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Coming to L-A next week: Maine Conference on the Arts

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Keynote speaker Crystal Williams is a poet, essayist, and Vice President for the Office of Diversity at Bates College.

Focused on the intersections of creativity, industry, art and innovation, the Maine Arts Commission’s second Maine International Conference on the Arts will take place at Lewiston’s Gendron Franco Center and Bates Mill complex on Thursday and Friday, October 6 and 7. Advance registration, which confers a 15% discount on conference attendance, closes on September 30.

Intended for artists, arts organizations, arts educators, community developers, and policymakers, the conference is designed to provide networking, inspiration, and learning for Maine artists and communities. It was made possible by a statewide collaboration of Maine arts organizations and the Commission’s special international partnership with New Brunswick, Canada.

“We create world class art in this state, and Maine has a deep culture and long history of driving industry and innovation through creativity,” said Julie Richard, Executive Director of the Maine Arts Commission. “We need and deserve a world class arts conference.”

Leading the inspiration will be MICA keynote speakers Crystal Williams and Sherry Wagner-Henry. Poet, essayist, and Bates College Vice President for the Office of Diversity, Williams will open the conference on Thursday night with a talk entitled “Practical Approaches to Creating Impact: Getting to Cultural Equity,” a conversation that will thread its way throughout the proceedings. Wagner-Henry, the Director of the Bolz Center for Arts Administration at the University of Wisconsin, will inspire the Friday lunchtime crowd with her keynote address, “Stop Asking for Permission! Leading from a Place of Making (Things Happen).”

Matt Lehrman of Audiences Everywhere and Crista Cloutier, The Working Artist, will bring their nationally renowned sessions to Maine for the conference. Include an Idea Lab featuring five Maine artists, a dozen pop-up performances by a full range of Maine performers, 20 breakout sessions, local food and drink picks, local evening entertainment designed specifically for conference attendees and a first-ever Maine Craft Apprenticeships Exhibition and it adds up to an action-packed and art-filled 30 hours.

Breakout sessions offered in five tracks will mirror the Commission’s priorities, as outlined in its new Cultural Plan, “Fortifying Maine’s Creativity and Culture,” which culminates in Maine’s bicentennial in 2020. Each of the five tracks, Leveraging Investment, Increasing Visibility, Fostering Arts Education/Lifelong Learning, Encouraging Cultural Tourism, and Building Capacity, will include hands on, nuts and bolts professional development sessions.

The conference will also present a remarkable opportunity to showcase one’s work and to share and book talent. The event will feature two networking hubs at the Bates Mill, while the conference schedule in many ways prioritizes and creates informal opportunities for networking. Artists, agents, managers, talent buyers, vendors and other service providers will have space and opportunities to connect with attendees and promote their wares.

Conference attendees will be delighted by pop-up performances highlighting Maine’s abundant performance talent, including Alison Chase Performance; Lewiston’s own Chicks with Sticks; the Commission’s Traditional Arts Fellow, fiddler Greg Boardman; and performer Leland Faulkner with jazz musician Brad Terry.

Additionally, the Commission has partnered with the communities of Lewiston-Auburn and Arts and Culture L-A to provide conference attendees with multiple opportunities to experience the vibrant cultural life and deeply creative industrial heritage of the twin cities. On Thursday evening, after the opening reception and keynote, attendees will be treated to a specially-curated selection of community opportunities, and on Friday will have an opportunity for a guided walking tour of the city’s cultural infrastructure and creative industries.

For more information about presenters and workshops, including a complete conference schedule, or to register for the Maine International Conference on the Arts, see mainearts.com/MICA.

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