BANGOR, Maine — Downtown is more than lawyer’s offices and government buildings; it’s made up of shops, restaurants, museums and galleries, too.
A group of about 20 artists, along with the University of Maine Museum of Art, wants to emphasize that point on Friday, hoping to attract visitors and office workers alike to a free Downtown Bangor Artwalk from 5 to 9 p.m.
The goal, organizers said, is to offer a glimpse inside the artists’ studios and an opportunity to see art on display, and then encourage visitors to stay downtown for a drink or a bite to eat.
“The idea is to get people out looking at art, but also it is a big opportunity for people to come and spend some time downtown, get together with friends, look at art, go to dinner,” said George Kinghorn, the director of the UMaine museum.
Organizers such as Kinghorn and local painter and printer Sally Gilbert, whose studio is located at 9 Central St., are aiming for similar evening art walk events on a quarterly basis. The museum was the site of a Jan. 26 planning meeting, during which artists met with museum officials and worked out the details of the event.
“I was like, this is perfect because it’s in line with our mission,” said Kinghorn, who worked on similar art walks when he was at the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville in Florida. “Downtown should be the heart of every city.”
Perhaps the best approach to the Downtown Bangor Artwalk is an early stop at either UMMA, the Bennet Gallery or Metropolitan Soul, where informational postcards and maps of participating studios will be available.
From there, participants can wander downtown from stop to stop.
One large group of artists based at 9 Central St. includes Gilbert, Frankie Cookson, Liz Grandmaison, Andrea Hand, Tree Heckler, JoAnn Houslen, Deborah Jellison, Sergio Ramos and Angela Warren. At Central Street Yoga, work from Michael Shyka and Shanna Merola will be on display. Another large group of artists, including Greg Bennett, Cheryl Daigle, Emily Leonard Trenholm and Nathan Slobodkin are located at 31 Central St.
Exchange Street Studios will have Nina Jerome’s work. Jodi Clayton’s work will be at One Lupine Fiber Arts. In addition to handing out maps of downtown, the Bennet Gallery and Metropolitan Soul will be open for business. UMMA will also be open late so visitors can see the current exhibits and works from the museum’s collection.
“It’s a good mix of artists, musicians, violin makers, fabric artists,” Gilbert said, “from folks who are newly emerging to folks who have been well-represented in Maine.”
There have been similar art walks in the past in Bangor — as well as well-established events in Portland and Belfast — but probably nothing in the last five years, Gilbert said. There are sidewalk art events in the summer, but nothing beats being in the artist’s studio, as the Exchange Street groups found out when they had a November open house that drew dozens of visitors.
And an art walk is a way to bring in new customers and provide some excitement, especially in a time when artists are short on customers and downtowns everywhere are long on empty storefronts.
“This is a time when downtown Bangor could use a boost, and [this event gives] the artists a boost,” Gilbert said. “Everyone’s sales are down and it’s a little bit of a tighter climate for all of us. Regardless of that we all feel like we’re stakeholders in the city of Bangor and it’s nice to provide something like this.”
For details, call the University of Maine Museum of Art at 561-3350 or go to www.myspace.com/centralstreetstudios