Franklin Countys First News

Organizers look to turn cultural plan into coalition

Roughly 40 people attended the North Church Wednesday evening to review a new cultural plan for southern Franklin County.

FARMINGTON - A regional art and culture plan for southern Franklin County was presented at the North Church Wednesday evening, along with data on demographics, accessibility and usage garnered through surveys with artists, organizations and members of the public. Organizers hope to qualify for grant funding next year that would serve as a jumping off point for a new collaborative effort to promote the region.

Roughly 40 people attended the meeting, representing local businesses, cultural organizations, artists and other parties interested in the results of the year-long process. A collaboration between ArtsFarmington and Greater Franklin Development Council, the Southern Franklin County Region Arts, Cultural & Heritage Plan began with a Maine Arts Commission cultural planning grant announced in July 2018. With those funds, Reinholt Consulting out of Phillips and other organizers collected data from 194 members of the public, 42 artists and performers and 16 local cultural organizations using surveys and a series of public meetings. The goal was to develop specific goals and strategies designed to enhance cultural opportunities in the southern part of the county.

The surveys allowed Reinholt Consulting to create a snapshot of what people want, where they want it and what some of the barriers keeping them from attending events are. The data is broken down by age, income range and other demographic information, such as if they have school-age children at home.

Besides being useful to future planning efforts, Emily Reinholt said, the data could be used by cultural organizations when applying for future grants.

"It's meant to be a resource," Charlie Woodworth, executive director of GFDC said.

Information gathered through interviews and at the public meetings - which drew more than 80 people in all - along with the survey data, helped formulate the four major goals of the plan: helping promote and connect cultural assets, expanding access to arts and cultural activities, attracting and retaining a creative economy and emphasizing and enhancing the region's sense of place. Each broad goal is broken down into specific initiatives; one popular, early idea as part of the first goal, for example, is creating a calendar for artistic and cultural events. Visibility was identified by a number of survey respondents as being an issue.

The next step for the plan will involve organizing interested parties into a coalition that could apply for additional funding in March 2020. A second phase of funding through the Maine Arts Commission could provide $75,000 over a three-year period. Developing a clearinghouse for cultural events in the region, along with an accompanying website, would be an initial step, organizers suggested.

Other ideas, such as a directory for artists or a cultural map displaying local offerings, could hang off that website. The plan is designed to cover roughly the next five years.

Organizers collected the names of people interested in working within the coalition at Wednesday's meeting.
To learn more about the plan contact GFDC at 778-5887 or Reinholt Consulting at saskia@reinholtconsulting.com.

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