SKOWHEGAN — The Maine Arts Commission recently awarded Main Street Skowhegan and L/A Arts Creative Communities = Economic Development Implementation grants.
Both will receive $75,000 over three years to implement public arts projects.
In Skowhegan, a Kennebec on Fire installation will be created in collaboration with the Wesserunsett Arts Council.
Similar to WaterFire in Providence, R.I., Kennebec on Fire will place sculptures with fire braziers in the Kennebec River, starting with an array of three to five sculptures in the Big Eddy in Skowhegan. Sculptures will be lit during festivals and events.
The majority of grant funding will be used for artist commissions, with preference given to local artists.
“This grant is so exciting for our region because several years of work by many dedicated people went into drafting a cultural plan for Somerset County, and Kennebec on Fire is a direct result of that planning effort,” said Kristina Cannon, executive director of Main Street Skowhegan. “We are extremely excited to draw attention to our river, which has been the lifeblood of the community for so long, while at the same time further promoting Skowhegan and the region as a destination for cultural experiences, including outdoor recreation, local food, and of course the arts.”
By combining the arts with one of Somerset County’s greatest assets — the Kennebec River — and the allure of river lighting festivals, Main Street and WesArts plan to build a successful and sustainable business model that will bolster tourism, generate prosperity, create a sense of place, and draw interest among neighboring communities along the Kennebec.
L/A public art programs
The Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce also received a CCED grant. The chamber — serving as the lead organization in partnership with L/A Arts, with support from Arts and Culture LA and the cities of Lewiston and Auburn — will use their funding to develop public art programs and policies.
“We are especially pleased to announce these grants,” said Julie Richard, MAC executive director. “Both of these regions have worked so hard to get here. Their cultural plans are wonderful guides to move their work forward and we anticipate that the projects they have chosen to work on will provide excellent catalysts for economic success for their communities.”
MAC provides CCED grants to support and stimulate initiatives in Maine’s arts and culture sector. The grant requires the successful completion of a cultural plan prior to applying for the funds.
MAC also funds cultural planning for communities and regions as an impetus for this work. As a result, nine Maine communities to date have either completed or are in the process of completing cultural plans.
The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that Maine’s arts and culture sector contributes $1.5 billion annually to Maine’s economy, representing 2.6 percent of the state’s GDP.