The Working Waterfront

Eastport asks the question, ‘What’s your art?’

Downcast community inspires creativity on broad canvas

Tarah Waters
Posted 2016-02-09
Last Modified 2016-02-09

Editor’s note: Reflections is a monthly column written by Island Fellows, recent college grads who do community service work on Maine islands and in remote coastal communities through the Island Institute, publisher of The Working Waterfront. Tarah Waters is working to support the growing arts community in Eastport.

Being an “art fellow” in Eastport, you might expect me to write something about art. That assumption is correct, but the art I am going to write about is more than what the word conjures in your mind. The kind of art that explains this easternmost town is a kind that cannot be explained by using the dictionary definition.

Whether it’s Old Sow, that famous whirlpool that forms from the area’s dramatic tides; living on the globe’s 45th parallel; or simply the raw nature that thrives all around, there is something enticingly cinematic about Eastport.

When you arrive and drive down Washington Street, you cannot help but be inspired by the vivid images. Red brick buildings that hug the coastline, a panoramic view of Fundy Bay and the pine-covered islands of Canada in the distance set the scene.

More often than not, the sky above is clear and blue, the drifting clouds providing magnificent texture. The sea below is a mix of green and blue that dazzles as the water moves with those dramatic currents. Though this first view of Eastport is enough to captivate the senses, it is only the introduction to all the colors, shapes, characters and so much more you encounter on any given day.

Aspiring painters and sculptors, tinkerers, actors, fishermen and boat builders, brilliant musicians and people simply wanting to create are just a few of the characters cast in this epic documentary. Then there are the long-time Washington County residents who tell inspiring tales of the resilience, beauty and magic of this Downeast county.

Of course, you cannot miss the youth population that thrives in this town: aspiring entrepreneurs and artisans selling goods at the winter holiday market, brilliant minds coming together for children’s theater workshops, and angelic musicians who know how to rock.

Even the youngest know how to create a bit of dramatic spice in their lives. Just the other day, I skipped down the street flapping my arms and singing like a bird with two small birds running beside me. The desire to take part in Eastport’s constantly evolving, creativity-driven tale is inspiring.

As a returning Peace Corps volunteer, I was nervous about my transition back into American society. I was under the assumption that my story and experience would sit quietly in the archives of my memory, dusted off only when amongst other volunteers. I had gut-wrenching worries that I would have to retreat back into my inner self, and silence some of the ways I had changed. When I moved to Eastport and listened to the stories of others, and shared my own, I realized the only thing I had to do was continue to grow and learn.

Living in Eastport is showing me what living a life with passion looks like, a life driven by something deeper than money in the bank or “likes” on a social network page.

Eastport and Washington County have a magic about them. I am not sure how to explain it. There seems to be more creativity here than in other places, an abundance of imagination and expression. I don’t know if that is true for everyone, but what I do know is there are few places in the world where the first question you are asked when you arrive is, “What’s your art?”