WINTER HARBOR — Schoodic Arts for All’s longtime director is planning to pass the baton and take up her own paint brush to focus on her many artistic pursuits. Mary Laury, who has led the cultural and performing arts institution for 20 years, aims to retire after the 2021 School Arts Festival ends late this summer and let a new director take the helm.
In her tenure, Schoodic Arts for All (SAFA) has flourished — even during the global coronavirus pandemic — as exemplified by the nonprofit organization’s nimble pivot this past year. Laury, staffers Anna Wolfe and Lisa Salsbury and volunteers got creative, taking on the unknowns, technological challenges and loss of revenue. They figured out the mechanics to bring rich, lively programming via Zoom into the homes around Schoodic Peninsula, elsewhere in Maine and beyond. Overcoming many hurdles, they managed to extend the organization’s geographic reach, filling a wealth of online classes ranging from Indian cuisine to watercolor painting.
In 1999, Gouldsboro organic farmer/novelist Cynthia Thayer and Steuben musician Sheila Unvala founded Schoodic Arts for All. Initially a seasonal arts festival whose initial budget totaled $500, the group since has evolved into an institution that stages live performances and arts-related and cultural programming year-round under three separate roofs.
At risk of being burned down in 2002, Winter Harbor’s historic Hammond Hall became Schoodic Arts’ live event and exhibit location. The landmark building was completely restored and is leased from the Winter Harbor Historical Society. In Prospect Harbor village, the Combs house became SAFA’s studio that contains pottery kilns and woodworking machinery for workshops. The former Winter Harbor town office/schoolhouse now houses classroom space and the group’s administrative offices.
“We are thrilled with SAFA’s growth and the quality of what we offer to the community, are grateful for Mary’s many years of dedicated service, and see a great opportunity for her successor…,” SAFA Board of Directors President Colleen Wallace said in a March 3 statement. She said the board is seeking “an exceptional community builder who is passionate about the arts to serve as its next executive director.”
Wallace said Schoodic Arts has undertaken a national search for Laury’s successor and aims to have a new director on board in July. The position includes benefits and pays in the $60,000 to $65,000 range. The application deadline is April 7. Community building is an ongoing goal and part of the job.
“SAFA aspires to be an important part of community life for year-round, summer and visiting people through outreach and widely varied programming with children and adults of all ages,” the job overview reads. A passion for visual and performing arts and arts education, nonprofit and managerial experience, technical and digital knowledge, event planning and staging, creative problem-solving, fundraising, financial management and budget development, written and oral communication and a flexible and collaborative approach are among the skills and qualities sought.
Back in 1999, Laury signed on to teach, painting, drawing and ballroom dancing at Schoodic Arts’ inaugural arts festival. A painter whose work was carried in at least six galleries, she went on to stage the group’s first visual arts show. Then, she was hired as the organization’s first executive director. The mission was to expand the program offering classes and staging live performances year-round. That goal was fulfilled and then some. An after-school arts/crafts program for children, ukulele club, singing circle and Meetinghouse Theatre Lab are among other groups and activities that have sprung up over the years.
“I feel very gratified to have made a positive influence on this little part of Maine,” Laury wrote in a Facebook post announcing her retirement. “Now I’m going to complete the circle and return to painting and teaching as I make the next brush strokes in my life.”
Laury says she will continue to teach painting and drawing but looks forward to doing it on her own timeframe.
“I just want to paint pictures,” she summed up March 12.