Rockport, Massachusetts, about an hour from Boston, New Hampshire, and Maine is at the tip of the Cape Ann peninsula. It has long attracted artists for its rocky coastline and seaside beauty. The first art studio was established in the 1870s, and many of today’s galleries are internationally renowned. The Rockport Art Association at 12 Main Street, offers revolving exhibitions and is one of the nation’s oldest and most active art organizations.
Most of the activity is in the Downtown area — Dock Square, Main Street, and Bearskin Neck. Historic Bearskin Neck is a world-renowned art colony that also draws visitors for its galleries, restaurants, and little shops with unique works of local artists. Legend as it that it is named for the skin that fishermen saw drying on the rocks after Ebenezer Babson killed the bear that attacked his nephew.
This fishing village boomed in the 1820’s when what was then known as “Granitetown” quarried its high quality rock and transported it directly by sea. It became the country’s largest supplier and its granite was used in the locks of the Panama Canal.
More recently, Rockport’s scenic beauty has attracted the attention of filmmakers. Movies shot here include “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” with Hal Holbrook, “Mermaids”, with Cher, “The Good Son” with Macaulay Culkin, “Stuck on You” with Matt Damon, and “The Proposal” with Sandra Bullock.
On Saturday, May 16th, the arts are being celebrated in an event named for a simple local landmark. 2015 marks the 65th annual Motif No.1 Day, held rain or shine.
This family friendly event, also known as M1D Fest, is held in downtown Rockport. Motif No.1 Day is dedicated to a simple fishing shack on Rockport’s historic Bradley Wharf that artists painted so often that prominent artist and instructor Lester Hornby nicknamed it Motif No. 1. It is said to be the most photographed and painted building in America.
To kick off the celebration, the Fish Shack in Dock Square held a Raw Bar of oysters and more from 4 pm to 8 pm on Friday, May 15.
Saturday’s event includes poetry, music, dance and art-making, a dynamic music lineup, historical presentations, a petting zoo and community concert. A 5k and Fun Run benefits Rockport Public Schools’ wellness initiatives.
The Red Shed Film Fest is another part of Rockport’s Motif No.1 Day . Original films like “Life by Lobster” by filmmakers from Cape Ann and throughout New England are featured in the Brenner Room at the Rockport Public Library. For a full schedule, click here.
A stay in one of the Historic Inns of Rockport offers the opportunity to experience the area’s history while enjoying modern amenities. One fine example is the Sally Webster Inn, 34 Mt. Pleasant Street, in the Historic District. It was built in 1832 by housewright William Choate, Sally’s father and became the Sally Webster Inn in the mid 1980s. Awards include a Certificate of Excellence by Trip Advisor in 2014.
A dinner of local seafood with a spectacular seaside setting is a must. My Place by the Sea, 68 Bearskin Neck, has been named one of the top restaurants in New England. Chef Kathy Milbury’s award-winning New American Seaside Cuisine is paired with spectacular sunsets and views of the rocky coast.
Local favorite LoGrasso’s Café Bistro, 13 Railroad Avenue is a cozy local place in an unlikely setting right by the train station. Rockport was long a dry town and this place continues to be BYOB, so bring along your favorite spirits.
For some exercise and unspoiled views of the coastline, the Atlantic Path in Halibut Point State Park is beautiful place for a nature walk. The more energetic should head for the trail to Halibut Point. Check the Rockport Visitor Map for favorite walks through Rockport.
Top off the day with a performance by comedian Colin Quinn, known for his appearances on Saturday Night Live, at the beautiful seaside Shalin Liu Performance Center.