AUGUSTA, Maine — A new report authored by representatives from Maine and New Brunswick highlights some of the opportunities and roadblocks to expanding cultural and artistic relationships as the two regions focus on growing their “creative economies.”
Earlier this year, Gov. John Baldacci and New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham agreed to appoint two teams to work together to strengthen cultural exchange — and, therefore, cross-border trade — between the neighbors.
In addition to exploring possibilities for joint cultural events, the two teams were charged with recommending ways to make it easier for artists to work across the border, especially when it comes to securing the paperwork necessary to get through checkpoints.
On Tuesday, members of the Maine Arts Commission presented Baldacci with a list of priorities in the first of two reports stemming from the agreement.
“I am confident that continued efforts to promote arts and culture between Maine and New Brunswick will enhance economic opportunity and enrich the quality of living for all people in our region,” Baldacci said.
Among the report’s recommendations are:
ä Hold an annual information-sharing summit of “key cultural stakeholders,” possibly timed with or incorporated into the annual gathering of New England governors and eastern Canadian premiers.
ä Explore the possibility of cross-border artist residency programs, craft shows and demonstrations for native artists.
ä Stage joint cultural events or projects at Roosevelt Campobello International Park, the only U.S.-Canadian park, or at the St. Croix Island International Site.
ä Expand the official promotion of vacation itineraries or trips that integrate both Maine and New Brunswick.
ä Convene a meeting with customs officials and artists or artistic venues from both countries to discuss issues related to crossing the border.
As an example of the latter, Rita Dube of the Franco-American Heritage Center in Lewiston said some artists are prevented from bringing their CDs into the country to sell due to trade restrictions.
The report also stated that cross-border artists face hurdles on both sides of their excursions — first in obtaining the necessary work visas and second in figuring out tax and withholding issues after the trip is complete.
While a significant hurdle for artists, such border-crossing issues would have to be resolved at the federal level because they involve both national security and international trade laws.
Kerstin Gilg, media and performing arts associate with the Maine Arts Commission, said that means urging members of Congress, as well as governors and federal officials, to focus on the issue. The Maine Arts Commission also is setting up online resources to help educate artists about issues associated with working in another country.
According to the report, more than 880,000 Canadians visit Maine annually, spending an estimated $266 million. Additionally, more than 32,000 Maine jobs are supported by U.S. trade with Canada.
Baldacci said the “creative economy” in Maine — whether defined by the work of artists or entrepreneurs — is a major economic engine for the state that has room for growth.
“It’s an area of the economy that thrives on what makes us unique,” Baldacci said. “Expanding our competitiveness in this economy is enhanced by reaching across boundaries and working with our partners.”