black and white photo of view of Monhegan from Manana

Monhegan at 400: "A Fortunate Island"

Monhegan at 400: "A Fortunate Island"


Of all the Maine islands I favor Monhegan, a solitary whale couchant in a blue field of sea, sixteen miles distant with nothing beyond but more sea and the coast of France.

—Martin Dibner, Seacoast Maine: People and Places (1987)

It has been 400 years since the English explorer Captain John Smith anchored off Monhegan and took stock of the island. While Smith was not the first to visit, his stopover remains the founding event upon which Monhegan hangs its history. Indeed, that occasion, plus many other sail-bys and anchorings by adventurers “from away,” led Ida Sedgwick Proper (1873–1957), the painter, suffragette, and islander, to title her 1930 book Monhegan, The Cradle of New England.

Proper offered plenty of proof for how the island served as the rocky bassinet for the infant region. She began, most properly, by hailing its long line of fishermen, dedicating her history to those toilers of the deep “of all times and of all countries, whose courage and faith made discovery of the North American continent possible.” As if to bolster her argument for this tribute, Proper noted that all of Christ’s apostles were fishers of the sea, “and ever since fishermen have been found trustworthy, ingenious and courageous.”

Monhegan has suffered somewhat from its isolated setting, even as the islanders have trumpeted its independence. True, the island is remote by Maine island standards—it sits ten miles from the nearest mainland—but it hasn’t been 400 years of solitude.


George Bellows (1882–1925) ready for a day of painting.


In recapping the numerous voyages to the New World that included visits to and/or sightings of the island (by what historian James Phinney Baxter referred to as the “avant couriers of colonization”), Proper included some of the earliest descriptions of Monhegan. A favorite, from the pen of Englishman David Ingram, echoes the “solitary whale” image of novelist Martin Dibner’s epigraph above. Looking seaward one morning from “Pemcuit” (Pemaquid) in 1569, Ingram saw “a great island that was backed like a whale. I first took it for a whale, as those fish in that country are easily taken for islands at a distance, so high do their backs rear out of the sea, and so enormous are they that one would load a hundred ships.”

Returning to Captain Smith: Proper called him the “Publicity Agent of New England.” In his Maine: A Narrative History (1990), historian Neil Rolde pushed that notion further, noting how Smith’s glowing reports “would make a Chamber of Commerce booster proud.”

While the Englishman’s principal objectives for the visit—“to take Whales and make tryalls of a Myne of Gold and Copper”—failed, Rolde points out that he still promoted the region, including Monhegan’s fertile soil: “Yet I made a Garden upon the top of a Rockie Ile in [latitude] 43½, 4 leagues from the Main, in May, that grew so well, as it served us with sallets in June and July.”

Proper is one of a number of historians who has a personal connection with—and, therefore, bias toward—Monhegan, which adds a special dimension to their chronicles . . . a boastful attitude, shall we say, that for aficionados of the island is gratifying. When she states without reserve that “Monhegan is the most famous deep sea island on the Atlantic seaboard,” we nod and read on. (She even hailed Monhegan’s accession by Massachusetts in December 28, 1822. Monhegan was, she reported proudly, as if it were the NBA draft, “the first island selected by Massachusetts for her portion.”)

Historian Charles Francis Jenney took the title of his study, The Fortunate Island of Monhegan (1922; second edition, 1927), from the gentleman historian James Rosier’s oft-quoted description from May 17, 1605: “It appeared a meane high land, as we after found it, being but an Iland of some six miles in compasse, but I hope the most fortunate ever yet discovered.” Like a movie promoter pulling out the best piece of a review to highlight in an ad, Jenney focused on “fortunate” despite the qualifying nature (“I hope”) of Rosier’s statement. The author did go on to explain that the purpose of his account of the island was to “describe the fulfillment of his prophecy,” which he did.

To address the question of the origin of the island’s name, Jenney asked fellow Worcester resident Lincoln N. Kinnicutt to examine the derivation and meaning of Monhegan. Kinnicutt concluded that “the Island” was the best interpretation, adding, “and there is a strong probability that to all the Indians on the Maine coast it was the island where the white men came year after year ‘in their big canoes with the white wings.’ ”

Historian Charles McLane agreed, taking his cue from Fanny Hardy Eckstorm’s Indian Place-Names of the Penobscot Valley and the Maine Coast (1941): “the island or Great Island.” He also offered some of the other names given it by early visitors: “Verrazano called it Anne after a teenage princess of Navarre; Champlain called it La Nef [ship] because it looked like one from a distance; Rosier, or Waymouth, called it St. George’s Island . . . ;and Captain John Smith . . . humored James I by naming it Barties Isles . . . presumably after one of James’ retainers.”

Reading Penney’s narrative of the island’s history, one is struck by harbingers of the future. One glowing report of the fishing off the island from the early 1600s brings to mind issues of overfishing today: “[I]n five or six hours’ absence we had pestered our ship so with cod-fish, that we threw numbers of them over-board againe.” Captain Smith reported landing more than 60,000 cod “in lesse than a month.” The market was global: Tons of fish were being carried back to England, Spain, and France.

According to Jenney, the “day of the explorer” came to an end in the mid-1600s. By that time, he wrote, “a voyage to the Maine coast was no more momentous than one of like character would be to-day, and such voyages were not heralded or recorded.” Monhegan retained its importance as a fishing station, and was even visited by pirates.

Toward the end of the 17th century, a settlement began to form. Jenney noted the appointment of the first constable, John Dillon, in 1673. A year later, the first innkeeper, the same Mr. Dillon, but now spelled Dolling (and later Dollen), was authorized “to keepe houses of publique intertaynments” and to “retayle beere, wyne, and liquors in ye severall places for the yeare Ensuing according to law.”


old black and white photo of fishermen spreading their nets off island.


The island became a refuge during “the Indian troubles.” After the fort at Pemaquid was captured and destroyed in 1689, the “entire region” was “substantially abandoned,” according to Jenney, who dated the end of Monhegan’s “golden age” to this event. McLane, by contrast, offered evidence—deeds and such—to show that the island “was not vacated because of King Philip’s War.” He also noted that over time, Pemaquid no longer served as Monhegan’s “polestar”; the island came to rely on Boothbay, Thomaston, and Port Clyde.

The island changed hands many times over the years, but a new chapter in its history began in 1777 when the deed to Monhegan was conveyed to Henry Trefethren, a cabinetmaker from Kittery. He and his descendants, along with members of the Starling and Horn families, helped build a year-round settlement on the island. As McLane put it, with the sale to Trefethren, “the modern history of Monhegan may be said to begin.”


By 1832, there were between 75 and 100 people on the island living in a dozen or so houses. A lighthouse, illuminated by sperm whale oil, had been built in 1824. In 1854, a fog station with a 2,500-pound bell was erected on the adjacent island of Manana. A municipal library was established as early as 1845, the post office in 1858. The Monhegan chapel came along in 1880; a public wharf was constructed in 1908.

By the turn of the century lobstering had replaced most other forms of fishing. Concerned with the protection of the fishery, islanders successfully petitioned the Maine Legislature in 1907 to establish a closed season. Since then, trapping lobsters has taken place in the off-season (“Trap Day” is now October 1, where it once was January 1).

In his acclaimed The Lobster Coast: Rebels, Rusticators, and the Struggle for a Forgotten Frontier (2004), Colin Woodard covers a recent fight by islanders to maintain rights to its precious “lobster bottom,” the territory it has long fished and conserved. When fishermen from the mainland began setting traps near Monhegan, Woodard recounts, the islanders dispatched a crew to Augusta to lobby then-governor Angus King.

Their campaign to keep non-islanders away owed its success to some unusual tactics, such as eight-year-old Kyle Murdock “engaging senators in the elevators and paging for members of the house.” That same Kyle Murdock stars in Jamie Wyeth’s painting Dead Cat Museum. And he is the Kyle Murdock who went on to found Sea Hag Seafood, a lobster-processing company in St. George. In October 2013, he was awarded a $40,000 grant and honored with a young entrepreneur award from the Hitachi Corporation.

McLane is especially helpful in filling in the 19th-century demographic history of the island, including the “restlessness” of the island’s population: The average length of a family’s residence after 1850 was ten years. The mobility of fishermen may have had some bearing on off-island moves. “When artists and rusticators invaded the island,” he wrote, “there may have been even more incentive for native residents to move on.”

Where McLane saw the growing influx of seasonal visitors as something of a scourge, Jenney ended his narrative of Monhegan with an acknowledgment of, and tribute to, the artists who frequented the island. The island’s “beautiful woodlands, waving moors, picturesque buildings, grand headlands, restless, mighty, and eternal sea,” as interpreted “by the genius of the artist,” he stated, “delight thousands the country over.” Thanks to these images of the island, Jenney could declare that “the hope of the ancient chronicler” had been realized: “In verity it has been and is a fortunate island.”


One supposes there were island natives who took umbrage at the title of Will and Jane Curtis’s and Frank Lieberman’s landmark book, Monhegan: The Artists’ Island (1995), as if those easel-bearing men and women owned the island. This landmark publication simply offered a broad accounting of the rich and remarkable array of art that has been inspired by the island.

That legacy continues to expand every year. Artists from across the country and around the world continue to find their way to the island. The Monhegan Artists’ Residency, which has introduced nearly 50 Maine artists to the island, and is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, added a new residency for Maine schoolteachers last year. And where the roster of island artists used to be predominantly male, nowadays it is much more balanced, with such groups as the Women Artists of Monhegan Island gaining visibility.

One way to consider Monhegan’s larger reputation over the last half-century or so is to compare the two feature articles on the island that have appeared in National Geographic magazine, in February 1959 and July 2001. The focus of the earlier piece, as its title proclaims, was lobstering: maine’s lobster island, monhegan. In his short text, William P. E. Graves, a staff writer at the magazine, noted that “Monhegan makes its living trapping the armor-plated delicacies of the deep.”

The featured photographs, all black-and-white (in an otherwise all-color edition), were taken by the Finnish-American photojournalist Kosti Ruohomaa (1913–1961), one of the great documenters of Maine. They represent a decidedly off-season island, from “hardy fishermen” playing cards in a smoke-filled fish shack to a “solitary villager” making his way down the snow-blown main road.


Andrew Winter (1892–1958) at his easel painting a view of Gull Rock.


The “summer artists and vacationers” earn but a passing mention. Yet among Ruohomaa’s photos is one of the Estonian-born painter Andrew Winter (1892–1958), who lived year-round on the island from 1940 till his death. Pipe clenched in his teeth, goggles atop his head, he is shown helping a neighbor carry lobster traps down to the dock. Winter took on island roles beyond that of artist, and thereby became a beloved member of the community.

By contrast, the 2001 Geographic feature by Cathy Newman opens with a candid by photographer Amy Toensing, of painter Frances Kornbluth standing in front of the laura b, the island’s ferryboat, docked at the island. The title—welcome to monhegan island, maine. now please, go away—goes with the look on Kornbluth’s face: a kind of wariness, and maybe a bit of displeasure. Her visage probably isn’t as daunting, or as humorous, as actor/painter Zero Mostel’s must have been when he allegedly stood on the Monhegan dock and yelled out to a boatload of tourists about to land: “Plague! Plague! Cholera! Go back!”

The two Geographic pieces share a common visual element: a photograph of the Odom brothers, Doug and Harry, longtime mainstays of the year-round community who ran the island store. Ruohomaa pictures them in oil hats and slickers on a winter run to haul traps. (Later in life, they sold land to young fishing families “for a fraction of what the market could have borne,” writes Woodard.) Toensing’s portrait, titled Inseparable Brothers, is intimate in a different way: The brothers lie in twin beds in their simple island bedroom, their dog Taxi in a basket between them.

The history of Monhegan is a history of its people. It is master carpenter Will Stanley, who built many of the houses on the island; Theodore Edison, son of the inventor, who set in motion the preservation of the island; Ray Philips, the shepherd and longtime hermit of Manana, Monhegan’s “nursling” island that forms its harbor; painter Jacqueline Hudson, who spearheaded the creation of the Monhegan Museum; Ted Hoskins, minister of the Maine Sea Coast Mission, offering solace and hot chocolate aboard “God’s tugboat,” the Sunbeam. It is the shopkeepers and librarians, summer hotel staff and boat captains, the birders in autumn, and, of course, those “trustworthy, ingenious and courageous” fishermen.

The island is not everyone’s cup of tea. During his Monhegan visit, Woodard encountered a tourist who expressed bewilderment at the lack of stores. “Well, why do people come here, then?” she asked.

The answer, of course, lay all around her. We stood in the center of one of the great anomalies of early-21st-century American life: an ancient, self-governing village, essentially classless and car-less, whose homes, sheds, and footpaths appear to have thrust themselves out of the wild and arrestingly beautiful landscape.

*          *          *

The history of Monhegan continues to unfold—that is the nature of time—and the island will face challenges and quandaries as it goes forth into the 21st century. In an opinion piece in the Bangor Daily News on November 8, 2013, inspired by the siting of two windmills near Monhegan, Suzanne MacDonald, Community Energy Director at the Island Institute, offered these thoughts:

Monhegan is an iconic part of Maine that is on the brink of survival. There is probably no single square mile more important to American art. But Monhegan is also known for leading the state in lobster conservation efforts, in affordable housing programs, for networking remote schools with cutting-edge technology, and for land conservation initiatives. Despite these strengths, the high cost of living is challenging the sustainability of the island’s year-round community. A neighboring [windmill] project benefiting from massive amounts of federal and state support should seek to contribute to local efforts to overcome these challenges.

In a talk this past winter at the Skidompha Public Library in Damariscotta, Reverend Bobby Ives, who served as pastor on Monhegan for several years in the 1970s, recalled part of a weather report from Maine Public Radio’s renowned meteorologist, Lou McNally. “It’s a windy day across the state of Maine,” said Lou, adding, “All you people on Monhegan Island, hold on!”

Hold on, indeed; this “fortunate” island has a lot of history ahead of it.


For more information on Monhegan's quadricentennial celebration, visit the town's 400th anniversary website.

A workshop class paints on Islesford.

Islesford’s Creative Economy

Islesford’s Creative Economy

The Cranberry Isles consist of five islands that, in the words of the historian Ted Spurling, “fit into the Great Harbor of Mount Desert Island, nestling nicely under its shorter arm.” They are, from largest to smallest, Great Cranberry, Little Cranberry (also called Islesford), Sutton, Baker and Bear.

The islands first became associated with the arts in the 1840s and ’50s, when a number of landscape painters visited Mount Desert Island and vicinity. Alvin Fisher, from Boston, Thomas Cole, from New York (and England before that), and Fitz Henry Lane, a Gloucester, Massachusetts, native, were among those artists who found subject matter among the Cranberries, making sketches and painting various views.

When shown in galleries and museums in East Coast cities, their images helped attract visitors to the region. As art historian and former Farnsworth Art Museum curator Pamela Belanger explained in Inventing Acadia: Artists and Tourists at Mount Desert (1999), these painters, and the travelers who took their cue from their canvases, transformed Mount Desert Island into a “mecca for the well-to-do, revolutionizing the local economy.”

The first artists to be, as it were, economically associated in a direct manner with the Cranberries may have been the Three Islesford Painters. From 1919 to 1929, Charles Edwin Kinkead, Harold Warren and Clarence Scott White spent part of each summer on Islesford. All of them had distinguished careers well beyond the ken of Downeast Maine, but joined forces to mount exhibitions and sell their work on Little Cranberry.

The TIPS, as they were known, displayed their paintings in the second-floor sail loft space of a building called the Blue Duck (site of the present-day Islesford Museum). In 1930, White broke away from his colleagues to begin his own annual exhibitions at the Asticou Inn in Northeast Harbor. Warren and Kinkead, still going by the acronym TIPS (with Three replaced by Two), had their last show in the Blue Duck in 1931.

The entrepreneurial art spirit of the Three Islesford Painters would not be truly revived until Dan Fernald, a lobsterman, and his wife, Katy, a high school math teacher, opened Islesford Artists Gallery in 1986. The gallery came about serendipitously: An artist visiting the island asked if he could store some paintings in the loft of Dan’s workshop. According to Katy, “People began to ask to see the pictures and inquired if they were for sale.”

The seed was planted: Here was a possible island business. The following winter, the couple removed the lobster buoys and rope and finished off the upstairs space, laying a wood floor and Sheetrocking the walls to create a space for displaying paintings. Eventually the gallery took over the downstairs lobster trap workshop.

The goal of the Fernalds from the start was to share the artwork of the community with island residents and visitors. Over the years they have exhibited a wide range of art, from the atmospheric charcoal landscapes of Emily Nelligan to the light-filled watercolors of Mark Howard. Today, the roster includes Edith Wright, Gail Collier, Holly Brooks, Susan Demchak, Peter Rudolph, and Eric Golias.


Ashley Bryan (left) and Henry Isaacs (right) provide guidance to two workshop participants on a foggy morning.
Ashley Bryan (left) and Henry Isaacs (right) provide guidance to two workshop participants on a foggy morning.


A parallel mission of the gallery was to encourage everyone to try their hand at making art. Dan Fernald proved to be the exemplar of the success of this effort: The sixth-generation lobster fisherman studied with island painters Ashley Bryan and Henry Isaacs and made a life in art. He is one of the gallery’s signature artists.

Islesford Artists was so successful that for a couple of years in the early 1990s the Fernalds opened an off-island branch in Northeast Harbor. While the second venue did well financially, running two galleries simultaneously seven days a week through the summer while maintaining the quality of the art took some of the fun out of the enterprise. In the end, they chose “to do one gallery and do it well,” says Katy.

The gallery has never followed the typical format of one-person or group shows that run for a few weeks and then change over. The place is a hub of ongoing creative activity: a still-wet oil painting hangs on a wall while fresh watercolors await matting and framing; a box of framed prints arrives on the mailboat. “The gallery is constantly changing to accommodate new images,” Katy explains.

At the same time, with its informal atmosphere the gallery has become a destination for visitors to the island. Seasonal residents bring their houseguests by. Word of mouth has been “the best advertising possible,” says Katy.

The gallery has helped support artists financially as well as provided “the moral support those sales can bring,” Katy reports. The connection artists make with visitors from around the world has been helpful. The gallery has also helped to attract artists to the island, some of whom have rented island homes.

The gallery has grown over the years, increasing sales each year until the economic slowdown occurred in 2009. This past summer sales improved substantially. With commissions in the works, Katy reports, 2012 may have been their best season ever.

“We would not be able to devote the time and energy to the gallery if we were not able to make a reasonable profit from it,” Katy explains. Like many Mainers, they piece together their annual income from several sources.

When Dan and Cynthia Lief opened the Islesford Dock Restaurant in 1992, the artwork they displayed on the walls of the eatery was provided by the Islesford Artists Gallery. Indeed, the Fernalds served as the couple’s art suppliers for many years.

When the Liefs made renovations to the restaurant in 2007, creating a new gallery space connected to the main dining room, they decided to run the art part of their business. Dan, a former banker, and Cynthia, an English teacher, embraced the role of gallerists, traveling across Maine and beyond to visit artists. They also quizzed art dealers about how to run the business.

The Liefs learned that a gallery can, in Cynthia’s words, be a “really enigmatic business, so random, so crazy.” As she notes, “Just because you absolutely love something doesn’t mean that someone else will.” They have often wondered, “Should we hang what we think will sell or what we like?”

All along they have remained open to ideas. Last summer they tried showing photography for the first time and were happy to do well with it. Their stable of artists has shifted from year to year. A short list includes Lois Dodd, Susan van Campen, Robert Pollien, Henry Isaacs, Lesia Sochor, Andrea Peters, and Judy Taylor.


Barb Fernald at work in her studio
Barb Fernald at work in her studio


Like the Fernalds, the Liefs have watched their art business improve a bit each year, although they wish sales were stronger. They, too, acknowledge the short season, a 12-week stretch that barely lets up. August is their busiest month for art sales, followed by September, when island visitors often call to purchase the painting they had been looking at that summer.

The Liefs have tried stretching the season at both ends, but, as Dan explains, “There is no business for us in any significant way—not enough to justify the time and effort.” The restaurant and gallery are not tourist businesses, he notes. By their estimation, the clientele consists of around 65 percent summer people, 25 percent year-round, 5 percent people on sailboats and 5 percent day-tripping tourists.

Five years ago, in the midst of the recession, the Liefs’ best-selling island artist, Henry Isaacs, was wondering if they would sell any of his work come June. They came up with the idea to host a painting workshop, led by Isaacs and Ashley Bryan in early September after the restaurant closedfor the season.

The first summer 25 people attended the weekend; the following year they sold out, so they added a second workshop. Since then they have offered the workshops every September.

The workshops have been a “huge addition” to the restaurant—and to the Liefs, who have reveled in the company of artists from across the country. The restaurant’s chef stays on to provide meals for the visiting students, and they rent summer cottages for their guests—“Soup to nuts,” Dan says, “everything included,” with the focus entirely on making art. “You shouldn’t have to think about anything but your painting,” says Cynthia.

The weekends are anchored by Isaacs, who taught for many years at the Massachusetts College of Art, and Bryan, who, in addition to being an award-winning children’s book author and illustrator, was chairman of the art department at Dartmouth College. The island recently renamed its school the Ashley Bryan School in honor of the artist, who turns 90 this year.

The Liefs have done minimal advertising for the workshops, relying on word of mouth and robust e-mail lists. They’ve had guests from Nashville, Nevada, and Seattle, but also from close by. Sam Shaw, a jeweler who operates a successful shop and gallery in Northeast Harbor and who has a home on Islesford, attended one of the workshops. He told the Liefs that the last time he had drawn was as an undergraduate at the Rhode Island School of Design in the 1970s.

“What do we do with this model?” Dan Lief wonders aloud. He and Cynthia question whether the business itself would be sustainable for someone who needed to support themselves year-round. “It’s a problem for all of Mount Desert Island,” Dan says. “Summer is so short.”

For now, the couple plans to keep running the restaurant, gallery, and workshops with the hope that “someday someone” will want to take it over. “The dock is a very important part of the island,” says Dan, adding, “It has been good fun.”

The dock was a hub of artistic enterprise before the Liefs arrived on the scene. Master ceramist Marian Baker had opened Islesford Pottery in 1989, and Sue Hill ran Winter’s Work. Both shops serve as the artistic counterparts of the Lobsterman’s Co-op on the next pier over, representing many different artists, from on and off the island.

Among the local entrepreneurs is Barbara Fernald, an award-winning jeweler, who has managed her business from Little Cranberry since the 1970s. The advantage of having an art business on the island, she notes, is that “if you are a good enough artist, you can provide employment for yourself in a community with limited opportunities for other kinds of employment.”

Self-motivation and deadlines to produce work for stores and galleries help Fernald remain focused. “I think artists adjust to the finite heavy summer business if they have other outlets for selling work away from the island during the other seasons,” she explains.

Obtaining her materials on the Internet, Fernald must take into account shipping time and plan accordingly. “I can’t just run into town and pick up what I need,” she notes. She does not sell her jewelry out of her island studio, but rather places it on consignment with Winter’s Work and several off-island venues.


Potter Kaitlyn Duggan, at work on Little Cranberry
Potter Kaitlyn Duggan, at work on Little Cranberry


Among the most recent additions to the Islesford creative economy is potter Kaitlyn Duggan. Born in Sanford, Maine, she moved to Woolwich when she was nine. She spent her first summer on Little Cranberry in 2006. She graduated from the Maine College of Art the next year and returned to the island the following three summers.

In September 2008, Duggan married on the island. She and her husband decided to spend their first year together on Islesford. They bought a house in the spring and have been living there full-time ever since.

Duggan had an entrée to an island business. Marion Baker, owner of Islesford Pottery and a ceramics professor at the Maine College of Art, invited her to become her “co-potter” for the summer of 2006. “It was an opportunity to live on an island, work in a pottery shop, make all my own work, and sell it to the public,” Duggan notes. She also gained experience running a small business, studio, and gallery.

Baker and Duggan share the studio, taking turns running the shop and dealing with customers. As the season is short—mid-June through September—they end up being in the shop-studio nearly seven days a week. A percentage of Duggan’s sales goes to Baker to help cover rent, firing costs, and other expenses. They are always producing new work throughout the summer and also carry the work of several other potters.

Duggan’s pottery business has, she says, been boosted “tremendously” through her association with Islesford Potters. “My work has been exposed to thousands of summer visitors from all over the country and abroad,” she reports. Special orders keep her busy all summer and into the winter. During the off-season she builds up her inventory for the following summer.

Duggan and Fernald have websites to present and promote their work—a place for people to view their work if they can’t make it to the island. Their Facebook pages have also been a way to stay in touch with customers, share what they are working on from time to time, and announce special events. Duggan also takes part in the MECA Holiday Sale every year, which keeps her connected with the Portland community. Archipelago in Rockland and The Grasshopper Shop in Ellsworth carry her work.

Duggan finds the summer season frenetic. “All the income comes in July and August,” she reports. “If we have a foggy stretch or bad weather, it can have a [negative] impact on sales.” She also points to the challenges of getting supplies from the mainland and “schlepping boxes of fragile pottery off the island for craft shows during the winter months.”

These challenges are largely offset by the connections made with customers each summer. “Once they get here,” Duggan says of visitors, “people are genuinely curious about all aspects of island living.” Enchanted by what they discover about Little Cranberry, many want to take something home with them as a way to remember their trip. Duggan and her fellow island artists and gallery owners are there to oblige them.

Currently, these four arts businesses on Islesford support not only their owner/proprietors, but dozens of other artists both on and off the island who have collectively provided another identity to this lobster-fishing community. And although perhaps not as well known as Monhegan, Islesford has become a destination, for artists and collectors of art alike.