Maine Opens Center for Crafts
Strategy: Balance Your Budget, Collaborate in New Ways, Enhance Your Product
Type of attraction: Arts Organization
Summary: When the Maine Center for Crafts opened in December 2009 –in the midst of a nationwide economic recession – executive director Tracy Michaud Stutzman admits, “We were a little nervous about the economy.”
When the Maine Center for Crafts opened in December 2009 – in the midst of a nationwide economic recession – executive director Tracy Michaud Stutzman admits, “We were a little nervous about the economy.” But a good idea, careful planning and lots of support have made the Maine Center for Crafts a success. “We came up with the idea three years ago,” Stutzman says. The Maine Crafts Association and the Maine Highlands Guild decided to bring together all of the major craft institutions in the state to discuss ideas for working together. The discussions resulted in two key outcomes – the decision to merge the guild and the crafts association and the desire to establish a Center for Craft.
“We went to the governor’s office to share the idea,” Stutzman says. “He gave start up funds that we matched to do research on a location and how to develop the center. The Maine Turnpike Authority built the center on a travel plaza outside of Augusta which we lease for a dollar a year. We also developed a business plan and visited similar facilities like Tamarack [West Virginia]. Every part of the center was done by Maine companies from the rugs and counters to products and music. We also have special exhibitions to feature craft institutions in the state.”
Since opening in December 2009, organizers have been pleased to see the support the center is receiving. Rather than just discovering the center in their travels, many people are choosing the center as a destination. “Overall we have done all right,” Stutzman says. “In tough economic times, people are making choices to support local artists.”
That is good news for the Maine Crafts Association which has three-year break even plan. The center’s earned revenue is making up 70% of the association’s budget. “We realized that earned revenue is actually easier to come by than grants right now,” Stutzman says. “We are even looking at creating a second center in southern Maine which gets even more traffic.”