At the end of June, I was lucky enough to visit Eastport and Lubec. I’ve been meaning to return since my first visit in 1996. Remembering hidden artist studios, downtown galleries, and a dynamic working waterfront drew me to plan a trip.
As director of Archipelago, the Island Institute’s Rockland store and art gallery, visiting artists around the state is a welcome focus. This was my first overnight trip since fall of 2019.
Eastport was putting on its red, white, and blues in preparation for July 4th weekend when I arrived. A large flag was being installed down by the dock. I met up with Alex Zipparo, a community development officer for the Island Institute, and we began our tour.
The arts are woven into the fabric of these communities alongside their working waterfronts.
Eastport has the usual assets of a small town, including a diner, pub, hardware store, and people who offer friendly greetings on the street, but it also boasts of art galleries, art apprentice studios, gift shops, and not a chain store in sight.
We met downtown shop owners who shared their deep knowledge of the 1937 Quoddy Tidal Power Project, planned to harness the great tides for generating electricity. We enjoyed fulfilling meals, chats with waiters, and morning views from our motel over Cobscook Bay.
Eastport Arts Center anchors the area’s cultural events with a gallery space, summer concert series, theatre and film events, as well as educational and community outreach programs. The EAC rocks its mission “to stimulate and nurture an appreciation of the visual and performing arts and the creative process, and to provide a home and an environment within the community where they can prosper.” Eastport is blessed by this community center.
The Tides Institute and Museum of Art is investing in reviving downtown buildings and infrastructure, an approach supported by ArtPlace America funding which aims to position arts and culture as a core sector of equitable community planning and development. I can’t wait to see how it shapes Eastport down the road.
Lubec, linked by the FDR Memorial Bridge to Campobello Island, was quietly awaking from winter as shops and restaurants were being spruced up for summer, the library was having a book sale, and lunch was a bit hard to find. The working waterfront with its red lobster boats and navy waters is a stunning spot for a bite to eat.
On the way out of Lubec to Quoddy Head State Park, don’t miss Crow Town Gallery, the working studio and gallery of Shanna Wheelock. She was crafting bowls when we visited; the gallery also exhibits a dozen other well-known artists and crafters. It’s a beautiful and surprising mix of textures and subject matter that engaged our attention.
At a visit with artist Laura Pierce of Iris Designs jewelry in Whiting, I reflected on how the arts are woven into the fabric of these communities alongside their working waterfronts. From my trip in 1996 to now it continues to be clear that working waterfronts, natural resources, and creative businesses work together to make these areas special destination places.
In the summer it’s clear that creative entities can drive local economies which is sure visible in Eastport and Lubec. In Archipelago, we feature over 300 artists from around the state. I wish I could be on the road more discovering more and providing resources to help them succeed.
As part of our business resilience team at the Island Institute, Alex and I are making more plans to learn what artists need. The arts and culture sector contributes $1.55 billion to Maine’s economy, or 2.5% of GDP. Those figures don’t include self-employed artists or makers or part-timers; imagine how much greater it actually is.
Where are you heading this summer? What studios, craft fairs, shops with local artists and makers can you find on your trip? Maine’s artists and makers would love to see you.
Lisa Mossel is director of Archipelago, the Island Institute store and gallery. She may be reached at: email@example.com.