Community input vital to cultural planning

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Saskia and Emily Reinholt of Reinholt Consulting facilitate a cultural planning discussion at Life Perks Coffee Co. in Wilton on Wednesday, Oct. 17. (Dee Menear/Franklin Journal)

WILTON — The Greater Franklin Development Council and Arts Farmington hosted a cultural planning community forum Wednesday, Oct. 17 at Life Perks Coffee Co.

“We submitted successful grant applications with Maine Arts Commission and Maine Community Foundation to develop a cultural plan for the region,” said Charlie Woodworth, GFDC executive director.

Two $10,000 grants were awarded to support the planning process which includes measuring the cultural assets, hearing what citizens value, and strengthening assets already in place.

Reinholt Consulting, a Maine-based cultural and strategic planning service, is leading the processes.

“The goal of this process is to document an inclusive study to find new methods to increase the reach, value and relevance of cultural offerings in the Franklin Hills area,” said consultant Saskia Reinholt.

The Franklin Hills area includes southern Franklin County, and neighboring areas of Oxford and Androscoggin counties, she said.

The first phase of the process was to seek input from residents through community meetings. Meetings were also held at University of Maine at Farmington on Sept. 20 and at Main-Land Development Consultants in Livermore Falls on Oct. 11.

The discussions will help in understanding what is important to communities, what needs improvement and future cultural offerings would be valued, Reinholt said.

The Oct. 17 meeting was attended by residents of Wilton, Farmington, Jay, and Industry. Local and regional assets such as Wilson Lake, Foothills Land Trust, UMF, various concert venues, and the future Western Maine Play Museum were identified by attendees.

Challenges included too few volunteers and a lack of cross-community collaboration in promoting activities. Many felt a single calendar of all the events in the region would be beneficial.

“Whatever plan is developed should be sustainable,” said Eileen Liddy of Wilton. “It needs to be financially sustainable and it needs to have sustainable leadership.”

The second phase of the process will be implemented in the coming weeks, said Reinholt.

Targeted surveys for the general public, cultural non-profits, and artists and performers will be used to collect data about the supply and demand of arts and cultural offerings. Surveys will be available in most town offices and libraries, as well as online at www.reinholtconsulting.com.

“The quality of the plan is reliant on the quality of the data, so we are reaching as far into the community as possible,” said Reinholt.

Once the data is gathered from meetings and surveys, goals will be set and strategies will be developed to move toward the goals.

“All three meetings have included key sector people, so we have received a lot of high-value information,” said Reinholt.

For more information on the Franklin Hills Cultural Plan, contact Saskia Reinholt at (207)218-2072.

dmenear@thefranklinjournal.com