Mount Desert Island calls to many artists. Its cragged shores, woodland trails, and calming lakes inspire creativity and have lured artists to this place for generations. Wabanaki people are part of this artistic tradition, dating back thousands of years on this island. During the Rusticator era (the 1840s to 1920s), the Wabanaki people helped make Bar Harbor and the island so attractive to visitors - making art and selling it to the visitors ensure cultural survival for many art forms.
As Abbe Museum Fellow Gabriel Frey recently wrote, “For many Native artists, their artistic expression is a family tradition, a connection to the past, present, and future, interwoven to create functional pieces of art. Family traditions, culture, personal experiences, and hopes for the future live within each piece created. For most, making art provides a source of income, but more importantly, maintains cultural traditions, family connections, and language. Wabanaki artistry is a tool for education, cultural resilience, and decolonization.”
As someone who has supported the Abbe for years, you may know the full measure of Wabanaki artists. Jeremy Frey, Molly Neptune Parker, Jason K. Brown, Jennifer Neptune, Gina Brooks, Sarah Sockbeson, Theresa Secord, Gabriel Frey, George Neptune, Butch Phillips, and David Moses Bridges - just a few of the names you know that represent outstanding creativity and skill. For years, artists like these have been traveling across the country to enter the Indian Arts marketplace. And, as they’ve traveled away from the Dawnland, they’ve repeatedly taken top prizes in Sante Fe and Phoenix.
The importance of creative placemaking and how it supports Wabanaki artists, as well as the local community, has led us to a very important initiative. The board and staff are excited to announce that we are producing a three-day event, the Abbe Museum Indian Market, on the Village Green in downtown Bar Harbor, beginning in May 2018. By creating this event, we can shine a bright light on Wabanaki artists and deepen the economic impact of art making for tribal communities. Artists will be more likely to work full-time, more people will have the opportunity to make a living through art, remnant art forms will be revitalized, and innovation will have even more room to develop.
In addition to a two-day market, we are planning a concurrent indigenous film festival and a fashion show. And, as the event grows, we envision a marketplace in the streets, an artist competition, and a gala event much like our annual Gathering Gala.
This event will harness the profitability of the Bar Harbor economy for the benefit of tribal communities and in return, generate approximately $250,000 per year for the local economy at a time when lodging and restaurant businesses are in need of visitors.
We need your help to make this vision possible. Over the next year and a half, the Abbe team will be researching, planning, and developing this show. Your gift will support, in part:
- Staff travel to shows across the U.S. and Canada to recruit artists and to learn from our colleagues
- Staff travel to meetings with partners, namely IFAM(E), Four Directions Development Corporation, and the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance
- Continued development of a graphic identity and promotional materials
- Support the creation of a robust volunteer corps who will be crucial players in the production of the show
- Hiring of a show coordinator, someone with experience in producing juried shows and working with Native artists
The board and staff know this is an immense undertaking. But we also know that the time to invest in Wabanaki artists and creating a robust marketplace is long overdue. With your help, Bar Harbor will be THE destination for Northeastern Native Art and Wabanaki artists will have the spotlight that they so richly deserve.
The Abbe Museum is currently hiring an AMIM producer. For a job description and details on how to apply, click here.
Photo from SWAIA's Santa Fe Indian Market website.