BAR HARBOR — Native American artists from across the U.S. and Canada are set to attend the Abbe Museum Indian Market (AMIM) on May 18-20. The event also will include storytellers, dancers, fashion, music that represents the Northeast, and internationally acclaimed performers.
“We’re on target to hitting our goal of having 75 or more Native artists accepted into the market, representing more than 30 nations,” museum spokesperson Heather Anderson said.
“As Northeastern indigenous art — and more specifically, Wabanaki art — continues to gain the attention of collectors from around the world, I believe that Bar Harbor is poised to become the ‘Santa Fe’ of the Northeast: a place where visitors from many walks of life come to experience indigenous North American history and culture,” said Geo Neptune, Passamaquoddy master basket maker and former Bar Harbor resident. “I am confident that the Abbe Museum is the only organization that is able, with the support of its community and partners, to make this dream become a reality.”
Newly hired Indian Marker producer Dawn Spears, Narragansett-Choctaw, is focused on creating and launching the annual market and coordinating the activities, tasks and events leading up to it. Spears has been working in the field for the last two decades, recently as the executive director of Northeast Indigenous Arts Alliance, where she works to support the Native American artist population regionally by sharing resources and artist opportunities, addressing artist needs and seeking ways to increase the visibility in the Northeast.
“Many do not realize the level of artistry that exists here in the Northeast, and AMIM will be the perfect way to showcase our homegrown talent alongside artists representing tribal nations from across the country,” Spears said. “Artists from across the nation are invited and welcome to come and visit the Wabanaki homeland.”
Small festivals are held throughout the year in Maine, but a juried Indian art show is relatively unknown in the Northeast. Award-winning Wabanaki artists like Jeremy Frey, Theresa Secord, David Moses Bridges, Emma Soctomah, Neptune and Sarah Sockbeson have traveled out West to participate in the Indian Arts marketplace. They’ve repeatedly taken top prizes in Sante Fe and Phoenix. However, traveling long distances to attend the Indian arts marketplace is often a hardship that prevents more artists from entering.
“The Northeast is lacking in opportunity for local artists to sell their art on a national scale,” said Suzanne Greenlaw, an apprentice Maliseet basket maker. “The expense of traveling makes Western Native art shows unattainable for many, and I would be thrilled to see these local Native artisans sell their art on the level the Abbe Museum Indian Market can provide. The opportunity for economic gains and the possibility for artisans to gain confidence will have significant immeasurable impacts for Native communities.”
By creating this event, the museum will shine a bright light on Wabanaki artists and deepen the economic impact of art-making for tribal communities. 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.
“Wabanaki peoples have rich and varied artistic traditions, many of which are underappreciated,” said Bonnie Newsom, Penobscot. “Having a Northeast venue to celebrate and share our artistic gifts with the world will not only strengthen these traditions within our communities, but it will also position these traditions in their rightful place as respected art forms unique to Maine.”
A concurrent indigenous film festival also is in the works, Anderson said. “Reel Pizza owner Chris Vincenty will be 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” of the event, she said.
“We’re also recruiting volunteers right now, and we need a lot for many different jobs,” Anderson said. Anyone interested can contact Jill Sawyer, associate director of advancement, at [email protected].