All Roads Lead to Maine Fiberarts Tour Weekend

Strategy: Collaborate in New Ways, Enhance Your Product

Type of attraction: Arts Organization

Summary: Maine Fiberarts, a statewide nonprofit arts organization, meets it mission of supporting the state’s fiber arts industry.

Maine Fiberarts, a statewide nonprofit arts organization, meets it mission of supporting the state’s fiber arts industry. The organization operates a gallery and networking center in Midcoast Maine, maintains an art image database, offers workshops, publishes newsletters and initiates fiber art exhibitions statewide at museums and galleries.

In 2006, the organization was looking for new ways to increase awareness about Maine’s vibrant fiber community—a group comprised of art studios and fiber-producing farms, spinneries and processing mills, shops and suppliers, galleries and learning centers. The result was the Maine Fiberarts Tour Map: Studios and Farms—a full-color, highly illustrated, 24x36” printed map, published in 2006 in an edition of 60,000 copies, and listing 144 fiber sites throughout Maine. Maps were widely distributed throughout the Northeast and fostered new collaborations with Maine’s state agencies for tourism, agriculture, arts and economic development. The initiative was chosen as one of only two Special Events Grants in 2006, and was made possible with funding from the Maine Office of Tourism, National Endowment for the Arts and other foundation, donor, participant and member support. An online version was also posted to the group’s website at www.mainefiberarts.org  searchable by county, fiber medium, site name, town, etc.

To generate even more interest, Maine Fiberarts organized the first Fiber Arts Tour Weekend in August 2006. Thousands of people spent three days visiting cashmere farms, weaving studios, dye gardens, antique loom collections and more. By viewing fiber practitioners as an integrated community and by laying the groundwork for increased recognition, Maine’s fiber arts industry was able to build on its success even after the economic downturn. A second edition of the tour map was printed in 2009, listing 134 sites available to year-round throughout 2012.

One hundred and four of the sites were open during the August 2009 Tour Weekend, and once again, offered hands-on workshops, quilting demonstrations, studio tours, garden walks and even glimpses of newly-birthed alpacas. The event allowed people to enter the doors of working farms and studios, fostering greater understanding and appreciation for the fiber arts.

Maine Fiberarts followed up on the event with a survey of participating sites. The survey confirmed the event’s success—more than 3,000 people visited sites hailing from Maine, New Jersey, South Carolina, Arizona, Connecticut and 19 others states, as well as Canada, Scotland, England and Japan. Tour maps were the primary way that people found out about the weekend, along with road signs, posters, Maine Fiberarts’ website and other promotional venues.

As one artist noted in the survey, “People are going nuts over the map. I had around $600 in sales. There may be a lot more sales to come, and about 40 people came to the farm. That is a LOT for me as my farm is off the beaten path. I was surprised at the distances people traveled…Caribou, Millinocket, Lincoln, Bangor and Orono areas, Winterport…I lost track!”

The tour map is designed for use on a year-round, “best to call ahead” basis through 2012. The weekend tour event was so successful that the nonprofit group has decided to make the Fiber Arts Tour Weekend an annual event—always the first full weekend in August.

For more information, contact Christine Macchi, executive director, at fiberarts@gwi.net; 207-721-0678. To order a printed copy of the tour map, mail $5 to Maine Fiberarts, 13 Main Street, Topsham ME 04086-1219, or pick up a free copy when in Maine. To learn more about the project, visit: http://www.mainefiberarts.org/TourMap/index.html. To view the complete survey, visit http://www.mainefiberarts.org/surveypages/surveyresultsall.html.