New Freeport cultural director looking to form alliances

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FREEPORT — In her new role as the coordinating director of the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Freeport, Hannah Gathman has started by talking to people.

Gathman, who was hired for the part-time position in August, is tasked with implementing the town’s cultural plan, which was released in May.

“It’s been just under two months and my priorities so far have been meeting with people in the community,” Gathman said. “(And to) really get a feel for who the players are in Freeport’s existing creative economy, so to speak, (and) get to know what their needs are.”

The cultural plan, which is posted online , was created with help from Reinholt Consulting.

The firm began work on the plan’s five-phase process in 2016 after being hired for $20,000; half of the money was raised by the alliance and the rest was matched by the town.

Reinholt Consulting gathered community input for the plan through seven public meetings and three surveys. The first questionnaire was tailored to the general public, the second was for cultural organizations and businesses, and the third for local artists and performers.

According to the document, the ACAF was formed in 2015 to identify “the common needs of the arts and cultural resources” in town and promote their accessibility to both residents and tourists.

Back in January, ACAF Board President Jen Bradley told The Forecaster  the alliance originally explored the idea of creating an arts and culture center in town.

After receiving guidance from the Maine Arts Commission, however, she said the group decided to start with the cultural plan.

Gathman’s position is being funded for one year through a grant from the town of Freeport’s Destination Freeport TIF.

Before moving to Maine, she worked for the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston as the associate director of special events and outreach and, most recently, as the director of events and social programs.

According to the ACAF, during her time in the new position, Gathman will work on developing a directory of Freeport’s arts and cultural sector, build connections among stakeholders, and help promote individuals, businesses and organizations that are part of the local cultural scene.

Included in ACAF’s numerous community partners are the Greater Freeport Community Chorus, Freeport Players, Greater Freeport Chamber of Commerce, Freeport Economic Development Corporation, Maryellen And Sam In Support Of The Arts, Freeport USA, Open Stage Coffee House, RSU5 drama teachers, and Freeport Community Programs.

Gathman noted, however, that not all artistic groups based in Freeport comprise only Freeport residents.

As part of her community outreach work, she has also been talking to people involved with organizations in different areas, such as performing arts venues in Kittery and Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

She has also corresponded with organizations based in Portland, which she called “a really robust cultural neighborhood.”

Having met “a lot” of people at this point, she said she is entering a phase where she can begin working on new projects.

One issue that “rose to the surface” in the community outreach portion of the cultural plan process, she said, was the desire for more connections between local young people and the Freeport arts community.

One way ACAF might be able to bridge that gap, according to Gathman, is to build connections with schools in town and act as a facilitator to bring in visiting artists. Another part of ACAF’s goal, she said, is to let residents and tourists know there is more going on in Freeport besides the retail economy.

She also hopes to hear input from artists regarding what the alliance should be doing.

“If there’s people out there who are in the arts and culture sector, reach out,” she said. “We’re doing as much outreach as we can, but we would love to hear from you.”

Elizabeth Clemente can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or eclemente@theforecaster.net. Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @epclemente

Hannah Gathman has taken on the role of coordinating director of the Arts & Cultural Alliance of Freeport. She is tasked with ensuring the new Freeport Cultural Plan is implemented.

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