Bar Harbor offers vibrant summer art scene
Pick any point in downtown Bar Harbor — a stretch of sidewalk, the front step of a restaurant, or a blade of grass on the Village Green — and you’ll probably find yourself just a few strides away from place to buy Maine art. In the five-minute walk between Mt. Desert and West Streets, there are over a dozen studios, galleries and craft shops which both connect artists with one another and showcase their works to the town’s summer visitors.
Big-eyed neon bunnies pop from the walls at D’Alessio Gallery on Mt. Desert Street. A large canvas seems to just depict a woman’s birthday party, but upon closer viewing reveals hidden figures (read: tiny male bodies) on the cake. The paintings are the work of longtime Bar Harbor resident Russell D’Alessio. Bunnies are his favorite; he’s been painting them since he was a kid.
Russell and his wife, Linda, have been active members of the island’s art scene since they moved to Bar Harbor in the 1970s. This May, they doubled their studio size by acquiring the neighboring gallery space. Russell makes art, while Linda manages the business side. “It’s hard to do both art and business,” she notes.
The D’Alessios are active members of Bar Harbor’s art community. Their gallery often features guest artists; this fall, they plan show the work of Dedham jeweler Susanne Anderson. Linda helps organize the town’s Art Walks, nights where downtown venues showcase local artists and host special demonstrations. The most recent Art Walk took place on June 1; the next will be October 5.
Just down the street, flower petals decorate the doormat of Evergreen Pottery and Queen Anne’s Flower Shop. The two establishments, managed by husband and wife Scott Stevens and Mo McGuire, share a storefront. The overhead sign only indicates the pottery, so the petals advertise the flower shop.
During June’s Art Walk, Scott could be found at the pottery wheel. A Farmington native who grew up in a family of potters, he makes each piece by hand, although Mo often helps with carvings and decorations. While Scott is gifted in throwing pottery, he also enjoys connecting with customers, and they appreciate his demonstrations. He recalled one of his favorite interactions: a visit from a blind boy, who could follow the pottery wheel with his hands and feel a vase’s creation. Most visitors only get to watch.
Next door on Mt. Desert Street is the Argosy II Gallery. It and the original Argosy Art Gallery, located just around the corner on Main Street, are managed by Amy and Charlie Sidman. The couple, 2018 recipients of the Acadia Arts Achievement Award, opened the first gallery 23 years ago and the latter a decade later when the former ran out of space. Both spaces primarily feature impressionist-style paintings of Maine landscapes in and around Acadia National Park, by dozens of different artists.
Across Main Street from the older Argosy Gallery, a varied set of treasures are available at Island Artisans, where visitors can browse the work of over 100 of Maine’s craftsmen — creations ranging from stoneware to baskets, paper to jewelry.
Linden O’Ryan is one of the artists whose work is available at Island Artisans, as well as Spruce & Gussy on Mt. Desert Street and several other shops on Mount Desert Island. After decades in Bar Harbor, she now works out of Thomaston. Her work includes postcard-sized watercolor paintings with inspiring messages, which celebrate “being out and living life.”
“We are the guardians of the earth and ourselves. May we hold them with grace, compassion and gentleness,” reads one card. Having created over 16,000 original postcards over the years, O’Ryan began selling sets of cards as books, of which she has now published two.
Follow Main Street toward the waterfront to arrive at West Street, home of the aptly-named Art on West, where Ivan Rasmussen has his studio. He and his wife Sherry have been making art in Bar Harbor for over 40 years. Ivan has created work in all sorts of mediums, most recently collages.
Sherry — herself an accomplished artist whose work includes origami and kirigami — also collaborates with Linda D’Alessio on Art Walk, which is now in its sixth year. It’s the kind of support that characterizes Bar Harbor’s art scene, where creators know not just each other’s names, but everyone’s latest works.
Even so, it doesn’t take the touch of a craftsman or the eye of a gallery owner to appreciate art. From bunnies to landscapes, jewelry to postcards, Bar Harbor offers it all in just a few blocks.