For the past nine years, TIMA has sponsored an extended study of Eastport’s architecture, landscape and community — the first serious, in-depth, broad look at a community’s architecture along the eastern coast of Maine. The study has been led by architect and architectural historian, John Leroux of Fredericton, New Brunswick and photographer and professor of art, Thaddeus Holownia of Jolicure, New Brunswick. Leroux is the author of seven books on New Brunswick architecture, including Building New Brunswick: an architectural history, St. Andrews Architecture: 1604-1966 and most recently Glorious Light: the stained glass of Fredericton. Holownia is Professor of Art and Department Chair at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick. More than a thousand large format photographs have been taken so far including interiors and exteriors of buildings, wider streetscape and landscape views, and a whole series of portraits of trees. A series of six thematic written essays will provide context for the photographs. The study will lead to a book publication as well as an exhibition in 2018.
John Leroux writes: “The irony is that even as our world becomes more pluralistic, specific corners are becoming less unique and distinctive. Far too much of North America is evolving into the same amalgam of highway exits, coffee chains, slick boutiques, and strip-malls. Communities that manage to hold onto their social and material heart become irreplaceable. They testify to our ability to conceive beauty and to form exceptional spaces that connect and inspire. This is why Eastport matters.
Situated beyond the great sweep of recent North American history, there is something distinctly ‘here’ about here. Eastport never succumbed to the need to be something it wasn’t. Instead, its people had the foresight and good fortune to reach for a balance between factory town and center of culture; some might say between refinement and mobility. At the heart of this balance was its scale – in Eastport, individuals could find their place but wouldn’t lose themselves as they might in a larger, hectic center. I am reminded of the great artist Alex Colville’s observation that a small town outside the bookends of attention is only not liberating, but can be the best spot to find genuine advancement. At the height of his creative output, Colville deemed that ‘universality comes from the particular… and by immersing oneself in the particular, it is possible to be universal.’
Eastport’s streetscapes reflect the layered complexities of a working port, one that evolved at a time before today’s zoning regulations prevented the building of a fish cannery directly opposite an affluent neighborhood. It’s all stubbornly idiosyncratic and remarkable; a tactile rawness mingles with design elegance almost everywhere you look. Architectural treasures of the wealthy white-collars are bookended by structures of the working-class, as they lived almost side-by-side. Eastport bears out Jane Jacobs’ assertion in her seminal The Death and Life of Great American Cities: ‘Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.’
In a place as compelling as Eastport, the allure of its history, landscape and character lies as much with the anomalies and exceptions as it does with convention. In recognizing this we nurture a valuable and persuasive means to fuel the region’s future.”