Why do the lamppost banners proudly boast “The Arts Capital of Maine” in downtown Rockland, Maine? Because of a swelling cluster of studios and galleries begging to be explored.
There was a time when Rockland, Maine, was once known solely for its working waterfront. Today, however, anchored by the Farnsworth Art Museum and the new Center for Maine Contemporary Art, this fishing village is fast becoming an artsy enclave. In fact, Downeast Magazine recently put it best when they said: “You can’t swing an easel in downtown Rockland without hitting a gallery.” Indeed, this Rockland art renaissance is owed largely to a swelling cluster of studios and galleries. We highlight a few of our favorites out of the 24 commercial galleries that now make their home here.
Harbor Square Gallery [372 Main Street]
Housed inside the 1912 Security Trust building, this gallery opened 38 years ago, making it one of the oldest in town. But the unique thing about Harbor Square is that it doesn’t really focus on any one kind of art. Their walls and shelves are arranged in a free-range style with no regard for style or medium. Walking through the doors feels a bit like stepping into an eclectic and eccentric personal collection of jewelry, pottery, paintings, sculptures, and more. Aside from the artwork, Harbor Square has another main draw: The Muir Garden, a public rooftop garden (the only one in the area) punctuated by sculpture and a delightful place to also take in the waterfront view of Rockland Breakwater and Lighthouse, Owls Head Peninsula, and the island of Vinalhaven.
Clarke Gallery [145 Lincoln Road]
Just across the street from The Strand Theatre, Clarke Gallery’s friendly blue and white façade gives way to fine art from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries – think impressionist portraits alongside landscapes from notable artists like William Preston Phelps and William Louis Sonntag. Along with their more realistic works, the gallery is also home to a collection of abstract works and both African American and Latin American art.
Caldbeck Gallery [12 Elm Street]
From the exterior, Caldbeck Gallery looks more like someone’s quaint home off one of downtown’s quiet side streets than the respected institution it is dedicated to up-and-coming Maine artists. But don’t be fooled. Inside, the two floors of white walls host monthly exhibitions of solo or combined shows of contemporary art. Other than their shared location, many of these artists have little in common, which means that, one month, you might get hyper-realistic landscapes in oil and watercolor and then next have a collection of works loosely grouped by a theme but otherwise running the gamut in terms of medium and style.
Jonathan Frost Gallery [279 Main Street]
A little further out than some of the other galleries, the Jonathan Frost Gallery focuses on the collective works of 18 local artists. Their dedication to the gallery is what brought these artists together, otherwise, their works are disparate, ranging from Harriett Matthews’ fabulous metal sculptures to Michael Torlen’s colorful painted seascapes.
The Art Loft [385 Main Street]
What is an arts hub without somewhere for people to make art? That’s where The Art Loft comes in. Not only do you get the chance to rub elbows with local artists and see some of their work, you get to make some of your own when you visit this community center. Their workshops cover different mediums like learning the basics of using a DSLR, editing photos on your phone, figure painting, and using acrylics to create texture in your paintings. Their paint nights have simple beginner level paintings as well as more complicated options so there is literally something for everyone no matter their proficiency.
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