The Mountain Times

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KAG member visits Bath

"Long known as the 'City of Ships,' Bath, Maine, finds its soul and identity in shipbuilding. From its architecture and cultural offerings to its urban downtown, Bath's shipbuilding roots define its character," states a Bath, Maine tourism website. The quote might make you think that Bath is only about building ships for commerce and war. Through history it became much more. It is now a city of restored old buildings that house art galleries, shops, businesses and a little ice cream shop that makes great lobster rolls as well as many flavors of ice cream and gelato. It has restored itself in an effort to bring vacationers there.

The first inhabitants were Abenaki Indians, who called it Sagadahoc, meaning "mouth of big  river." The first settlement by Europeans was about 1605, when Samuel de Champlain tried to start a colony there. It failed due to the lack of leadership and the harsh weather. The colonists built the first oceangoing vessel constructed by English shipwrights in the New World, and sailed back to England.

The next settlement was about 1660 and was named after Bath, England. Industries developed in the city, including the manufacture of lumber, iron, and brass, with trade in ice and coal. They turned to shipbuilding. Roughly 5,000 vessels have been made and launched in the area. Wooden and steel vessels, mostly warships for the U.S. Navy, have been built there. During World War II, they launched a new ship every 17 days.

Downtown Bath is a small portion of the City's total area of nine square miles. An easy 15-minute walk is along Front Street from the Patten Free Library to the Customs House. The buildings and sidewalks are largely made of brick and give the feeling that you are walking in a town in the 1700's. The Markings Gallery has all Maine art including beautiful clay pottery, jewelry, multi-level bird houses of natural materials, glass, felted wool mermaids, whimsical puppets, snowmen, and felted hats. You can see their products at MarkingsGallery.com.

Around the corner is the Centre Street Arts Gallery, with wonderful paintings of Puffins, colorful landscapes in watercolor, acrylic, oil, pastel, pencil/charcoal, etching, monotype, mixed media, sculptures, and more. They feature rotating member exhibitions, guest artist and group exhibitions, classes and workshops by nationally known artists, life and figure drawing, open studio sessions, demonstrations and lectures. Follow their blog at centrestartsgallery.blogspot.com. Their email is centrestartsgalleryllc @gmail.com.

The last gallery I visited was the "Chocolate Church Arts Center" in a side building of the Church, which is painted the color of milk chocolate. It is a regional arts center for mid-coast Maine, featuring live music, theatre, and visual arts year round. The exhibit featured at the gallery was called "The Sea Around Us," and the paintings and stained glass constructions were very special and lively.

For more info about activities and programs by the KAG go to www.killingtonartsguild.org.