Arts and Culture as Economic Drivers – A Smart Growth Forum in Belfast!

After much work and anticipation, our July 24th smart growth forum was upon us on a lovely Belfast afternoon (and by lovely we mean a combination of sun, followed by thunderstorms, followed by sun). The farmers' market was bustling in front of Waterfall Arts and there were smiling faces all around. The topic was Arts & Culture as Economic Motivators in Maine, and we had arranged a stellar lineup including:

  • Breanna Pinkham Bebb, Our Town Belfast
  • Kimberly Callas, Belfast Creative Coalition
  • Alan Crichton, Waterfall Arts
  • Rob Dietz, Pica Design + Marketing
  • Julie Richard, Maine Arts Commission
  • Moderator: Jane Lafleur, Friends of Midcoast Maine

The event began with lunch provided by Rollie's Bar & Grill, located in downtown Belfast since 1972. Breanna kicked off the program with an excellent presentation on Belfast's Downtown District, citing the varying manners in which arts & culture are embraced and how that translates into economic successes. Julie Richard followed with a statewide perspective and presented powerful data from the Maine Arts Commission.

Alan Crichton spoke of the history of arts & culture in Belfast, narrating the movement of artists and creatives to the Belfast area in the 1960's and 1970's and their connections to the land and agricultural community. Kimberly Callas explained the creation of the Belfast Creative Coalition and discussed the importance of a creative economy in cities and towns. Finally, Rob Dietz shared his experiences as a small business owner in the arts and why he chose to operate and stay in a community like Belfast.

By the end of the event the audience was buzzing with enthusiasm and had questions for our experts. Our goal was not just to highlight the successes of Belfast, but to assist other cities and towns in Maine as they try to bring these tangibles back home to their communities. Jane Lafleur moderated the event seamlessly and shared insightful thoughts throughout, tying together themes including "The Power of 10" in Place-making and using zoning and planning as a means to address development and reuse of buildings.

Many of our attendees ended the event by exploring the Fourth Friday Artwalk all throughout downtown Belfast.

Thank you to Waterfall Arts for hosting our forum, to all of our Panelists for sharing your unique smart growth perspectives, and to Renys and Pica Design and Marketing for sponsoring this exceptional event!