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The Abbe Museum has an exciting project planned for 2018, the Abbe Museum Indian Market (AMIM). With the support of grantmakers, donors, and the Bar Harbor community, we will produce a world-class, cultural event that will support Wabanaki artists and fuel a creative placemaking initiative in Bar Harbor which will create opportunities in tribal communities across the state. The inaugural AMIM will be held May 18-20, 2018 in downtown Bar Harbor. Planning, recruiting artists, designing the event, fundraising activities, and so much more occupied this past year. 

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 more attractive to visitors—making art and selling it to visitors ensured cultural survival for many art forms. 

As Abbe Museum Fellow Gabriel Frey, Passamaquoddy, 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.”

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. We are committed to producing a three-day event, the Abbe Museum Indian Market (AMIM), in downtown Bar Harbor, beginning May 18-20, 2018. Tribal artisans from across North America have applied and we expect that approximately 75 artist booths will be at the heart of the marketplace.

By creating this event, we are shining a bright light on Wabanaki artists alongside Indigenous art forms, for example, from the Diné (Navajo), Chippewa, and Cherokee nations, while deepening the economic impact of art making for tribal communities in Maine. With this larger market in Maine, 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. This event will harness the profitability of the Bar Harbor economy for the benefit of tribal communities (approximately 10,000 Native people live in Maine, mostly in rural areas with reduced economic opportunity, especially for artists) and in return, generate approximately $250,000 per year for the local economy and the state at a time when lodging and restaurant businesses are in need of visitors. 

In comparison, the Santa Fe Indian Market (SWAIA) in New Mexico draws more than 80,000 people and over $100 million in revenues to the state and region. The Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market in Phoenix, AZ attracts nearly 15,000 visitors and more than 600 artists. While small festivals are found throughout the year in Maine, a juried Indian art show is relatively unknown in the Northeast. Award-winning artists like Jeremy Frey, Jennifer Neptune, Theresa Secord, George Neptune, Emma Soctomah, Sarah Sockbeson, and Gabriel Frey travel each year out West to enter and participate in the Indian Arts marketplace. And, they’ve repeatedly taken top prizes in Santa Fe and Phoenix. While Wabanaki artists are honored to receive recognition for their work, they are especially proud to represent Wabanaki art on a national level, share their northeastern traditions, and represent their tribe. However, traveling long distances to attend the Indian Arts marketplace is more often than not a hardship and prevents more artists from entering.

In addition to a two-day market, we are planning a concurrent Indigenous film festival that will be held at Reel Pizza Cinerama adjacent to the market. The owner Chris Vincenty is a film industry professional with 30 years’ experience screening films, producing festivals, and connecting with audiences. He is joined by curator emeritus Elizabeth Weatherford from the National Museum of the American Indian to screen and select films. Films will be shown all three days in the evening. We plan to bring two or three filmmakers in to talk about their work and engage with audiences.

During the market, we are planning live performances ranging from vocalists, drummers, dancers, and more. The performing arts bring an added vibrancy to the marketplace—either on the stage or in pop-up locations. We’ll also produce a Native fashion show during the event to showcase the exciting designers from Indian Country who are re-shaping design and countering appropriation.

This exciting investment and commitment to Wabanaki artists are outlined in our strategic plan, which lives online at abbemuseum.wordpress.com. Visit www.abbemuseum.org/indianmarket for up-to-date details about the Abbe Museum Indian Market.