BELFAST—The town of Belfast has come together to help the very artists, chefs, and creatives that give the town its vibrancy and life.
During the COVID-19 crisis, the hardest hit economically has been small business owners, many of them self-employed Maine artists seeing a 25 percent decline in revenue.
The summer-long events are spearheaded by The Belfast Creative Coalition in solidarity with local art galleries and organizations, theatre groups, performers, visual artists, dancers, musicians, writers, poets, and chefs.
Other supporters include: Belfast Community TV, Belfast Community Radio, Waterfall Arts, Waldo County Bounty, the city of Belfast and poster artist Krista Odom
Belfast Creative Coalition is behind the latest venture to lift up these artists and restaurateurs with a new city and county-wide project called The Sky is Rising, a venture to replace the lack of crowds that typically flock to the galleries, workshops, classes, and restaurants in the summer.
“When anything needs to be designed, built, promoted, or performed, the artists are the first ones we call,” said BCC Director Larraine Brown. “They’re always beyond generous, often the first ones to donate their time and work. We put out an assessment to our arts communities. And the stories we’re getting back from artists speak of tremendous loss during this time. They work in a gig economy and also the first ones to be cut. Right now—summer— is the time when people come to Belfast to buy art, hire artists to do work, take classes to learn and that’s not happening.”
Case in point: Belfast Harbor Artisans, an Artisan Co-op on Main Street, was forced to close its doors on May 18, returning many unsold works back to the artists, which is an unfortunate blow to their livelihoods.
The Sky Is Rising held its first outdoor event Saturday, May 23, in downtown Belfast hosted by Mayor Eric Sanders with local artists, performers, musicians, dancers, singers, and actors performing all afternoon.
“This is the first in a series of events as we learn how to promote and sell art and performance online,” said Brown. “It’s building and there will be much much more this summer. We’re featuring art on our website, we’re broadcasting videos. We’re essentially saying, ‘Support us online; buy art online, buy a meal and theatre tickets online.’”
With the Belfast Fourth Friday Art Walk series— a popular venue for locals and tourists—canceled this summer, The Sky Is Rising aims to replace that.
“We’re funneling all of the proceeds back to the artists—the Belfast Creative Coalition is taking none of it—but one more thing to note, many of these artists are donating their proceeds back to the food banks for people who have food insecurity,” she said. “I have to tell you many of the artists told me to give from 20 to 100 percent they earned from a painting or a certain artwork back to their neighbors through the food banks.”
That’s how a community strengthens itself and survives—and as always, the artists are the first ones to donate.
People who want to stay informed about this new initiative can go to the BBC website, follow their Facebook page. Stay tuned to Belfast Community Television on May 25 to see Saturday’s performances from 6 to 8 p.m. or listen on Belfast Community Radio May 25 from 6 to 8 p.m.
Kay Stephens can be reached at email@example.com