People walk on a sidewalk toward a sign that reads "Farnsworth"
Pedestrians stroll by the Farnsworth Museum store on Main Street in downtown Rockland on Tuesday Sept. 7, 2021. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

It’s no secret that Maine’s midcoast region boasts an amazing arts scene. It’s just one of the things that makes the area a huge draw for the droves of visitors each summer.

But if you’re hoping to make the most of the arts-centric offerings that the midcoast has to offer before the tourist season gets into full swing, you’re in luck. There’s a lot happening.

From art exhibitions or musical acts, here are a few to check out.

Singer-songwriter performances hosted by the Chocolate Church Arts Center

In Bath, the Chocolate Church Arts Center has a number of notable musical artists on its May calendar, beginning this Friday with an acoustic performance from singer-songwriter Shawn Colvin.

Winner of three Grammy Awards, Colvin is on tour celebrating the 32nd anniversary of the release of her debut album, Steady On. At Friday’s show, Colvin will perform the album in its entirety, as well as other favorites.

On May 21, Paula Cole will also be hosting a performance at the Chocolate Church Arts Center. Cole is well known for her hit “I Don’t Want to Wait,” which was the theme song of the popular show, “Dawson’s Creek.”

Then, on May 22, the arts center is kicking off its summer concert line-up with a performance by Lady Lamb, which will be held outdoors at the Maine Maritime Museum.

Lady Lamb is the stage name used by Aly Spaltro, a singer, songwriter and producer with personal ties to Maine, having moved to Brunswick with her family in 2003. Spaltro’s musical style is an infusion of folk, pop and indie rock, according to a bio included on the arts center’s site.

Ticket information for both performances can be found on the Chocolate Church Arts Center’s website. 

Plein air painting at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

Across the manmade Blueberry Pond, visitors explore the Bibby and Harold Alfond Children’s Garden on Aug. 14, 2016, at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay. Credit: Aislinn Sarnacki / BDN

In Boothbay, the flowers and landscapes at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens are a work of art in and of themselves.

But for those who are artistically inclined, the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is hosting a 4-day event this month where artists can set up an easel and paint or sketch in the gardens for free. “Plein Air Days” is being held earlier than usual this year, according to the organization’s website, and will allow artists more space to spread out with smaller crowds.

The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens boast more than 300 acres of gardens and natural spaces. A favorite destination among locals and tourists alike, the gardens opened for the year on May 1 and is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through October.  

Registration information for “Plein Air Days” is available on the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens website.

Museum and gallery hopping in Rockland

With more than 20 art galleries and two museums, Rockland is now a destination for art in Maine. Credit: Lauren Abbate / BDN

If you’re looking to have a day immersed in the visual arts, Rockland should be one of the first destinations you consider.

The city, which recently began carrying a reputation as “The Arts Capital of Maine,” boasts two museums and numerous independent art galleries ― all within walking distance of each other.

The Farnsworth Art Museum is a cornerstone in the city’s art scene, having been founded nearly 75 years ago. The museum focuses on showcasing work that exemplifies Maine’s role in American Art, including an entire building dedicated to the work of three generations of Wyeth family artists.

An exhibition dedicated to the work of the late artist Ashely Bryan, who died earlier this year, will open at the Farnsworth on May 28. The exhibition, “Ashley Bryan: Beauty in Return,” will feature about 15 paintings and 30 illustrations as well as puppets and stained glass pieces made by Bryan.

The Farnsworth has recently  undertaken a concerted effort to diversify its collection, by incorporating more work by women, Indigenous artists and artists of color, as well as more contemporary pieces. The first installation of this effort, Farnsworth Forward is currently on display, and a number of other gallery and exhibition change rovers have been planned.

Just across Main Street, the Center for Maine Contemporary Art will also be unveiling several summer exhibitions the weekend of May 28.

One of the exhibitions, Hawkeye, will feature 17 paintings from Maine-based artist Reggie Burrows Hodges, whose work is held in the collections of museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.