Harbor Works is a photography gallery of landscape and seascape stories located in a Civil War-era home overlooking Cundy’s Harbor, one of Maine’s last working waterfronts. Taking the name for the physical structures that shelter all harbors—the granite breakwaters and piers that bear the impressions of Maine’s quarrymen—Harbor Works represents places inhabited by families whose histories are deeply connected to the raw necessities of life: fuels and metals, livestock and fisheries, timber, grains, and fibers. As a village whose livelihood stems from America’s oldest industry—the once bountiful North Atlantic fishery that gave impetus to the exploration and settlement of the continent—Cundy’s Harbor embodies the essence of this Gallery.
Situated on the Holbrook Working Waterfront, a non-profit, historical property whose commercial wharf and general store were saved from the prospect of private development, Harbor Works is dedicated to exhibits that document a vanishing America. The Italianate-style Holbrook-Trufant House, whose north end comprises the Gallery, lends itself to the art of storytelling. The modest Crow’s Room and Galley, flanked by a narrow black walnut stairway and port hole from a 1940’s ocean-going tug, offer an intimate space for an unexpected narrative of a mill town, small farm or traditional ranch, while the spacious Captain’s Room, crested by a high tin ceiling, is an ideal setting for a timely essay on a Maine coastal or island community. The cheerful breezeway, highlighted by a large panel image and feature artist statement, introduces visitors to each display.
Part of a tenacious community that continues to survive the development of the coast of Maine, Harbor Works is a natural location for stories that portray the working waterfront. From widely-acclaimed documentaries like Olive Pierce’s Up River to original work by children of commercial fishing families—This Place of Mine—visitors have an opportunity to learn about the daily reality of places like Cundy’s Harbor. Lending intensity and authenticity to the exhibits is the activity on the wharves, which serve a large fleet of boats for lobstering, shrimping and fin-fishing. At a time when only twenty miles of working waterfront remain along Maine’s 5,300 mile coast, the presence of fishermen landing 500-pound tuna or unloading herring from a 95-foot purseiner is inspiring and instructive. Pick-up trucks and seafood delivery vans lining the roadway, motors churning the water and the sharp voices of lobstermen underscore an impression of work.
As a rural gallery in a country that is now overwhelmingly metropolitan—where farms and fishing communities are home to less than three million people (one percent of the national population) and where many towns have lost their productive foundations—Harbor Works has unique challenges and opportunities. Despite the increasing commercialization of the Maine coast, it strives to engage socially conscious visitors with collections that portray another side to America. Overlooked for the many galleries whose visual arts tend to idealize the waterfront, it distinguishes itself with realistic narratives that contribute to an understanding of coastal and island communities. Situated at the end of the public road, relative isolation nevertheless encourages visitors to contemplate various perspectives on public access, preservation and sustainability — themes inherent in each exhibit. Dependent on the seasons and far from art walks, Harbor Works also features virtual exhibits, like A Harbor Log and Irontown, which extend its mission to a larger community.
Welcoming visitors by land and sea, Harbor Works will engage anyone interested in the nature of place. Contemplate the stories as you walk through the intimate rooms of one of coastal Maine’s most historic homes. See the Gallery’s permanent, framed collection of real photo postcards documenting working landscapes and seascapes from a century ago. Browse through the small collection of periodicals on photography, landscape and culture. Join the occasional events, including opening receptions, hosted on a spacious lawn overlooking the harbor, where one may hear children returning home from hand-hauling their traps, learn how federal regulations are affecting ground fisherman or catch the latest gossip about a local lobster feud. Enjoy a visit to the 1930’s-era Holbrook Store and stop for lunch at the Holbrook Wharf below the Gallery. Surrounded by the elements, a half mile of working waterfront and a cluster of century-old cottages, Harbor Works is a memorable place.