This Sculpture Trail Around Boothbay Harbor Is Very Gneiss

The Boothbay region’s sculpture trail is a stone groove.

Gneiss Going | Down East Magazine
Sun and Moon, by Lise Becu. Photographed by Sophie West.
By Adrienne Perron

The natural beauty of Maine’s coast has long attracted artists and art lovers, but how many Maine towns host a free museum in the streets? The Boothbay Harbor Region Sculpture Trail immerses Boothbay visitors in public art as they explore town. Cofounder and sculptor Bill Royall pitched the idea to the region’s chamber of commerce in 2016 after exhibiting his work along a similar sculpture trail in Meredith, New Hampshire.

“The idea was to provide more opportunities for sculptors in the region,” he says. “I suggested the concept of a sculpture trail, and it took off.”

Gneiss Going | Down East Magazine
Mercury, by Dick Alden, at the Greenleaf Inn. Photographed by Sophie West.

The trail was established in 2017, after members of the Maine Stone Workers Guild gathered in Boothbay for the group’s first-ever Stone Symposium, now a biennial event. Thirteen of the sculptures they produced were transported to properties around town, and today, the self-guided tour takes in 27 works in granite, marble, and metal, roughly 90 percent of them completed by Maine artists. That imposing raptor with its wings raised outside the bank? That’s Scouting Owl, by Woolwich’s Andreas von Huene. The 8-foot, weathered-steel pooch at McKown Square? That’s The Dog, by Dale Rogers, of Haverhill, Massachusetts. The abstract slitted column twisting outside the Tugboat Inn? Expanse, by Arrowsic native Miles Chapin.

Each is for sale, with all of the proceeds going to the artist. Not that they all necessarily want to sell. Sam Betts, who was just 18 when he participated in the 2017 symposium, immediately got an offer on the 7-foot, black-granite teardrop he calls Purity. “Someone offered to buy it and I said no because I loved it,” he says. “I love that it gets exposure and that people get to enjoy it.”

Of course, the sculpture trail isn’t all l’art pour l’art, says Patricia Royall, who co-founded the trail with her cousin when she was director of the Boothbay Harbor Region Chamber of Commerce. Placing sculptures outside local businesses helps drive traffic to Boothbay’s restaurants, retailers, and more. And since the trail stretches across town and into neighboring East Boothbay and Southport, it helps lure visitors off the beaten path.

Soapbox Racer, by Bill Royall, at the Blue Moon Cafe. Photographed by Patricia Royall.

“It draws people out of areas they know and into gorgeous areas they haven’t been to before,” East Boothbay General Store owner Elizabeth Evans says. “As small as Boothbay is, there really are a million bits and pieces to see.”

Visitors can grab maps at the chamber of commerce and kiosks around town — although, as Patricia Royall points out, they don’t need to set out on the trail to take something away from it.

“People drive around and see a piece of art, and if it makes them stop and think, it’s done its job,” she says.