Maine Arts Commission Award
Schoodic Arts for All is located in Winter Harbor, Maine, a small fishing village with a population of 500 people. Our story began with the first Schoodic Arts Festival in 1999. The recent closing of the Navy Base caused many changes to the area, including cutting the population by half, leaving only 23 students in the school and 100 empty buildings in town.
A grassroots citizens’ group was formed to address the dire economic impact on the town. Their task was to bring back life and vitality through increased visitation and economic opportunity. An arts festival was planned, hoping to bring some traffic through Winter Harbor. And so, with a small grant of $500, Schoodic Arts for All was born.
The first Schoodic Arts Festival was a resounding success! More than 20 years later, Schoodic Arts for All has grown to offer year-round workshops and performances, After School Art Club for area schools and homeschool groups, Summer Art Camp, and hosts several art-related community groups.
Many of our other programs and community groups have come about because someone said “What if?”. This has resulted in hositing many communtity groups in the musical arts (Singing Circle, Variable Winds Recorder Group, Ukulele Club), visual arts (Painting Group, Connect and Create), as well as Creative Aging Museum Trips, both in person and virtually.
The character of a town is in its village. Its historic buildings are landmarks that are its memory. We inhabit three historic buildings that would likely be razed or empty were it not for our occupancy.
Beginning in 1999, we have been rented Hammond Hall, a historic landmark performance hall on Main Street, for the two weeks of the festival. The architecture includes a beautiful stage and full balcony. When Hammond Hall was built 100 years ago it was the center of town government but had been mostly empty since the 1970’s. In 2002, Hammond Hall was slated for fire practice! Instead, we began renting Hammond Hall full time and based our offices there. In 2004, we launched a major restoration of the Hall.
Some years later we were gifted a two story art studio that we have fully equipped with pottery wheels and kilns. The building began its life as an ice cream shop. Now known as the Combs Studio, after Doris Combs, one of our first supporters and former owner of the building, it is located on Main Street in Prospect Harbor, across from the elementary school. It is used for After School Art Club, as well as for workshops during the Festival and year-round.
In 2013, the citizens of Winter Harbor, as well as the municipality, asked us to fill the former town office with creative activity to further enhance the economic activity of the downtown. The Schoodic Arts Schoolhouse is our Community Arts Space, as well as our administrative building. Every day of the week, artists, musicians, and other creative people meet here to practice their art together and become nourished by the creative synergy of the group.
In 2018, Schoodic Arts for all celebrated its 20th anniversary. We have grown from an all volunteer organization five year-round employees as well as countless volunteers and summer staff.
In 2020, we began offering virtual workshops and outdoor performances in response to the pandemic. They became very popular and in 2021, all performances were held outside at the Prospect Harbor Park. Most year-round classes were held virtually online and Festival workshops and Art Camp were held in a large tent outside our Schoolhouse location.
Also in 2021, we bid farewell to Mary Laury, who retired after 20 years of leadership as Executive Director and welcomed new Executive Director Colt Neidhardt.
In 2007, Schoodic Arts for All was awarded the Dirigo Award for NonProfit Excellence by the Maine Association of Non Profits.
In 2018, Schoodic Arts for All was named the Best Community Organization in the inaugural Maine Arts Awards. The awards were given by the Maine Arts Commission in partnership with ArtsEngageME at the Maine International Conference on the Arts on September 28, 2018 in Portland.
The first of what is to be an annual event, the awards recognize “the deep commitment and dedication that individuals and organizations have contributed to the advancement and strengthening of the arts in Maine.”