Betting on art as the centerpiece of an economic comeback, Tides Institute & Museum of Art’s Artsipelago will rebrand and connect a number of established efforts as well as develop artist live/work space and studio space to drive arts participation and ultimately talent retention in this rural, multicultural, coastal archipelago.
ArtPlace spoke with Hugh French, Director of the Tides Institute and Museum of Art about organizations that have been central to developing their Artsipelago initiative and what makes a successful partnership.
ARTPLACE: Who outside your organization has been key to your ability to move your initiative forward?
FRENCH: There have been a whole wide range of individuals and organizations that have been key to moving our Artsipelago initiative forward. This is completely reflective of our operating and development philosophy – in a rural, sparsely populated region such as ours, we need to engage and involve as many people and players as we can to build the support, critical mass, synergy, and connectedness that will allow a larger project to be carried out successfully. The City of Eastport has been extremely supportive of our efforts and we partnered with them to obtain $250,000 in state funding (through a special Communities for Maine’s Futures bond program) towards the development of our downtown StudioWorks facility. Ours was the only such award from this funding program in all of eastern and northern Maine. Private foundations have been critical with several foundations stepping up their level of support for the StudioWorks facility to the tune of double or triple what they had ever given us before. Artists and cultural organizations throughout our region have embraced our initial Artsipelago cultural guide to the region with unprecedented enthusiasm. They are the guide’s goodwill ambassadors – distributing thousands of copies for us — in a far more ongoing and comprehensive way then we could ever do ourselves. Artists, both here and elsewhere, have really latched on to the concept of a StudioWorks facility combined with an artist residency program — freely giving advice, equipment, and working time. Artist Andrea Dezsö’s installation (shown in the accompanying photograph) developed in a storefront window of our building this past summer was a huge success in conveying the notion of accessible art available 24/7. Thermal Efficiency Eastport, a non-profit organization dedicated to developing community wide alternative energy efficiencies, is using the StudioWorks facility as one of their demonstration sites and they have contributed fully developed architectural and energy drawings and plans for this facility at no cost to us. The exceptional contractors who are now beginning the restoration and redevelopment of the Holmes Twins building into the StudioWorks facility are key. They want to see this project happen, to see it through successfully, and to have it showcase the high quality of work that they can do. The State of Maine, the Eastport Chamber of Commerce, the Port of Eastport, the neighboring Passamaquoddy Waponahki Museum and Resource Center have all been critical to Artsipelago’s development. The list could really go on and on.
ARTPLACE: Are there secrets to good partnerships?
FRENCH: Good partnerships depend on a number of critical factors. First, there has to be trust between partners. Without this, a partnership isn’t going to go very far. Second, there has to be real and ready buy-in with all partners. If you have to really work extra hard to sell a partnership concept to someone, chances are the partnership isn’t go to work. Third, partnerships have to be a win-win situation for all involved. One partner can’t be perceived as gaining all or most of the benefits at the expense of others. Fourth, partnerships are ongoing working relationships. You can’t set up a partnership and then have nothing happen. You have to constantly work to make partnerships work.
One of our most successful partnerships has involved the creation of a series of place based letterpress printed posters. Each has involved the commissioning of an original work of art – typically a woodcut. This has been a relatively straightforward and inexpensive partnership that has been phenomenally successful. Each poster involves us, a printer, an artist, and a community organization. We all have to work together at producing a very tangible result. We all have our part to play. At times, we really have to work to make the process work. But, ultimately, it always has. We’ve produced 17 posters so far with two more in the works. The cumulative effectiveness of all of this has been really remarkable.
Partnerships are a great way to tackle larger projects by allowing you to spread the costs around and achieve things that you and others could never achieve on your own. Partnerships are an invaluable vehicle to developing larger operating frameworks that allow you and others to work at a larger scale. Partnerships are the most cost effective means to develop critical mass, synergy and connectedness. Again, for us, operating as we do in a rural, sparsely populated region, this has made all the difference between success and failure.
IMAGE: Window view of “Her Kingdom Under the Sea,” an installation by Andrea Dezsö at the Tides Institute and Museum of Art, Eastport, Maine, from August 17 through September 12, 2012.