Tides Institute – Background

The Tides Institute began 21 years ago with the lofty long term goal to establish the eastern coast of Maine’s (east of Bar Harbor) first significant cultural institution, something that has long been missing in this region. Acting as part cultural anchor and part cultural catalyst, the Tides Institute has worked to rebuild the region’s battered cultural legacy through its rapidly growing collections and the preservation of nine historic buildings. At the same time, it has worked to reinvent this cultural legacy through the establishments of the region’s first artist-in-residence program, a new New Year’s Eve festival that attracts national attention and a new annual regional cultural guide called Artsipelago. The Tides Institute was awarded two prestigious national ArtPlace grant awards to help support these efforts – the only such awards ever made to a Maine institution.

The Tides Institute has an inclusive mission and has worked to include the region’s close neighbor, New Brunswick, and the Passamaquoddies. Its collections reflect New Brunswick and the Atlantic Provinces as well as the Passamaquoddies. The Tides Institute worked with several others to establish in 2010 a formal Maine-New Brunswick cultural agreement. In this past year, a collection of works by noted New Brunswick ceramic artist, Peter Pawning, were borrowed from the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton for exhibition in Eastport. Working with Passamaquoddy cultural leaders, a Wabanaki exhibition was developed for exhibition later this past year along with a jointly sponsored concert and workshop by acclaimed Wolatoqiyik Nation performer, Jeremy Dutcher.

Now the Tides Institute is focused on redeveloping the historic 1887 Masonic Hall building in Eastport’s downtown into its main museum building. The building had been threatened with collapse. It is a truly magnificent building that is very intact and is part of a 30 building downtown Eastport National Register Historic District. The Masonic Hall building redevelopment is a $5 million+ project with plans prepared by the highly regarded Boston architect firm, Machado-Silvetti (they did the Bowdoin College Museum of Art’s redo plans of a decade ago). Early this year, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) awarded the Tides Institute a $400,000 Challenge Grant towards their Masonic Hall effort. This is the first such NEH Challenge Grant ever awarded to a Washington County institution. The grant must be matched with $1.2 million in private funds.

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