Friday July 30, 2010 | 09:40 PM

The Portland Museum of Art kicked off a special weekend devoted to celebrating the life and works of Winslow Homer with a seaside cocktail party this evening at the Winslow Homer studio in the summer enclave of Prouts Neck. The invitation-only affair drew more than 300 guests to the charming cottage, which is being carefully restored by the museum to the way it was when Homer painted there. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the renowned American artist's death.

Tomorrow the festivities continue with a scholarly symposium about Homer's work followed by a gala dinner at the museum. The events coincide with the current exhibition at the museum, featuring the institution's complete collection of Homer oils and watercolors.

Museum director Mark Bessire offered a few remarks about the ambitious campaign to raise $10.5 million to support the restoration of the studio. The museum is half way to its goal, and this weekend is sure to give the fundraising efforts a boost. Prouts Neck residents George and Eileen Gillespie, who are standing behind the table, served as the party's honorary chairs.

In addition to drinks, the party featured the always delightful hors d'oeuvres of Churchill Catered Events, including this extensive raw bar.

The party's ambiance was further enlivened by the New England folk music of the David Rowe Trio.

While the crowd included many prominent Maine residents, there was one guest who had everyone all abuzz.

And that was Ina Garten, known to fans and foodies as the Barefoot Contessa. She is a friend of independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler, with whom she's pictured here. Earlier in the day, she was the special guest at a fundraising luncheon for Eliot. Should you want to meet her yourself, be sure to head over to the Portland Farmers Market in Deering Oaks tomorrow, where she told me the two plan to make an appearance. No word on what time they will swing by.

I'll have a bunch more photos from the party and details about who was there and what they had to say in the Aug. 8 edition of the Maine Sunday Telegram. Until then, I hope to see you out and about.

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Avery Yale Kamila dishes about southern Maine's hottest parties.

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