Collaborative Approach

Bethel Area Arts and Music supports local artists through community education and events

In an area known for its outdoor recreation opportunities, a community is coming together to support the arts. A group of artists and community members created Bethel Area Arts and Music (BAAM) last year to provide regional programming and to lift up local artists and their work. BAAM supports all artists, regardless of their medium. “There’s such a wide variety, so it’s not exclusive,” says Wade Kavanaugh, a BAAM committee member. “We want to make it easier and more sustainable for people living and working here.”

BAAM’s activities are often held at the 
Gem, a Bethel theater owned by Kavana
ugh and his wife, Beth Weisberger. Along
with showing films, the theater has co-working space upstairs for remote workers and nonprofits and a gallery where BAAM often hosts exhibitions. BAAM also does programming at local schools and has hosted events at the Bethel Common, including festivals with live music and outdoor painting sessions. As part of its mission to support local artists, BAAM is working on creating an online directory to help art buyers find local work, and put artists in touch with each other and the BAAM community. It will also connect artists with resources they may need as they create and sell their work.

Collaboration in the arts is important to Kavanaugh, who is an artist himself. Kavanaugh and his partner, Stephen B. Nguyen, have worked together since 2005 creating room-sized art installations. Made mostly of paper, the works are site-responsive and look as if they are erupting from the room they’re contained in. The goal is to create representations of natural phenomena and provide a bridge between natural and man-made spaces. Their art practice, Striped Canary, started in Brooklyn but recently relocated to Rumford. Kavanaugh and Nguyen travel all over the world making their installations; they’ve had an installation in Prague for the past year. Their first-ever piece was installed at the Map Room, a former gallery in Portland’s East End, in 2005, and in the spring they’ll mount their first Maine exhibition in the 14 years since, at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockland.