By Will Slater
WINTER HARBOR — For two weeks in August, anything is possible. You can learn to be a potter, a calligrapher or a linoleum-block printmaker, or a line dancer or a glass artist. You can marvel at a magician and mime or dance to the blues. You can thoughtfully consider environmental poetry one evening and acrobatic dance the next.
You can do all of this at Winter Harbor’s Schoodic Arts for All.
“We’ve had people who took a quick [woodturning] workshop here,” says Executive Director, Mary Laury, “and have gone on to make things on their own, and actually establish a little small business.”
Of course, not everyone who attends a workshop at SAFA’s annual Schoodic Arts Festival, Aug. 2-15, will leave with a newfound profession. Still, having organized her last festival after two decades of stewardship, Laury hopes the performing and visual arts organization can offer meaningful education and a taste of local artistic culture. Her successor, Colt Neidhardt, already has been hired and is on the job. Born in North Dakota, and raised in western Nebraska, Neidhardt previously taught acting, directing and theater history, and mentored students, at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith. Neidhardt is excited to continue the Schoodic Arts tradition of programming driven by the local audience.
“The big takeaway is that so many of the programs here are community-guided or student-guided and that they’re really coming from those points of inspiration,” he says.
Through two weeks this summer, Schoodic Arts will host over 40 events, including live performances each evening and from two to four daily workshops, each a few hours long. Laury hopes that events are educational and enriching, but more importantly that after prolonged isolation, the festival allows the Schoodic Peninsula community to reconnect through the arts.
Last year’s festival had to be moved fully online due to the pandemic. Laury is proud of the work artists and Schoodic Arts staff did to offer virtual programming. Out of a difficult situation, she says, some real positives came out of the festival.
“We were able to serve an audience that didn’t have the physical ability to get to Winter Harbor.”
Still, Laury is excited to welcome audiences back.
When planning the events, Laury attempted to strike a balance between offering performances regular attendees know and love, like Celtic music, this year performed by the Grammy-nominated Kat Logan Aug. 11, with something that may be more unfamiliar, like several performances of songs and poems from the 2019 book “A Dangerous New World, Maine Voices on the Climate Crisis” on Aug. 3.
The same philosophy of fusing the familiar and the challenging applies to the workshops. International cooking courses may be recognizable to past students, but this year’s “Wok Top Cooking” and “Ramen Made Simple,” both taught by Chris Toy on Aug. 12, provide a chance for amateurs to expand their skills in new directions. All workshops are planned with a common intention.
“The workshops are set-up as low-cost, short duration, get a taste of a lot of different things,” Laury says.
Some workshops have become August classics, like Japanese tie-die.
“The Japanese tie-dye is one of the perennial favorites,” Laury says, “It’s just this wonderful, amazing, terrific mess.”
As it is year-round, children’s education will be run alongside the adult programming. The weeklong camp Aug. 9-13 features sgraffito pottery and mason bee house-making lessons. The goal, Children’s Education Coordinator Anna Woolf says, is to make the arts hands-on and build links between local kids and artists.
“[It is] important to have this connection, to know here are real live models, examples in our community of folks who are making a living being creative.”
The festival, Laury hopes, offers that rare and wonderful chance to learn and even be, if only briefly, something totally new.
The festival is made possible by the work of volunteers. If you are interested in lending a hand in this year’s festival, contact Schoodic Arts for All at 963-2569 or visit schoodicartsforall.org or their Facebook page. The organization is is located at 427 Main St., Winter Harbor.