The artist-owned Centre Street Arts Gallery in Bath has reopened. Photo by Laurie Burhoe, courtesy of Centre Street Arts Gallery

Thomas O’Donovan’s recorded message to people who call into Harbor Square Gallery in Rockland offers hope: “Beauty will redeem the world.”

That beautification effort begins in earnest, as midcoast art galleries from Bath to Rockland and beyond start the uneasy process of reopening to the public. Although businesses in Cumberland and York counties can’t begin to open until June 1 at the earliest, those in Maine’s rural counties, including Sagadahoc, Lincoln and Knox, have begun opening cautiously. That trend is reflected in galleries in the midcoast, a region flush with art and a destination for its admirers. Some are open, while others remain closed. All are operating without any planned receptions or gatherings, and visitors are expected to wear masks and respect social-distancing guidelines.

Generally, galleries are fairly quiet places, so that shouldn’t be an issue.

O’Donovan has opened his Main Street gallery by appointment and will reopen for his 40th season on a more regular schedule in the first week of June. “The gallery is being supported, which is a nice 40th anniversary gift,” he said. “It’s not the way I thought year 40 would go, but here we are.”

Artist Lisa Kyle’s “A Moment of Grace” at the Landing Gallery in Rockland. The oil-on-canvas painting is 2 feet by 4 feet. Photo by Lisa Kyle, courtesy of Landing Gallery

Down the street, Bruce Busko reopened the Landing Gallery the second week of May, when restrictions for reopening the economy relaxed in Waldo County. Foot traffic has been light, he said, but he’s been busy.

“If I have two people come in a day, that’s a high-traffic day these days,” he said last week. “I expected all stores on Main Street to open, since they were permitted to, and surprisingly, no one really did. A few places opened, but a lot of merchants are still closed with concern about the virus.”

Busko has sold a lot of art by email this spring and last week made his first drive-by sale to a summer resident, who liked the oil-on-canvas paintings by Lisa Kyle on display in the Landing’s Main Street window. “She was very concerned about the virus and did not want to leave her car,” Busko said. “But the pieces in the window spoke to her. As she drove past the gallery, she called me and asked me to send an email of Lisa’s work. She ended up buying four.”

In total, Busko said he has sold about 25 paintings this month, many to out-of-state people who cannot come to Maine. “People who are not taking their Maine vacation this year don’t want to miss out on their Maine experience. Some of those people are purchasing pieces,” he said.

Jonathan Frost Gallery is open by appointment and preparing its first show of the season, a group exhibition of animal art called “Critters,” that should be up by June 5. Other art galleries are open in Rockland as well, including Dowling Walsh, and Caldbeck Gallery plans to open in mid-June, said co-owner Cynthia Hyde.

“We hope to be able to let people through our door by mid-June, if not earlier. We will let up to three people in at a time, and will ask that people wear a mask. We will wear our masks when there are visitors in the gallery,” Hyde wrote in a message. “We will follow any new guidelines that the CDC presents (and) we understand that everything is up in the air as to what extent we may invite people in to see our new exhibit.”

Caldbeck’s major summer show will be a selection of Nancy Wissemann-Widrig’s Maine paintings from the late 1960s and early 1970s. “It may end up being later in the summer, we have to play this by ear also,” she wrote, adding that the gallery’s mission this year will be share art with the world to help sustain people. “The arts and artists always manage to restore communities, and are making such a difference in these very difficult times,” she said.

The Farnsworth likely will open in June. The Center for Maine Contemporary Art expects to open July 1.

The interior of Wiscasset Bay Gallery. Courtesy of Wiscasset Bay Gallery

Elsewhere on the midcoast, Wiscasset Bay Gallery opened over Memorial Day weekend in what co-owner Cordelia Oehmig described as a trial. The gallery is open by appointment this week “and we will just keep a close eye on things and are hoping to be open soon on a regular basis, but we haven’t pinned down a date yet.”

On the other hand, Maine Art Gallery in Wiscasset has canceled all of its 2020 exhibitions and will not open this year, according to a notice on its website.

Jean Swan Gordon’s watercolor “Gerbera Daisies, Stars of Bethlehem, and Crysanthemums” is on view at Gleason Fine Art in Boothbay Harbor, along with many of her other floral still-life paintings. This one is 26 inches by 36 inches. Courtesy of Gleason Fine Art

In Boothbay Harbor, Gleason Fine Art is open with limited hours – 10 a.m. to noon and 2-4 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday – and by appointment, and co-owner Dennis Gleason expects “it will be business as usual except for artist receptions” before too long. In Bath, artist-owned Centre Street Arts Gallery opened last week and will maintain regular hours of 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday through June. Centre Street’s inaugural show of the season features the work of four artists new to the gallery: Roger Barry, Kichung Lee Lizee, Kate MacGillivary and Diane Racine.

But Green Lion Art Gallery in Bath is not opening, at least in the physical space it occupied on Front Street in the recent past. The gallery has moved to online format and is sharing physical space with another existing gallery in Lyme, New Hampshire. But owner David Morgan, who lives in Bath, hopes to reopen in Bath soon. During the pandemic, the building his gallery occupied was sold, and Morgan didn’t come to terms with the new owner. He looked for another building in Bath for the gallery, but opted not to commit given the uncertainty of the moment.

“I am sad that it’s not in Bath, but hope it’s a temporary situation,” Morgan said.


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