BELFAST On October 31st, the Maine Arts Commission (MAC) visited Belfast. The Belfast Creative Coalition hosted a breakfast at Waterfall Arts Clifford Gallery to welcome the Maine Arts Commission’s new director, Julie Richard.  Julie and Donna McNeil (former director and now Arts Policy and Program Director) spoke to fifty community leaders about the value of the creative economy in Belfast. They encouraged Belfast to use the arts and culture cluster that has developed here to attract people and business to the area for economic growth.
“Maine is a leading state in the creative economy and one of two that has a creative economy conference” stated Julie Richard. Donna McNeil expressed that states are using creative economy development because for every dollar spent at a cultural event an additional $1.72 is spent though out the community’s local businesses, restaurants, and lodging. It is also a growth sector. During the recession, cultural organizations had a 69% growth in spending and 90% growth in employment.
Kimberly Callas, the executive director of the Belfast Creative Coalition (BCC), spoke about BCC’s achievements and put them in context of the rich history Belfast has in the arts. “Belfast is in an enviable position in the creative economy.  Many cities across the US are now racing to attract artists and cultural institutions to their downtowns because of the money they attract into the communities. Belfast has been steadily growing its cultural sector for over 20 years. It has been the dedicated effort of so many artists, small gallery owners, cultural leaders and 1000s of volunteers that has led to the success it is now enjoying.”
The Belfast Creative Coalition (BCC) is focused on using this cultural asset to attract new businesses and tourist to the Belfast area.  BCC is creating a cultural itinerary through its website that eco-cultural tourists can use for trip planning.  Eco-cultural tourists stay longer and spend more money than the average tourist. From this itinerary they are creating a Farm and Art Studio Tour in partnership with the Maine Farmland Trust and the Waldo County Trial Coalition.  At the breakfast, BCC was notified that they were awarded an Arts Expansion Grant through the Maine Community Foundation for the creation of this tour and map. Artists and Farmers that would like to be added to the tour map should contact the Belfast Creative Coalition at info@belfastcreativecoalition.org.
The Maine Arts Commission ended its stay in Belfast with a tour of the downtown galleries and creative business.