We were thrilled to bring back the Artists & Makers Conference this year and celebrate the theme, Together Again! With over 100 attendees, eight inspiring sessions, live music, Pecha Kucha-style presentations (lightning fast, story-telling based talks), and more, we considered the day to be a great success!
Maine’s artists and makers community is a vibrant, engaging, and inspiring group of people. The hallways were full of laughter, hugs, and exclamations of hellos. Folks committed to take time away from their businesses and studios, shops and workspaces to invest in themselves to grow, learn, network and connect. In the wake of the pandemic, artists and makers continue building community, sharing and telling stories, and striving to build flourishing creative businesses. This gathering was an opportunity to share resources to support their continued success.
We opened the conference with readings from Karin Spitfire, former poet laureate of Belfast, who shared her feminist viewpoint of the interconnectedness of her life, community, and place in the natural world. It was a blessing to have her share her words, which resonated with the artist community.
Poetry continued in the morning session, New Directions, where attendees heard from three artists Siem van der Ven, Sal Taylor Kydd, and Stephanie Crossman. The three shared about their experiencing taking new directions in their work, and adding or evolving multidisciplinary paths. After reading a poem he wrote about cups, Siem van der Ven offered a metaphor for his studio practice: “I sometimes think of my studio practice as a tree; its roots are down in the ground, down in the muck, down in the dirt and those roots reach in all directions drawing life for what lies below the surface, past and present and that feeds the trunk. The trunk of his studio work is the making of cups. Cups do all of what I want my artwork to do.”
Kim Hamilton, Island Institute’s new President, spoke at the lunch hour remarking on the importance of the creative economy to Maine’s communities:
“As you may know, Island Institute was founded by an artist and a scientist, so this organization understands the importance of creative businesses in Maine’s communities, as well as the vital importance of art in uplifting our communities, as we saw through the recent pandemic. We value and understand the role of art in sharing stories and experiences with each other.
In 2021, the US Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that the arts and culture sector contributes $1.55 billion to Maine’s economy. You understand that data point well because it is you who are creating art, making goods, and operating small businesses that make up the creative economy in Maine.
As we celebrate our 40th year, the Island Institute is proud to support you and the creative economy that is so important to Maine.”
Our team left feeling inspired and connected to our fellow Maine artists, and we heard from many artists and makers who also relished the opportunity to come together. Painter Kelly Desrosiers explains what this gathering meant to her:
“I attended the Island Institute’s Artists & Makers Conference this past Friday! It was the single best professional development experience I have ever had as an artist. Valuable workshops, camaraderie, Pecha Kucha and jazz…and wonderful food to enjoy while meeting new makers. I came home reeling from the inspirational amount of new information I had learned, got right to work on that stuff, I’m still working on it and will be for weeks, but I wanted to take a moment to tell you all that this event is one not to be missed in the future.”
If you were not able to make it, recordings of the conference are available on our website. We look forward to the next opportunity to bring artists and makers together to connect with, learn from, and inspire each other. Stay tuned for information about the 2024 Artists and Makers Conference!