ARTSIPELAGO_JAN

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 risks that the organization has undertaken during the development of its Artsipelago initiative funded by ArtPlace.

ARTPLACE: What is the biggest risk you’ve taken in your efforts? How did you get burned, or how did you prevail?

FRENCH: Our biggest risk was starting part of the Artsipelago initiative before knowing we had final funding approval from ArtPlace. We had been organizing an annual regional cross-border (U.S./Canada) studio tour for a number of years. But by the summer of 2011 we knew that the tour had run its course. It needed more synergy. It needed more critical mass. It needed to be reinvented.

We had thought through that reinvention by early fall, 2011 when we submitted a letter of inquiry to ArtPlace. We learned in December, 2011 that we had made to the final round with ArtPlace and we submitted a full proposal to ArtPlace in January, 2012. By this time, we had to make a decision as to whether to move forward with a reinvented art tour that would become a broader, year round cultural guide to the region including local foods, festivals, music venues, community theaters, farmer’s markets, artist studios, ferries, and more. We had some initial funding in place, and we decided to gamble.

It took months of hard work to develop the guide and accompanying map as we were charting new territory. Nothing like this had ever been done in this region. Nothing like this had ever been done in Maine. We knew we had to go to press by mid-May, 2012 in time for the summer season. Working at a pretty intense level, the map and the guide came together in time. But could we go to press without all of the funding in place? On May 17, 2012 we got word that ArtPlace had come through. We were able to negotiate with ArtPlace so that we could include their support in the published guide the day it went to press. It was a great triumph. It was a large gamble that paid off. We are in so much better shape now with our Artsipelago initiative for having taken this gamble.

PHOTO: Eastport Farmer’s Market relocated to the public amphitheater in downtown Eastport at the beginning of the summer of 2012 with assistance from the Tides Institute . The market is part of Tides Institute’s new regional Artsipelago cultural guide. Photograph by Leslie Bowman.

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