Sunday, July 26, 2009


In a former life I must have been a musician. The passion that I feel for music is incredibly strong. But despite a brief stint at piano lessons in my early teens, in this lifetime, I never quite got my fingers to coordinate well enough to pull anything off more complex than Auld Lang Syne with one finger on the organ. I can't imagine trying to pick up a guitar and make sense of it, and my voice, well, sounds sweet enough....but I just can't hold a tune. Luckily, I have a good sense of rhythm and when I discovered drumming I discovered where I fit in musically.

My love of music comes from my mother. Since a young child, I was exposed to all the arts: visual, music, theatre, dance. I took ballet and jazz lessons as a young child. I saw plays at Lakewood, Maine State Music Theatre, University of Maine, Wang and off-broadway, and my mother's painting group would work outside at our house. Probably the greatest memory I have of my mother growing up was her love of music. She could pick up just about any instrument and play. She didn't read music, but could figure out most any tune if given time. She has come to collect quite a few instruments over the years: hammered dulcimer, fiddle, harmonica, piano, ukulele, guitar. The most interesting by far is the balalaika, a triangular-shaped three-stringed Russian instrument. When I was about ten years old, my mom played with the Berioska Balalaika Orchestra. I have memories of watching her concerts at different venues all decked out in her hand-sewn Russian folk costume.

My own love of music led me to attend more concerts than I can even count. I started out as what we would have called, back in the 80's, a metal-head. My first concert was Blue Oyster Cult when I was in the 7th grade. (Okay, you caught first concert was actually Leif Garret a couple years previous...but shhhhh...don't tell anyone!). I then graduated to the likes of Black Sabbath, Aerosmith, The Cult, Twisted Sister, Ted Nugent, Ratt, Scorpions, Quiet Riot. You get the picture. In college, I was fortunate to snag a job in a music store and that led to backstage passes, free concert tickets, and in-store autograph sessions where I met (or at least stood in the same room with!) rockers such as Gene Simmons, Melissa Etheridge, Megadeth, Slaughter, and Jeffrey Gaines. I even met one of the New Kids on the Block. That would have been a highlight if I had actually been a fan like one of my friends who would scream and cry everytime she saw one of their videos.

My taste in music was broadened by working in the music store. How many twenty year olds do you know that would actually pay $70 for a 4-CD box set of Frank Sinatra music? Concert highlights went on to include Grateful Dead in Boston, Phish on a mountain in Vermont, The Newport Jazz Fest, and the New Orleans Jazz Fest. My favorite venues are small, like when my sis and I saw Irma Thomas at the Lion's Den, a real dive, in New Orleans (we were served Irma's homemade beans and rice while watching the show), or the Subdudes at a club in Portland. And just last summer, I saw one of my all-time favorite songwriters John Hiatt at the free outdoor LLBean concert series.

In Lubec one of the things I miss most about being part of "the rest of the world" is great radio stations. I especially miss WCLZ. Here, the options are limited to top 40 and country. Ick and double ick. I have listened mainly to NPR the past nine years, but even that station doesn't come in all the time. WERU doesn't have reception at our house either. But.....I have recently discovered Sirius radio! My family chipped-in for my birthday. I am once again musically-fed with great tunes! Out here in little ol' Lubec!

Praise the music Gods and Goddesses!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Arts Growing in Passamaquoddy Region

Chris weaving at our Earth Loom

I was speaking with Jude Valentine the other day about a project that she has been working on. Jude is an artist who is also the editor of a weekly online arts publication called “Culture Pass”, a project of the Tides Institute and Museum of Art. I mentioned to Jude how it was such a struggle for me, as an artist, to move to Lubec, a remote area, and not be fully immersed in the arts. Lubec, at the time, felt like a sleepy little town with very few cultural opportunities. I suppose, to someone living in New York, L.A., or even Portland, Maine, that would still feel the case today. And relatively speaking, it is.

However, the past maybe three or four years, I have felt as though there is a real renaissance taking place in our area. Admittedly, it has taken me time to get to know the people, the culture, and the ins and outs of how people entertain themselves. But it really does feel like there is a shift occurring; A shift that is bringing the artists and local talents into the spotlight.

I don’t think the artists just showed up overnight. I attribute my new awareness to Jude’s work with “Culture Pass.” A few years ago, a survey was distributed in the towns around Passamaquoddy Bay, including both sides of the U.S. and Canadian Border. Artists began to register themselves and a list grew. I bet it was a shock for Jude at first to see just how many artists were eager to let themselves be known. Soon a database was created and later a weekly listserve that subscribers receive every Sunday. Thanks to this listserve, we now see the richness of this area, the traditional folks arts of the natives who have lived here thousands of years and the merging of the newer blood and a more modern approach to art. There are music and art festivals, theatrical performances, contradances, art workshops, lectures, concerts, and gallery openings. And it isn’t a rare thing. These types of events are occurring every week, all year long, throughout our area.

I urge folks who live in this area or who are thinking of visiting or moving here, to subscribe to the Culture Pass listserve. It’s easy. Follow the link and click on “subscribe.” You’ll be amazed at the offerings. If you don’t want to subscribe, but are curious, you can go to the site and just browse, either artists, events, or organizations.

Culture Pass

I thought I might just toss out a sample list of the things I know are coming up in August or early September:

A Listing of Upcoming Arts Events on Culture Pass
A comprehensive list of upcoming events in the arts.

Lubec Arts Alive
A Downeast Community Art Event, August 17-22
This is my pet-project this summer. A bunch of super neat artists form all over Maine will come to Lubec for a week as Artists-in-residence, and work with local community to create murals, sculptures, installations, and a portrait project. Be sure to check out my other blog specifically for that event.

Summer Keys Concerts and Summer Brushes Art Workshops
Classical Concerts every Wednesday night in the summer at the Congregational Church in Lubec, renown adult music camp, and art workshops

Jazz Week Lubec
Greg Abate performances in early August to benefit the Lubec Memorial Library. This is wild, fun, upbeat, toe-tapping music!

Tides Institute Museum
Local art and history museum/collection located in Eastport, Maine

Parrish Map Project
Sue Clifford of Common ground (England) brings the community map program to our area. Lubec: Sunday, Aug. 9, 2:00 pm at Lubec Memorial Library

Two Countries One Bay Artist Studio Tour
A weekend open-studio tour (in September) of Passamaquoddy Bay area artists, including those living in New Brunswick, Canada (Deer Island, Campobello Island, St. Stephen, St. Andrews), and Maine (Calais, Eastport, Pembroke, Edmunds, Robbinston, Whiting, Trescott, Eastport, and Lubec). Yep, I (Cobscook Pottery) am part of the tour!
This awesome art studio tour is the result of the cooperative partnership of The Tides Institute and Museum of Art, Culture Pass, Bertha Day Fine Art Gallery and Michael Chesley Johnson.

Fundy Art
A guide to artists in the Bay of Fundy area.

Cobscook Community Learning Center
An organization that offers workshops in the arts and music (including traditional folk arts/music) and environmental education experiences.

Eastport Arts Center
Celebrates the local arts with theater, music, and arts workshops. I have loved watching this organization grow over the last few years.

These are just a few of what I consider key events that I am either attending or participating in. Check out Culture Pass to see a more comprehensive listing. Beyond this, there are numerous galleries, art openings, workshops, outdoor recreational opportunities, the best and most beautiful hiking trails, and incredible hospitality at the local inns. The wildlife is stunning: eagles, whales, moose and bear. All these arts in a true downeast locale, where the forests are unfettered, no traffic lights (at least for 50 miles from Lubec!), and each cultural finding is a treasure to be savored. Rugged coastline, foggy bays, lighthouses, and the true Maine accent that Stephen King movies have yet to get right!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Construction Moving Along

Top: The new studio space with packs of insulation ready for us to install
Below: Bello using a window as his personal scratching post

Construction continues to move along here. I am still overwhelmed at times that this is finally happening. I was clearing out papers from an overgrown pile in a drawer (yes, I am a major paper collector!) and found drawings for this addition that date back at least five years. It is almost humorous to see how the plans changed, how much bigger the space got, and the reasons why we felt we needed an enlarged home.

Hindsight, I am glad that this didn't happen five years ago. Now we have clear, precise reasons/uses for the new studio and had we built five years ago, it would not have been as well thought out.

That being said, the process has been interesting (stressful, joyful, shocking, exciting!). No blueprints, only my drawings. As the actual building occurred, the plans were re-written on a daily basis it seemed. A month before construction, the builder felt we needed to add 4 feet width in order to "not look strange" next to our house. Then, the addition needed to be shifted 2 feet not to affect our existing bulkhead. The stairway was completely rearranged (but I love it!) and the closet moved twice before going back to my original plan. Upstairs, chris' office shifted twice, windows moved to different walls, and two extra windows were ordered. A ceiling was completely restructured, and we added a railing instead of a half wall. Every decision seems to be on the fly, but somehow, it is working out. It looks nothing like I imagined, and each day is a new surprise. We can't wait to move-in and make use. Already, we have planned a gathering in August - so whether it is done or not - the space is being put to use.

Perhaps more happy than me (could this be possible?) is Bello. He thinks this new space is all for him. He has been playing in the huge piles of excavated dirt and running up and down the stairs, in the rafters, and through the framed walls. He scratches at the posts, hangs out in the windows, and stares at us from the existing windows (soon to be covered over with sheetrock). I was upstairs yesterday and could hear a ruckus "next door". I peeked through the curtain into the new space to see Bello running form corner to corner, as if chasing a mouse, but he was alone! He would stop at a post or corner, scratch, go to the window and peer out, then jump into a nook and crawl around. Pure delight. Barley on the other hand, seems unaffected, or at the least, annoyed that there are people and things invading his space. He chooses to sleep all day, as usual, on the futon in the green room.

No excitement today with the addition. Instead, I am going to tackle boxes full of art curriculum that I have been wanting to re-organize. This summer is about getting things in in order and organized. The organization bug has hit me bad! I want to be ready when school begins in the fall - for teaching, artwork, the "Two Countries One Bay Studio Tour", and fall open studio sale that I do with my sister here in Lubec. The next year ahead is expected to be busier than ever, so I am prepping in advance, as much as I can. A big change for a recovering procrastinator such as me!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Enjoying the Quiet

I know that some of you may not understand that. How can someone even find "the quiet" on a holiday weekend when there are fireworks sounding off , loud sirens in parades, hordes of people walking the street, stopping by to check out vendors' goods. But for me, it is a peaceful respite from the sounds of weekday construction: hammering, sawing, calling, dropping, tossing. My yard has been taken over by V-8 trucks, lumber, shingles, and equipment. Summer is usually my time to sit on the deck, immerse myself in art, enjoy the solitude and sounds of nature. It's difficult to rejuvenate myself after a hectic school year when my surroundings are in such disarray. But I know that the end result will be worth it.

My sister Kristin is visiting for the weekend. It's been a low-key relaxed-pace so far. Yesterday we spent a littler time walking around the village of Lubec then we drove over to Eastport, just across the bay, but 45 minutes by car! (I really must get the ferry schedule that runs in summer.) We enjoyed the steel band music and checking out the shops. I had heard about The Commons and finally got a chance to check it out. A gift shop with Maine-made items, cooperatively owned by a group of interesting women. It had a great feel.

We also ventured upon an eclectic, wildly-eccentric shop that I do not even know the name of, but it basically looked like an old diner space (still housing a booth and swivel seats at a counter) but was chock-full of artwork, handpainted clothing, ceramics, and scrimshaw. I thought it was some sort of bizarre artists collective, but turned out to be work all done by one man, Jim Levendosky, who was in the shop at the time of our arrival. I was of course most drawn to the ceramic work which was full of texture. I ended up buying a small, simply and beautifully carved vessel.

Kristin and I spent the this morning kayaking at Indian Lake in Whiting. Chris and I call it "Loon Lake" because we always see a loon out there on the water. Today was no exception. First kayak adventure of the season, the loon was there calling with her ghostly cry. The water always relaxes me, and being somewhat high-strung with all my projects, it has been a great addition to our lives. If Pam and Jonathan had not given us that otter kayak three summers ago, I don't know that we would have ever found out how much we would enjoy kayaking. We now have two kayaks and in the summer, get to the water as much as we can.

I will enjoy the rest of this day. The sun is starting to peek through after weeks of rain, and I have told myself no work! I do have the shop open in case a passerby wants to stop in, but it seems to me that the afternoon will remain somewhat quiet. Maybe some sitting time on the deck will do the soul good.

I will relish the moment, because tomorrow the banging begins; roof shingling at 6:45 a.m.