The Working Waterfront

Artists and makers prepare for reboot

Island Institute’s Archipelago continues conference, adds web resources

Lisa Mossel Vietze
Posted 2021-08-04
Last Modified 2021-08-04

Maine’s beauty and diversity has long inspired a plethora of art and craft. Maine’s artists and makers are a varied bunch—whether crafting beer in Southern Maine, cutting earrings from recycled olive oil tins in the Midcoast, blending body care products from dulse, or painting abstractions of Downeast seascapes, they are knitted within our communities and we are richer for it.

From our small towns to urban centers, art and craft also provide opportunities to diversify livelihoods and neighborhoods and introduce innovative business models.

This year, there seems to be a collectively held breath as we wonder what the season will bring for our creative economy. As ever, artists and makers are looking forward with anticipation and hope, and with a dose of uncertainty.

We wanted to provide content that wasn’t easily found elsewhere…

Artists and makers in Maine are like many of us who may piece together income from a variety of jobs, some more seasonal than others. Many are small business owners or are working to make their creative endeavors the majority of their income.

Each spring, Archipelago, the Island Institute store on Main Street in Rockland, aims to give creative businesses a strong foundation to make the most of foot traffic, business opportunities, and seasonal fairs and exhibitions and grow these businesses to provide year-round reliable income. It’s with this in mind that we started our annual Artists and Makers Conference back in 2014.

This past winter, after surveying 850-plus past participants, we began to think about how to engage them in this spring’s Artists & Makers Conference knowing that Zoom fatigue is real. I knew I didn’t want to sit for hours in Zoom workshops. I also knew we couldn’t replicate 30 hours of content online and have it be engaging, inspirational, and informative.

The result was a blended live/virtual artists and makers week featuring a portfolio of events including talks, participatory art prompts, workshops, and the launch of the Island Institute’s new Creative Economy Hub website. This hub includes new and existing content that is accessible throughout the year.

Luckily for businesses looking to start or grow a website, there are many online resources and how-to YouTube channels. Maine’s SBDC (Small Business Development Center), New Ventures Maine, Coastal Enterprises Inc. and SCORE, among many others, offer financial and start-up advice.

We wanted to provide content that wasn’t easily found elsewhere, that helps us feel connected, even while being apart. Those are the specific reasons for launching the resources in the Creative Economy Hub. The “Daily Art Voices” page is geared to sharing perspectives from the likes of Cig Harvey, David Wilson, Maggie Moore, and others on topics like “How do you practice self-care?” and “Who is your artist hero and why?”

Visitors can learn more about Downeast artist Zach Smith or Rockland painter Susan Beebe, among others, on “The Meet a Maine Artist” page. I’ve enjoyed learning more about the artists in the neighborhoods around the state and can’t wait to sit down with artists in studios and workspaces for more artist profiles.

“Instagram Worthy” with Hannah Richards provided a depth of content on how to share your story on Instagram, a powerful tool for users to reach their customers, share their stories, and develop networks with other artists and makers. It’s available to watch on the Creative Economy Hub along with other resources and event recordings.

Artists are finding ways to adapt their mindset, learn new skills, access resources, and network to meet the current and future realities of selling goods to customers, no matter where or how. With opportunities opening and closing on a moment’s notice, it’s vital to remain flexible in approaches to market.

When an artist or creative business builds a presence in our communities, we’re all better for it, economically, socially, and culturally. Art invites a depth of conversation that brings a deeper contemplation on issues affecting our neighbors and communities. Art can also provide a healing balm.

Artists and makers continue to show heart, resilience, innovation, and grit as they meet the challenges for this summer season and in the years and decades to come.

Lisa Mossel Vietze is director of Archipelago, the Island Institute store and gallery. She can be reached at