EASTPORT, Maine — Years of efforts to establish this seaside Washington County’s downtown area as an arts mecca received a boost this week with the award of a $250,000 grant to The Tides Institute and Museum of Art in Eastport.

The grant is one of 47 awarded nationwide by ArtPlace, an organization committed to supporting “creative placemaking initiatives.” The grant is the first ArtPlace award to be made to a Maine community and is one of only two awarded this year in New England.

Tides Institute and Museum of Art Director Hugh French said Tuesday the funds will help to underwrite programming and facilities restoration through a project that’s been dubbed Artsipelago, a play on words given the geography of the Eastbrook region, which is replete with islands and peninsulas. Artsipelago is a cross-border initiative that showcases American, Canadian and Passamaquoddy artists studios as well as galleries and shops that feature locally produced art.

“It’s a comprehensive community revitalization strategy that bets on art as the centerpiece of a comeback in rural Eastern Maine,” French said. “We want to build on a whole series of arts activities that go on here year-round. We also want to build links between local artists and regional festivals and have more artist demonstrations festivals in places like Lubec and Calais.”

French said the ArtPlace grant will help subsidize restoration of the two-story, 1887 downtown Holmes Twins building at 48 Water St. that later will be christened StudioWorks. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places as an element of downtown Eastport’s National Historic District designation, the long-vacant building will serve as the centerpiece for an artists-in-residence program, French said.

“StudioWorks will bring art-making to the street level,” he said. “It’s going to be a very expensive restoration project. We hope to get started later this summer, and we hope to get in there by this time next year.”

The process of seeking an ArtPlace grant was lengthy and complicated, French said. There were 2,200 applicants that submitted initial requests, with 200 of those being invited to make final applications.

ArtPlace is a recent collaboration of 11 major national and regional foundations, six of the nation’s largest banks and eight federal agencies, including the National Endowment for the Arts, to promote public interest in the arts throughout the country. ArtPlace has raised almost $50 million to help support efforts to transform communities that are making strategic investments in the arts.

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