BANGOR, Maine — Diversification is one of the goals at the Downtown Bangor Art Walk, set for 5 to 9 tonight (Friday), the fourth event of its kind this year and the final Art Walk for 2009. More artists, more venues and more businesses are on board than before — something event organizer Joshua Plourde knew was bound to happen, considering the upward trajectory of attendance since the first Art Walk was held in late 2008.
“My intention was not necessarily to make it bigger and better, but to see it evolve and to encompass more demographics,” said Plourde, a 22-year-old civil engineering student at the University of Maine. “I want to see more high school students. It’s one of the few events totally open to them they can enjoy. Giacomo’s will be offering coupons to high school students throughout the night.”
Plourde took over organizing from artist Sally Gilbert, founder of the Downtown Bangor Arts Collaborative, who put together the event in previous months. As with previous art walks, artists from all over downtown will open up their galleries and studios to the public. These include everything from the multitude of artists working in Central Street Studios and at 31 Central Street to the many small galleries opening their doors, including the ByDesign Gallery, the Bennett Gallery and One Lupine Fiber Arts.
Businesses also are involved, including a fashion show at Bella Luna Boutique, live music at Giacomo’s, and art at Metropolitan Soul, the Grasshopper Shop, the Charles Inn and Bangor Frameworks.
“I think it’s important to note the connection between the artists and the people enjoying the art walk and downtown businesses,” said Plourde. “For businesses, it’s a great opportunity to connect with a very large group of people who are all coming down at the same time. It’s a surge of people.”
George Kinghorn, director and curator at the University of Maine Museum of Art, sees only positives from the art walk. At the art walk in August, his museum saw more than 300 people come through over the course of the night — many of whom were first-time visitors.
“One of the reasons the museum has been really supportive of the art walk is because it benefits the community on so many levels,” said Kinghorn. “It contributes to the awareness of downtown and making it a better place. It supports local artists. And it brings new people in. It’s definitely had an impact on the museum — these people that come through will become repeat visitors.”
A new part of the event is the after party Plourde has organized, set for the Fiddlehead Restaurant on Hammond Street from 10 p.m. onward. Tickets to the event are sold out, but a very limited number of additional tickets, priced at $12, will be available at the door.
Also new to the art walk this time is the involvement of the University of Maine. Students in the Intermedia MFA program at UMaine have built an installation at 15 Central St. to be seen for one night only.
“No one will know exactly what it’s like until it opens. I don’t even know,” said Plourde. “But I do know it’ll be really new and different and unlike anything that’s been at the art walk before.”
After this art walk, Plourde will hand some of the organizational reins back to Sally Gilbert. His big project for 2010? Getting a mural project up and running in downtown Bangor or perhaps a larger-scale outdoor arts festival in the summer.
“I’d love to see Central Street closed off next summer and full of artists and street performers,” he said. “I’d also love to see a mural project. There are some buildings in Bangor that have a lot of empty space. I’d like to see a big, historical mural of Bangor in the 1800s. I think it would help downtown a lot.”
The art walk is as much about bringing people and energy into downtown Bangor as it is supporting local art. Kinghorn believes events like this contribute to the renewed vitality of the downtown community as a whole.
“It’s making downtown a more vibrant place,” he said. “We need to focus on local businesses, as well as artists. You see events like this in other cities of varying sizes, and it’s only appropriate that we do this as well. It builds momentum.”
Maps of all involved venues, businesses and artists are available at multiple locations downtown, including Giacomo’s, Metropolitan Soul, the Bangor Opera House and the Grasshopper Shop. For more information, visit www.downtownartscollaborative.org.