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Indigenous art event set for Downtown Bangor

November 3, 2021
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Baskets are among the handmade items that will be available at Saturday’s Art Market. Baskets are among the handmade items that will be available at Saturday’s Art Market. (photo courtesy Downtown Bangor Partnership)

BANGOR - An upcoming arts market in Downtown Bangor will feature the work of local Native American artisans.

On Saturday, November 6, from 10-4, West Market Square will host a celebration of Indigenous art and culture to kick off Native American Heritage Month. Vendors will sell their handmade items inside the building at 21 Main Street; there will be a variety of performances throughout the day as well. The event is part of the First Friday series organized by the Downtown Bangor Partnership (DBP), a nonprofit that promotes the welfare of individuals and businesses in the downtown area. 

The seed was sown in 2020, when Betsy Lundy, member of the DBP board of directors, met Jason Brown of the Penobscot Nation. Brown is a nationally recognized fashion designer and artist; alongside his wife, Donna Decontie-Brown, he crafts haute couture pieces that are inspired by traditional Native techniques. (Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg was quite fond of a pendant that she purchased from the husband-wife duo.) Brown is also a musician: under the stage name Firefly, he melds the music of his Penobscot heritage with driving beats, flashing lights and flamboyant costumes that could rival Elton John.

It was Brown who first saw the potential to feature Native voices as part of DBP’s First Friday events.  “We had a conversation about the presence of the Native population in this area,” said Lundy. “How do we talk about Native Americans ... as being part of our current community? They’re contributors, they’re artists, they’re business owners.” 

November is National Native American Heritage Month, a prime time to raise awareness of Indigenous traditions within the larger community. Brown proposed an art market and they were off to the races. 

“I have the places and spaces ... a [place] to have the market indoors, a place to do the performance,” said Lundy. While she dealt with the logistics, Brown handled “the relationships and the artistry, putting together the performance pieces and bringing together the community partners that will make it representative [of local Native cultures].” Three tribes will be represented among the vendors. 

Festivities actually begin the night before on November 5 with a 7 p.m. performance by Firefly at the Bangor Arts Exchange (193 Main Street). Admission is free - and Firefly’s powerful vocals, steeped in the Penobscot musical tradition, are not to be missed. The following morning, beginning at 10 a.m., shoppers can browse the vendors’ booths at 21 Main Street. Shoppers can expect to see carven wood items, beaded jewelry, woven baskets, textiles, clothing and more. Native artisans are skilled in blending form with function; even the most workaday household items can double as stunning pieces of decor. 

(Note: To prevent this from becoming a shop-til-you-literally-drop experience, be sure to fill your tank at a few of the many Downtown Bangor eateries.)

The event’s primary sponsor is Wabanaki Health and Wellness, an organization that promotes all aspects of health in four federally recognized Maine tribes (members of the Wabenaki confederacy, which loosely translates to “People of the Dawnland”). The organization will be present at Saturday’s event to educate shoppers about their mission. More information can be found on their website at www.wabanakiphw.org. 

The Native American Heritage Month Art Market is part of DBP’s Early Bird Shopping Weekend, November 5-7. Special deals and promotions will encourage residents to begin their holiday shopping at Bangor’s thriving small businesses. Later in the month, DBP will facilitate Plaid Friday and Small Business Saturday, November 26 and 27. An alternative to the big-box bedlam of Black Friday, the all-day events will feature amazing savings and festive trolley rides, free of charge.

If you haven’t begun your holiday shopping, Saturday’s Native American Heritage Month Art Market is the place to be. Everyone on your list will thank you. (Of course, if you just want to festoon yourself with gorgeous jewelry, or buy yourself a giant wooden owl, we won’t tell.)

Last modified on Wednesday, 03 November 2021 09:47
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