“Its all about the light,” said my inn hostess, “Once you walk around town, you’ll begin to understand.”
I had just arrived in the coastal Massachusetts town of Rockport. Known for its artist community, I had taken the train from downtown Boston and within less than two hours left the big city behind.
This coastal town perched on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean has all the characteristics of a small town – gift-laden boutiques, one main street, a few restaurants cum diners, but it was also a place that had for the past 160 years attracted painters to document its landscape.
And all the fuss is because of a red fishing shack better known as Motif #1. This unassuming shack is located in Bearskin Neck on Rockport’s harbour and has become the most painted and photographed building.
All year, but especially in the summer months, hordes of artists arrive in Rockport, eager to add their interpretation to the thousands of sketches, watercolours, oil paintings, sculpture and photographs of the town's landscape and architecture.
Although a fishing shack may be the popular lure to Rockport, it has many other ways to keep a visitor entertained. Exploring the rest of Bearskin Neck is a laid-back excursion for those who want to find that perfect marine souvenir, whether it’s a local arts and craft objet, a t-shirt with a funny saying or a place to watch the harbour activity.
There many art galleries in town, from the Rockport Art Association galleries to the individual places found along Main Street, each showcasing every possible medium from traditional oil to photography. But does a multitude of artists and art galleries make a place artistic?
After a few hours of store hopping, I used my local walking path map to walk through a neighbourhood located above Gap Cove on the south end of town. As I left the quaint wooden houses behind, and walked through the brush to the rocky cliff above the ocean, I breathed in the salty air and found a spot to sit and contemplate this town’s allure.
Was it the Atlantic sea coast – a contrast of rock and beach, cold water and colourful boats? Was it the light, which seemed to give the local buildings a unique glow? Or was it the people, a friendly and chatty bunch, who were quick to ask where you were from, since visitors outnumbered locals during the summer?
As I sat there, hearing the occasional cry from a seagull, and the wind rustling tree leaves, I wasn’t sure what made this place an artist obsession. But I know it affected me, as I photographed, I could see the combination of colours and light were attractive, and inspiring. Would I have picked up a brush or pencil next?
I decided it was more important to document and explore than understand the hard to describe allure of Rockport, Massachusetts.
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I'm a Toronto-based freelance journalist, writing about travel, design, cuisine and people who are passionate about what they create. I’ve written for newspaper, magazine, websites and blogs since 2000, love taking photos and happy to share what I've found wandering our planet.
Located: Toronto Canada
Likes: Pacific rim, Middle East, Caribbean, islands, pop culture, art, architecture, cuisine, photography