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The arts + October = ARTober

October 4, 2017
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BANGOR – It’s that time again. ARTober is here. Bangor’s annual month-long celebration of the arts is making its triumphant return.

The creative culture of a place is one of the most significant keys to the development of its identity. And a thriving creative culture can have a massive impact on the general well-being of that place. There’s a lot of value – economic and otherwise – inherent to an embrace of the arts.

(In fact, if you’re interested in finding out just how significant an economic boost the arts bring to the region, you can check out the Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 report; there’s a link available on the city’s page for the Commission on Cultural Development at www.bangormaine.gov/culturalcommision. There’s a lot to digest, but the short version is that all told, the arts are worth some $10 million annually to the area.)

For the third year, the City of Bangor is using the month of October to celebrate that value. With dozens of events involving nearly 30 local arts and cultural organizations, ARTober is an effort to help point out just how vital and vibrant the arts scene is as a force in the region.

ARTober is shepherded by the Commission on Cultural Development, also known as the Cultural Commission. The CCD is comprised of appointed volunteers and operating under the auspices of the city. A primary part of the group’s mission is to foster growth and expand awareness of the many artistic and cultural offerings that Bangor brings to the table.

(In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that the writer of this story has been a member of the CCD since January of this year.)

Mary Budd is the chair of the CCD, while Liam Riordan and Kim Stewart have served as the point people in the organization of ARTober. All three were kind enough to answer some questions via e-mail exchange regarding the importance of an event like this one.

What prompted the City of Bangor to want a celebration of the arts like ARTober?

Liam Riordan - There are many reasons to celebrate the art and culture scene in Bangor, but one very practical one is that they are a major stimulus to local economic development that is sustainable. The CCD participated in a national survey [the aforementioned Arts & Economic Prosperity report] that has quantified the specific local impact of cultural events. Beyond that very tangible economic impact, cultural programs are a boon to the quality of life in Maine!

Mary Budd - The City’s Commission on Cultural Development wanted to shine a bright light on the full breadth of arts and cultural activity that Bangor residents can enjoy year-round.

Kim Stewart - Mainers tend not to be boastful people, so when we have something amazing going on we aren't necessarily the best at advertising it. I think this is especially true of arts and culture, where organizations and individuals tend to be so committed to what they are doing that they don't have time to shout it from the rooftops. ARTober is a way that the city of Bangor can help promote these fantastic organizations and individuals by taking one month of the year to shine the spotlight on them. [The Arts & Economic Prosperity report showed] the economic impact of arts and culture in Bangor and, while the city was supporting ARTober two years before this report was released, I think there are city officials who have always realized the economic impact of the arts.

What is the process of assembling an event like this? How long does something like this take to plan?

MB - Because ARTober is designed primarily to highlight what’s regularly happening in Bangor, in a sense, the planning is simple, involving first and foremost a survey of local arts and cultural nonprofit organizations and individual artists to find out what they’re doing in October. The next step is to compile that information and develop a marketing plan to heighten awareness about the many ways to plug into Bangor’s unique arts and cultural scene. Ideally, planning would unfold over a six-month period.

LR - An event like ARTober is all about collaboration and trying to harness the energy and mutually advance the activities of dozens of organizations in and around Bangor. In some ways, this makes organizing ARTober quick and easy, though in other ways it builds on social networks that have been drawing individuals and organizations together for decades. It's both a short-term and a long-term effort to build community around the arts.

KS - The beauty of something like ARTober is that it almost plans itself. With the exception of the opening event, we do not generate new events for ARTober. The goal of the month is to highlight the amazing things already happening in Bangor throughout the year. For the organizers, the biggest challenge is in spreading the word, both to potential participants to submit events and to the public to attend the events. 

In years past, all of the planning for ARTober events had to happen over the summer to be submitted by August so that we could put together the extensive brochure. One major change we made this year was to have much more of an online presence and not rely as heavily on the printed brochures which could not be updated. For 2017, the schedule of events will all be online so we can add new submissions and edit existing ones in real time. This cuts down on the planning time and will hopefully allow additional people to host events even if they don't hear about ARTober until the kickoff party.

Are there any big differences between this year's event and what has happened in previous years?

LR - Things are always changing with an all-volunteer event like ARTober. One cool new item is that our kickoff event on Friday, Oct. 6 will be the public debut of the new Bangor Arts Exchange (BAE) building at 193 Exchange St., which has us very excited. It’s a great new arts space, including a fantastic third-floor ballroom. The ARTober kickoff event will coincide with the ARTwalk starting at 5 p.m., so get downtown and check things out!

Another great new aspect of ARTober this year is that all five local colleges and universities are co-sponsoring the event. We hope this will help to encourage students from all across Maine (and beyond) to visit downtown Bangor, see how cool it is and think about sticking around this part of the state when they finish their studies.

MB - We're excited to engage local college students and hope they’ll continue to venture off-campus throughout the school year to experience and contribute to Bangor’s vibrancy.  

KS - Liam has really pushed for us to expand our definition of arts and culture to include the humanities and he has reached out to several organizations in the humanities. I think this year we will see a broader variety of offerings than we have the previous two years.

What are some highlight events to which you're looking forward?

KS - I am always excited for the performance arts pieces, personally. Nocturnem is hosting an i-Jam improv night which sounds like a lot of fun. The Maine Science Festival is also showing the winners of their student film contest from the 2017 festival and I always love to see students involved in arts and culture.

MB – [The Penobscot Theatre Company production of] “Misery!” And it’s great to see renewed energy behind the Bangor Artwork on the first Friday of every month.

LR - A highlight for me will be the dramatic, poetry, and visual arts presentations by students from UMaine, UMA-Bangor and EMMC at the [ARTober kickoff party at the] BAE on Friday, Oct. 6 starting at 5 p.m. Plus, there will be great free food provided by Izzy's Catering, as well as free drinks and a cash bar.

Who are some of the partners that have helped to bring ARTober to fruition?

LR - The City of Bangor's Commission on Cultural Development could not have gotten this off the ground without all of the pre-existing cultural programs by new and long-standing organizations in and around Bangor.  We are also very appreciative of our five co-sponsors: Beal College, Eastern Maine Community College, Husson University, the McGillicuddy Humanities Center at UMaine and UMaine Augusta-Bangor.

MB – Arts incubator Launchpad has helped in creating the website and poster graphic, as well as in planning the kickoff event.

KS - I would also add that there is a full list of partners on the website artoberbangor.com.

Why do you think it's important for this community to have an event like ARTober?

MB - The AEP5 study concluded that Bangor’s arts and cultural nonprofit organizations collectively make an annual economic impact of $10 million, and the more people know what’s happening here, the more we’ll grow.  

KS - Events like this are important for many reasons including economic development, as Mary mentioned. My hope is that participants of ARTober events will be inspired by what is happening in Bangor. I think an event like ARTober gets artists out of their own bubbles and can be a catalyst for collaboration. I always love to see what comes out of events where we get artists talking to each other. 

(For more information about ARTober offerings, visit www.artoberbangor.com. You can also stop by the ARTober kickoff party, taking place at the Bangor Arts Exchange from 5-9 p.m. on October 6, to find out about some of the many organizations and events that make up the month.)

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ARTober highlights

With dozens of events taking place – and more being added all the time – we simply don’t have the time or space to list every single one. However, here are a few examples that might serve to whet your appetite for the arts.

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ARTober Kickoff – Oct. 6

This event doubles as the grand opening celebration for the Bangor Arts Exchange. The event is free for all and takes place from 5-9 p.m. It will feature speakers from a number of Bangor’s arts organizations and presentations from such varied sources as the Bangor Symphony Orchestra, Robinson Ballet and improv troupe The Focus Group. In addition, there will be student presentations courtesy of some of ARTober’s educational institution sponsors.

“Misery” – Oct. 12 – Nov. 5

This is the Maine premiere of the latest stage adaptation of Stephen King’s best-selling novel. It’s a faithful rendering of one of King’s classic works at the Bangor Opera House, offering just the right amount of scares for the Halloween season. Tickets can be purchased at penobscottheatre.org.

The 5th Dimension – Oct. 14

This concert will be taking place at the Gracie Theatre on the campus of Husson University. It features soul icons The 5th Dimension singing the hits that made them such a beloved part of the music scene of the ‘60s and ‘70s. The concert starts at 7:30 p.m.; tickets are available at gracietheatre.com.

A Reading by Vi Khi Nao – Oct. 20

The Norumbega Collective is presenting a reading by acclaimed poet and fiction writer Vi Khi Nao. An author of short fiction, novels and poetry collections, she will be reading at the Gallery at the Bangor Arts Exchange starting at 7 p.m. The reading will be followed by a Q&A; books will be available for purchase.

Paraween X: SYZYGY – Oct. 21

Bangor’s premier belly dance troupe The Haus of Paradigm is presenting SYZYGY as their annual Paraween performance in the Lancaster Room at Hollywood Casino. This event marks the 10th Paraween celebration by the troupe, a vivid and evocative dance presentation unlike any other. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.; the show starts at 7. Tickets can be purchased in advance at AO LUXE in the Bangor Mall, online at aoluxe.wix.com/paradigmdancecompany or at the door.

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For more information on these or any other ARTober events, be sure to pay a visit to www.artober.com.

Again, this is just a handful of the great stuff that’s going on all month as part of ARTober. There will be workshops and lectures and films and performances and all manner of entertaining engagement with the arts.

Keep an eye on The Maine Edge in the weeks ahead; we’ll be offering up a weekly “The Week in ARTober” feature that will continue to highlight these diverse, delightful offerings.

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