Credit: George Danby / BDN

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Rick Fournier is a former chair of the American Folk Festival, former member of the Maine Arts Commission, vice president of Bangor Savings Bank and a member of the Bangor City Council.

In 2001, many things changed in Bangor beyond the events of 9/11. The planning process of combining the Bangor YMCA and YWCA started. Bangor was selected to host the National Folk Festival, which later became the American Folk Festival on the Bangor waterfront. It was the first year for the Maine Discovery Museum. The redevelopment of downtown and the waterfront had started.

My family had the privilege of serving with all four organizations.

There was talk about the “creative economy,” what was that? Better yet, how could Bangor benefit?

The creative economy is knowledge-based economic activities upon which the “creative industries” are based. This includes music, the performing arts, visual arts, like painting and film, and literature. In Bangor this brings to mind Penobscot Theatre, the Bangor Symphony Orchestra, Ten Bucks Theater, the Zillman Art Museum and the Collins Center for the Arts. The arts are an important part of our lives.

Art is communication. Arts impact how a community evolves. Integrating “arts” more fully into our lives enriches us. Engaging in the arts brings people together, it fosters community. Art and artists aren’t only in museums or concert halls. Artists are all around us: the teen in a garage band, the clog dancer next door, the grocery clerk taking a turn at an open mic night, your mother’s quilting and the church organist and choir, all are participating in the arts.

Bangor has a long history of bringing people together across all social and economic boundaries.

October is “Artober,” Bangor’s celebration of the arts. Making art or appreciating art provides comfort during trying times. This is the fifth year that Bangor celebrates Artober, a formal awareness of the wonder, discovery and joy art brings to our lives.

Let’s bring making art, appreciating art and building community a priority while providing an opportunity for an economic boost to the greater Bangor area. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, during a normal year the arts represent 4.5 percent of our gross domestic product, which is a larger share of the economy than transportation, tourism or construction.  The past two years have not been normal years. The arts community suffered devastating losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so it is vital that we support our creative workers in the months and years to come.

Let’s really celebrate Artober and the importance it makes in our lives. Read a local author, attend a live performance, go to one of our museums, sing in a choir, dance, draw, write, explore through the arts.

Remember the American Folk Festival and how that brought so many people together across all different kinds of boundaries. Music does that — so does theater, film, dance, paintings, poetry, literature and all the many other arts practiced by you and your neighbors. Appreciate the arts in Bangor and have a happy and thoughtful Artober.