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Another autumn, another ARTober

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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 that came out last year; there’s a link available on the city’s page for the Commission on Cultural Development, which can be found at www.bangormaine.gov/culturalcommision. There’s a lot to digest, but the short version is that all told, the arts are worth millions of dollars annually to the area. That value is precisely why something like ARTober exists – to draw even more attention to an aspect of our region that is already a significant economic driver.)

For the fourth year, the City of Bangor is using the month of October to celebrate that value. 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 is currently a member of the CCD and has been since January of 2017.)

There are a wide variety of events taking place all over Bangor over the course of ARTober. There’s the Bangor Art Walk, taking place on Oct. 5. The Bangor Arts Exchange will feature a number of concerts throughout the month, including Maine favorites Rustic Overtones on Oct. 20. BAE residents the Bangor Symphony Orchestra will feature some offerings as well. The University of Maine Museum of Art will also be offering programming, most notably a screening of the latest installment of the ongoing “Art21” docuseries on Oct. 21.

And leading the charge, we have the ARTober Kickoff Party, scheduled to take place on Oct. 5 from 5-7 p.m. at the Bangor Arts Exchange, located at 192 Exchange Street. This free event will serve as a showcase, offering up a look at some of the varied artistic and cultural institutions that call the city home (along with some delicious food and drink).

All told, there are six performance slots for the event. Each performance will take place in the BAE Ballroom. Music, dance, spoken word, scripted performance and improv comedy – the gamut is certainly being run with these offerings. Each performance is scheduled to run between 10 and 15 minutes in length.

Here are the scheduled performers:

Bangor Symphony Youth Orchestra

The Bangor Symphony Youth Orchestras (BSYO), an education program of the Bangor Symphony Orchestra (BSO), gives qualified students ages 8 to 18 the opportunity to gain performance experience in an encouraging and motivating environment. The BSYO comprise students who are invited, following an audition, to join one of four ensembles: the Pre-Orchestra Program, the Prelude String Orchestra, the Prelude Wind Ensemble or the Philharmonic Orchestra. The group’s latest round of auditions took place just last month.

Members of the BSYO will offer a brief performance to kick off the Kickoff, as it were.

Ten Bucks Theatre Company

Ten Bucks Theatre Company has been a part of the area’s artistic community for nearly two decades. The group was conceived by a group of friends and colleagues sitting around a dining room table on a June night in 2000.

(Editor’s note: In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that I was a part of the group that met that night. I am a proud founding member of Ten Bucks Theatre.)

TBTC chose to explore the possibility of charting their own artistic futures, rather than simply sitting by the phone waiting for others to create opportunities. It was a group that wanted to form and run its own theatre company … and run it in a way that was satisfying to them as performers. The goal was to create exciting theatrical experiences both artistically exciting and accessible.

In their slot, TBTC will be sharing “Wingtips,” the winning short play from their seventh annual 24-Hour New Play Festival, an event that took place last month for the first time in its new location, the BAE Ballroom.

Bangor Ballet

Bangor Ballet was founded in 1994 and is approaching a quarter-century as part of the area’s creative community. The organization is dedicated to creating performance opportunities for talented dancers and choreographers and to connecting audiences near and far with high quality live dance performances.

Bangor Ballet offers beautifully danced and elegantly costumed productions, with an emphasis on classical ballet. The repertoire includes 19th and 20th century ballet classics, family-friendly story ballets, and new works by contemporary choreographers.

The 2018-2019 company consists of pre-professional dancers who train during the week and rehearse on weekends. Many company members attend prestigious summer programs offered by Ballet Chicago, Miami Ballet, School of American Ballet, the Joffrey Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and others.

Open auditions are held for the company each spring. Talented dancers from all area studios are encouraged to audition and may become company members.

Bangor Ballet also has administrative space at BAE; no showcase would be complete without their presence.

Monique Flynn, UMaine Intermedia MFA

Monique Flynn is a University of Maine Intermedia MFA student. She is an activist and artist from New York whose work is informed by her experience navigating the world as a working-class queer femme. She is a former Company Member of the Survivor Theatre Project and documented participant of Project Upstate Girls. Her spoken word poetry collection “Out Loud” focuses on topics of identity, sexuality, and gender.

The Focus Group

Bangor’s premiere improv comedy troupe has been making things up to make people laugh since 2009. The group is devoted to a long-form improv sensibility rather than the more familiar short-form, although the reality is that the Focus Group has long since blurred those particular lines.

While the group is about to mark their 10-year anniversary next April, they have also been part of the Bangor Arts Exchange since it first opened its doors. Thanks to an invitation from Launchpad, the arts incubator organization that helps manage the space, the Focus Group has been in residence at BAE since last fall and has performed in the space on numerous occasions over the past year.

The Focus Group will be offering up a slice of their own unique brand of improv goodness as part of the Kickoff Party. If that slice whets your appetite for more made-up mayhem, the group will be offering a full show later that evening. “The Hunt for BAE ARTober” will take place in the BAE ballroom starting at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5.

(Editor’s note: Blah blah full disclosure blah – I am also a member of The Focus Group, as if you didn’t already know.)

Bangor Community Theatre

Bangor Community Theatre (BCT) - the oldest community theater in the Bangor area - has a 60-plus year history of providing live theater, musical theater and other theatrical opportunities to the citizens of Bangor and Eastern Maine. The organization came about as a result of the merger in 1969 of Bangor Civic Theatre (founded in 1951) and the Bangor Savoyards (founded in 1953).  
 
BCT is a volunteer organization whose membership is open to all ages who are interested in any aspect of theatre whether it be onstage or behind the scenes. Their mission is to provide opportunities for participation in the theatre arts for all ages and all levels of ability and interest; provide a social organization for those people who share a common interest in all aspects of community theatre; and provide quality, affordable theatre and musical theatre productions to patrons. 

BCT is one of the longest-lived cultural institutions this area has – it’s important for groups like this to take the stage as part of an event such as this one.

This event is a wonderful opportunity to experience an interesting cross-section of the area’s creative community and get a sense of the scope that led to the inception of ARTober in the first place. ARTober provides a fantastic opportunity for people near and far to see and celebrate Bangor's multitude of cultural offerings. There's an undeniable value inherent to the creative culture, both in terms of the individual and in terms of the community, and it's important that we enjoy and embrace that fact.

To paraphrase L.M. Montgomery, I'm so glad I live in a world where there are ARTobers.

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A CCD grant call to arms

It should be noted that while the organization and execution of ARTober is one of the primary duties of the Commission on Cultural Development, it is not the only one.

The CCD also directs a robust grant program aimed at disbursing funds to organizations and individuals alike looking for assistance in funding projects of cultural import and impact for the City of Bangor. The grant cycle is biannual, with application deadlines of May 1 and November 1.

With the latest deadline rapidly approaching – and with a recent overhaul of the application – I personally would like to encourage local artists and non-profits to apply, both as a member of the CCD and as a proponent of the creative culture here in Bangor.

We want to help, but you have to apply first.

To that end, the aforementioned overhaul was done in an effort to streamline the process and to make it more equitable in terms of individual and organizational applicants.

The application can be found at the CCD’s page on the City of Bangor’s website, but here are some of the basics:

Cultural Development Grant application requirements

Match requirement - Applicants must demonstrate how City of Bangor funds will be leveraged. Funds should be matched by a minimum of 50 percent through other means of fundraising (grants, donations, in-kind).

Funds requested must be used on projects located within the City of Bangor and directly serve the Bangor community.

Organizations

Only organizations holding a current IRS Determined Non-Profit status are eligible to apply for grants (501(c) Tax Exempt Non-Profits, 509(a) Supporting Organizations & Charities, 170(b) Public Charity Designation, or 507(b) Private Foundations).

Individuals

Individual artists may submit applications for grants under $1,000

Individual artists are eligible only for reimbursement of actual costs for supplies and materials incurred for completed works of art produced, at least initially, for public use, and only for materials purchases after receiving grant approval.

Application & Grant details

Applications are accepted on a biannual basis and must be postmarked by May 1 or November 1 for consideration.

The Commission reviews applications one month later at the monthly meetings scheduled for June and December, respectively.

Applicants will be given the opportunity to speak on behalf of their organization, both with the Commission and with the Council.

The Bangor City Council gives final approval on all Commission recommendations.

Eligible applicants that receive a grant may only submit one application per calendar year.

Applicants that did NOT receive a grant may submit an application at any subsequent grant cycle.

The decision process on each application will take a minimum of six weeks from the end of the application deadline.

Funds granted must be used within 12 months.

A final report is required of all successful grant recipients, detailing how funds were used and the impact on the community.

Over the past few years, the CCD has given out thousands of dollars to assorted artists and organizations, all in an effort to increase the artistic and cultural vibrancy of the city. Doing creative work is difficult, so why not reach out? Perhaps the Commission can offer some assistance.

Again, this comes from someone who is both a commissioner and a supporter of cultural vibrancy. And with the next deadline rapidly approaching, now is your chance to put together an application. Perhaps the CCD can help bring your artistic vision to fruition.

Just remember – it never hurts to ask.

 

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