BAR HARBOR — The Abbe Museum has announced plans for a new three-day event in May 2018 on the Village Green. Plans for the Abbe Museum Indian Market include a juried art show, indigenous film festival and fashion show.
“By creating this event, we can shine a bright light on Wabanaki artists and deepen the economic impact of art-making for tribal communities,” museum representatives said in a statement.
Fans of Native American art, fashion and film long have flocked to similar events in the southwestern United States, such as the Santa Fe Indian Market and the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market in Phoenix.
Many Maine native artists travel to these shows and win awards there, which got the leadership team at the Abbe Museum wondering: Why aren’t there any such large events here in the Northeast?
“As part of our strategic planning process, we convened a creative summit and invited Wabanaki artists,” Abbe director Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko told the Islander. “We talked about what the needs are for the artist community and how the Abbe can help fill them.
“We heard load and clear: we need to do a juried art show of the kind found elsewhere in the country. It’s a big investment, but it’s quite doable for us to do this. We’re hoping it becomes a destination for Northeastern native art.”
Catlin-Legutko said organizers of existing events have been very supportive of the plan. “This March, I volunteered behind the scenes at the Heard event. They have opened the doors and said over and over again, ‘Yes, you need to do this!’”
Local artists will not be eclipsed by visitors from other parts of the country, she said. The existing shows “give great examples of how to highlight the local tribes.”
Wabanaki artists would not have to be accepted by the jury – they would automatically be in.
“We will certainly focus on supporting them. That’s what we’re here for.”
Organizers planned the event for May because it’s a slow part of the season in Bar Harbor, and on the Village Green because it’s centrally located.
“We want it in the heart of town so the whole community benefits financially,” Catlin-Legutko said.
For the last several years, the Abbe and Dawnland LLC have provided fellowships to support Wabanaki artists’ travel to and participation in the big shows out west.
“For many Native artists, their artistic expression is a family tradition, a connection to their past, present and future,” wrote Gabriel Frey, one of this year’s fellows. “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.”
At the Santa Fe Indian Market last week, Wabanaki artists from Maine won a total of seven ribbons. They are Passamaquoddy basket makers Jeremy Frey, Gabriel Frey, George Neptune and Emma Soctomah, Penobscot basket maker Theresa Secord and Penobscot jewelers Jason and Donna Brown.