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The Village Canoe is a multi-phase community art project to create art from outdoor experience. Currently in the first phase, it is an immersive, outdoor, floating artist residency and exhibition. Structured as an expedition, the residence will take place from a 30-foot voyageur canoe, inviting through an open call up to six participants to paddle, camp, and make art along the Maine coast and/or rivers on the interior. At the culmination of the trip, artists will host a temporary, free, public, and interactive pop-up exhibition of the work produced during the residency. The show will take place outdoors in a movable bow-roof structure – the same enclosure in which the canoe will have been built. Enter second phase: the building of the canoe.



Inspired by an expedition on the Lower Mississippi River in 2017, The Village Canoe is borne of the things we did and people met across seven weeks immersed in the outdoors. Paddling in one vessel and camping every day became pared-down, fundamental expressions of the many dimensions of everyday life.

This unique venue of “floating artist residency” holds space for up to six participants — chosen through an open-call application — and one registered Maine guide to paddle and camp “expedition style” for 10 days in late summer of 2019. The route will navigate from a tidal river, one which courses through the interior and flows outward, to the Maine coastline, following portions of the ME Island Trail and accessible islands.

By fostering an interdisciplinary cohort of participants, The Village Canoe aims to become an accessible opportunity for new creative voices, both emerging artists and established career artists, (people who don’t normally consider themselves artists!), naturalists, citizen scientists, anthropologists, writers and ???????.



Physically: Roughly 16' x 40’ Stimson Bow-Roof Shed (traditionally: boat storage, greenhouses)

Conceptually: Temporary, Pop-up, versatile

Practically: Affordable, simple, easy to construct, transportable

Stacking functions: Canoe workshop + Canoe storage + Exhibition venue + Community event space (seasonal)

Aesthetically: Kind of looks like an upside-down canoe!

Sustainability: Future dreams include a small solar array to power electronics (V.R. headsets, projector, audio equipment, etc.)




Taking place at an outdoor green space, adjacent to (or on) a waterfront in the Midcoast, the exhibition will be an arts destination and community-powered event. With the help of a local curator(s), the artists-in-residence will help install and exhibit their work from their time with The Village Canoe. Throughout the three-day weekend exhibition, programming will include: artist talks, a panel discussion, immersive Virtual Reality (V.R.) experience, and community interaction.


The task of commissioning or building a canoe can be a great achievement in the health of a small community, signalling the growth of organizational ability, the ability to inspire young people and impose discipline, and the growth of hope and pride.
— Misao Dean, Inheriting a Canoe Paddle: The Canoe in Discourses of English-Canadian Nationalism

Central to this project is the form of the canoe as vessel. The canoe acts as a medium of exchange: between humans and nature, and between humans and other humans. As a boat, the canoe can be versatile on both rivers and ocean — perfect for Maine’s riverine and coastal water trails. The second phase for this project to build a canoe.

An innovative design-build scheme, derivative of the rich canoe traditions of Maine — both historical and cultural — this transhistorical canoe will also make modern adjustments that span myriad designs, functions, origins, and capabilities. The goal? To further reinforce this boat as functional art, an invitation to new opportunity, and symbol of community. It’s an art boat! It is a hybrid! Both of these things are purposeful!

The canoe inherently encourages growth of important personal qualities, while paddling in tandem with a boat-load of other paddlers, including, but not limited to: teamwork, flexibility, self-and-other-care, accountability, and value of process.



Looking towards the future, this is not merely a one-time project. With the tools created and identified throughout 2019, The Village Canoe embarks on an ambitious pilot-year to lay the foundation for more artist residencies, collaborative outdoor expeditions, and partnership with like-minded organizations. This project is an avenue towards more meaningful engagement with the outdoors; we can develop community with this new history, a rich fabric woven by creative social practice .

Communities this project could bring together: artists, naturalists, boatbuilders, environmentalists, conservationists, citizen scientists, Maine guides, recreational paddlers, nonprofit workers, local businesses, small farmers, anthropologists, historians, traditional craftspeople, educators, and more! Does this sound like you? Then consider applying or volunteering time or money to make it happen!

All facets of the contemporary canoe experience - planning, building, fundraising, practicing, traveling - combine to make our communities strong and vital in the old ways.
— David Neel, The Great Canoes



Support for The Village Canoe is provided by The Kindling Fund, a grant program administered by SPACE as part of the Andy Warhol Foundation For The Visual Arts Regional Regranting Network, and by the Generations Fund, administered by the Maine Community Foundation.

Additional project support and materials provided by Break The Anchor, a Portugese CRL (non-profit) that aims to bring traditional boat-building back to Portugal by first building a traditional sailing sardine carrier: the Canoa de Picada.

Thank you to Waterfall Arts, partnering with The Village Canoe to bring to life an immersive show in their Hallway Corridor from September - November, and the Belfast Creative Coalition for your continued collaboration, and community-driven engagement with the arts.

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