EASTPORT, Maine — The creative arts and the economy of the Eastport area will be boosted this year with a $50,000 Maine Arts Commission grant that will allow for a unique collaboration between groups on both sides of the border.
The official kickoff for “On the Creative Edge” was held Friday afternoon, Dec. 31, 2010, at the Tides Institute and Museum of Art, in weather so balmy that the celebration was held on the front patio.
The grant is designed to aid community revitalization, and Eastport City Council Chairman Robert Peacock said that is exactly what will happen.
“The city is very happy and has supported the grant concept from the beginning,” Peacock said Friday. “When you blend the arts and the economy, everything will look and be better.”
The collaborating parties charged with implementing economic revitalization in this region include Tides Institute and Museum of Art, the city of Eastport, Eastport Historic Review Board, Eastport Downtown Committee, Sunrise County Economic Council, Shead High School, Peavey Memorial Library, Wabanaki Museum committee, Eastport Arts Center, Border Historical Society and Eastport Area Chamber of Commerce.
Jude Valentine, program director at The Tides Institute, said the slogan, “On the Creative Edge,” will become the Eastport area’s brand and will build on cross-border activities that the Tides already has in place.
“One Bay — Two Countries” is a three-day open studio tour of artists on both sides of the border, and the Tides’ online events planner, Culture Pass, keeps Mainers, Canadians and visitors informed about cultural events in Maine and New Brunswick.
“Our next step is to organize a cultural council,” Valentine said. “We will be integrating the cultural sector with economic issues. This grant really gives the arts community a seat at the table. It will allow us to elevate the arts and the perception of the arts in this area.”
Eastport has been gaining momentum as an arts center and destination for years, ever since a community of artists fled New York City in the 1960s for the peace and freedom of the rugged Maine coast.
Today, hundreds of world-class artists maintain year-round and seasonal studios in the area, including writers, sculptors, painters, builders, musicians and others.
Eastport’s downtown, nearly emptied when the sardine factories on which the economy had been built closed down, is now filled with galleries, studios and stores featuring local art. The Eastport Arts Center produces plays and sustains art showings year-round, and local festivals, which prominently feature local artisans, are attended by tens of thousands.
Additional plans for the MAC grant include cross-border work with Canada, the establishment of a cultural council, the creation of a brand for Eastport, the expansion of public art in the town, and the promotion of an art boat and creative work spaces.
“This award brings a tremendous opportunity to work together to advance the interconnectedness between the cultural and economic creative sectors of Eastport, strengthening collaborations, programs and resources within the cultural, business and municipal government sectors of our community,” Valentine said. “It will help continue establish Eastport as a city on the creative edge.”