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Leveraging our foundation as a summer music camp renowned for quality instruction, creative atmosphere, and life-changing experiences, Snow Pond expanded to year-round programming in 2014. With the expansion came opportunities to strengthen our role in the region as an economic driver. Our economic development work, which spans tourism, rural placemaking, and workforce development, is deeply informed by community engagement and our region’s unique assets.
As a center for the arts, becoming a tourism destination was a natural progression for Snow Pond. Our nearly $1 million renovation of historic Bowl in the Pines, one of the nation’s largest amphitheaters, is slated to double capacity and further our success in attracting world-renowned acts. Over 18,000 patrons a year attend a concert in the Bowl, hailing from as far north as Canada and as south as Florida; this translates into significant demand for local restaurants, accommodations, and retail establishments. Continued investment in Snow Pond’s performance infrastructure will yield greater economic impact as we cement our reputation as a destination venue.
Yet, Snow Pond strives to be a catalyst for people to not only come, but also to stay. Despite its beauty and affordability, our beloved Belgrade Lakes region has not been immune to Maine’s “brain drain” challenge of young professionals leaving for big cities. With year-round recreational and cultural amenities, including hiking trails, pond hockey, public arts-based high school, concerts, and farm-to-table dinners, Snow Pond is well-positioned to promote the Belgrade Lakes region as an ideal home for young professionals and families. To capitalize on our assets, Snow Pond successfully applied to participate in the National Endowment for the Arts – Citizen Institute on Rural Design (CIRD). CIRD employs the concept of “creative placemaking” to build vibrant rural regions by centering the arts, culture, and community engagement. In an economy where many professionals can work from anywhere, quality of life is key; Snow Pond believes that when the energy of the arts is a pillar of the community, the possibilities are limitless (learn more with NGA’s Rural Action Guide).
Such a thrilling vision must be inclusive in order to work; after all, we want our whole community to be uplifted through arts-based economic development. Through its commitment to community through fundraisers, benefit dinners, and free use of its public facilities, Snow Pond has become a trusted institution – this is our shared place. To empower community engagement that guides placemaking design and development, Snow Pond has partnered with the Orton Family Foundation – Community Heart & Soul process. The proven collaboration method convenes Snow Pond, VillageMaine, and Belgrade Lakes communities and guides us as we design a comprehensive, time- and goal-specific economic plan to establish regional priorities, inspire investor confidence to support development, and ultimately, to attract and retain young artists, innovators, tradespeople, professionals, and farmers to this magnificent area.
Fortunately, Snow Pond nurtures an outstanding talent pool who can offer insight on how the economic plan might retain and attract creative young professionals. Students of the Maine Arts Academy, located on Snow Pond’s campus, represent an important demographic for the Belgrade Lakes. Not only are these students forming a special bond with the region that will encourage them to live here after graduation, but they are also building the skills needed to fill local jobs. By providing education and internships in the arts and culinary sectors, Maine Arts Academy is developing a qualified workforce ready to invigorate our community’s creative placemaking.