.