Maine must be good to its artists, as so many of them congregate there. It's obvious that the natural beauty of the state attracts people who want to paint, writers who feel creative and designers of different crafts. The southern part of the coastline includes much that is beautiful, of course, though overdevelopment has made places like Orchard Beach and Ogunquit too crowded in summer. But throughout the state, there is room enough for artistic expression that attracts, just as does the grandeur of the coastline and the ocean itself.
The Maine Art Museum Trail
Among famous artists whose name is connected to Maine are Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, George Bellows and three generations of the Wyeth family. Though there are dozens of art and other kinds of museums in Maine, seven get the top ratings, four of these are along the coast.
Number One, of course, is the Portland Museum of Art. Look for works by Mary Cassatt, Frederick Church, Childe Hassam, Homer, Picasso, Monet, Renoir and Degas, among others. Admission $6. Open daily. Phone 207/775-6148 or visit www.portlandmuseum.org.
Second in importance along the coast is the Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Brunswick. Ancient art is featured here (Assyrian, Greek, Roman, Asian) as well as classical pieces from later periods. Look for a Gilbert Stuart portrait of Thomas Jefferson, just one of many highlights. Free admission. Closed Mondays and major national holidays. Phone 207/725-3275, website www.bowdoin.edu/artmuseum. Note: the museum is being renovated and is expected to open in the fall of 2007.
Next in line comes the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland. Look for works by Bellows and N. C. Wyeth, among others. Closed Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. Admission $10. Phone 207/596-6457 or visit www.farnsworthmuseum.org.
The fourth coastal museum of importance is the Ogunquit Museum of American Art (open from July 1 to October 31). Francis Henry Taylor, a former director of New York's Metropolitan Museum, stated that this was "the most beautiful small museum in the world." This season, OMAA hosts special exhibits devoted to printmaker Jacob Lawrence and photographer Ansel Adams. Admission $5. Phone 207/646-4909, website www.ogunquitmuseum.org.
If you want to pursue the other three important art museums in the state, check out the inland trio of the Bates College Museum of Art in Lewiston, the Colby College Museum of Art in Waterville and the University of Maine Museum of Art in Bangor. More information on all at www.mainemuseums.org.
If you like the fiber arts, you may go crazy over this collection of studios, basketry shops, farms, country inns and other places involving cashmere, yarns, knitting, sheep, fabric, fleeces, craft centers, alpacas, quilts, galleries, processing mills, tools and wool. The devoted director Christine Macchi has published a tour map that lists 144 locations open all year throughout the state, which you can have for $5 if you write to Maine Fiberarts, 223 Maine Street, Topsham ME 04086, phone 207/721-0678. The map is free at Maine State Visitors Centers, Tour Map sites, the hospitality industry, Chambers of Commerce and art festivals. The list is also on their website, which is www.mainefiberarts.org, the email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I had time to visit only three spots, the first of which was Ms. Macchi's gallery at the address mentioned above, where in addition to impressive displays, the networking center has a database, digital image library, slides and other resources. Upstairs in the same building is the studio of Arlene Morris, phone 207/729-5211, who works creating fascinating collages, wall pieces and books from fabric, paint and threads. The third spot was at Searsport Rug Hooking, owned by Julie Mattison, whose amiable colleague, Gabby, described herself as a "hooker," meaning a rug hooker, of course. This large 1791 house, with a cozy fireplace in the foyer, is filled with dyed wools, books, samples, tools and more, including exhibits of the work of many customers. Courses are offered here, too. Note the wonderful 19th-century Harper's Bazaar magazine pages once used as wallpaper and uncovered during renovations. 396 East Main Street, Searsport, phone 207/548-6100, website www.searsportrughooking.com.
Ms. Morris highly recommended Katherine Cobey, who sculpts and knits, producing garments and sculptures of handspun wool, linen and mohair, among other things. She is at 178 Salt Pond Road, Cushing, phone 207/354-6762, website www.katharinecobey.com.
The Maine Print Project
To celebrate 200 years of printmaking in Maine, an endeavor is underway through May 2007, said to be the largest collaborative arts project in the state's history. There will be rarely seen prints exhibited for the first time in generations, they say, with more than 2,000 prints including such artists as Winslow Homer to Neil Welliver and from Alex Katz to Charlie Hewitt. In addition to exhibits, educational programs demonstrating printmaking techniques, lectures, a symposium, and visits to artists' studios are featured.
There are 25 locations, 16 of them along the coast, from Ogunquit to Eastport, including the art museums mentioned above and the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor. More information at www.maineprintproject.org.
Many visitors to this charming, but summer crowded, village seem to come just to gawk at the residence of former President George Bush on its private peninsula, Walker's Point, and wander the streets in search of souvenirs, but there's a lot more to look at, even to enjoy.
In the town, check out the 1853 Nott House and the History Center of Kennebunkport (a complex of five buildings), on Maine and North streets, respectively. More information at 207/967-2751 or www.kporthistory.org.
A few miles outside Kennebunkport is the Seashore Trolley Museum, with a large collection of streetcars and a few buses. You can ride through the park on old trolleys with an escort, or take a self-guided walking tour, they say. My trip was on a 1915 Minneapolis trolley, complete with period advertisements (like 30 cent steak dinners). Admission $8, less for seniors and children, includes trolley ride and tour. 195 Log Cabin Road. Contacts: 207/967-2800 or www.trolleymuseum.org.
You can make a side trip to the amusing Lighthouse Depot, which says it is "the World's Largest Lighthouse Gift & Collectibles Store," on US Route 1 in Wells, about a 15-minute drive southwest from Kennebunkport. There's a lovely scramble of everything related to lighthouses, including six-foot replicas for your lawn, ornaments, hats, art, books and whatnot. Phone them at 207/646-0608 or visit www.lighthousedepot.com.
Just next door to the depot is the admirable Lighthouse Museum, tiny but filled with mementoes of heroism by lighthouse keepers and their allies, the US Coast Guard. Free admission. Closed Mondays. 2178 Post Road, Wells. Contact 207/646-0245 or visit www.lighthousefoundation.org.
Kennebunkport Lodging & Dining
The Nonantum Resort has been going strong since 1884, and you have a choice between rooms in the rambling original building or in a newer annex, where the rooms are modern without being madly so. All rooms in the modern building feature water views, mini fridge, coffee maker, and other amenities, with patio or balcony on the first and second floors. There is a pleasant lobby and dining room, ditto bar, and clever gift shop. Rooms run from $149 off season, $209 on. It's about a 15-minute walk from Dock Square, the center of the village. 95 Ocean Avenue, phone 800/552-5651 or 207/967-4050, website www.nonantumresort.com.
The Cape Arundel Inn claims to be the town's only oceanfront inn and restaurant, and it certainly is the only one sandwiched in between the huge "cottages" that yesteryear's millionaires built along Ocean Avenue. From all the rooms save two, they say, and certainly from the drive in front, you can even see a glimpse of former President Bush's summer home. Built in 1895 as an elite retreat for an Ohio family, it became an inn later on, but before zoning restrictions were invented as a way of keeping commercial establishments out of the neighborhood. It's a fair walk from the town center (45 minutes), and the rooms are pleasant. The food I ordered (a seafood medley/pasta dish) was undistinguished, though service and sea view were impeccable. Rooms $125 to $365, depending on season and building, including a "creative" continental breakfast. Closed January 3 to March 1. 208 Ocean Avenue, phone 207/967-2125 or visit www.capearundelinn.com.
Always aware of its importance as a cultural center, Portland was named one of America's Dozen Distinctive Destinations in 2003, an annual list of unique and best-preserved communities in the US organized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Get a copy of Arts Guide Portland magazine, which lists dozens of venues, including galleries, studios, theaters, restaurants and the like. Contact 207/774-3775 or visit www.portcitylife.com. This love of objects from the past applies to museums, naturally.
The Portland Museum of Art has long been the center of New England cultural display north of Boston, and its latest promotion, for a Mona Lisa, no less, proves its contemporary savvy. Though part of its permanent collection (since 1983), the portrait (one of three worldwide probably from Leonard's hand and/or workshop) was rarely displayed. This version (Harvard says it was painted "before 1510") is thought to be either a prep study for the famous original by Leonardo himself or a copy painted by one of his followers shortly after the creation of the one in the Louvre (1503-07). It's back in the warehouse for now, but you can check out "Maine Prints" or contemporary photographs or one of the few existing sets of Goya's Los Caprichos etchings (December 16 through February 25). Contact them at 207/775-6148 or at www.portlandmuseum.org.
The Longfellow House (1785), operated by the Maine Historical Society, is the childhood home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and has been restored to its 1850s appearance. Visits by guided tour only. Open May through October daily, and on weekends and holidays in November and December. Admission $7 adults, $6 students and seniors, $3 children. 489 Congress Street, Portland, phone 207/774-1822 or visit www.mainehistory.org.
You can visit the Museum at Portland Head Light, the oldest lighthouse in the state (1791), from June through October. It's in the National Register of Historic Places. Admission $2. Located on Cape Elizabeth, south of the city, phone 207/799-2661, website www.portlandheadlight.com.
The Portland Stage Company, Maine's leading professional theater, offers productions from September through May, featuring such playwrights as Peter Shaffer, Arthur Miller, Tom Stoppard and Dickens. Contact them at 207/774-0465 or at www.portlandstage.com.
For information on Portland lodging and dining, see our excellent Frommer's Vermont, New Hampshire & Maine book, for dozens of suggestions.
For more information about Maine, call 888/95 MAINE or log on to www.visitmaine.com.
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