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Home/What's New > About the Museum > History

Oguinquit 1950s Art Colony
Henry Strater painting en plein air on the Ogunquit shore.

Henry Strater's Big Museum in a Small Town
The history of the Ogunquit Museum of American Art

The OMAA Begins Search for Ogunquit Art History Artifacts

In keeping with the theme of honoring our artistic roots, the Museum has begun a program of collecting artifacts and ephemera about the artists and events of the early art colonies. Recently, through the estate of Edward Betts, we have acquired many early photographs of the seacoast and Perkins Cove that the artist used as references for his paintings. We have also come into possession of a May, 1965 American Artist featuring the sculpture of Robert Laurent, a 1945 catalog from the Ogunquit Art Center, many post cards from the artist colonies, and a 1931 monograph on Bernard Karfiol.

If you have old photographs, letters, books or catalogs pertaining to the art or artists from Ogunquit, please consider donating them to the Museum archive. They will become a permanent part of the museum's archives and will be preserved for future generations to research and enjoy. For more information, email OMAA Director Ron Cursan by clicking here.

See this page for a year-by-year list of all Museum exhibits since 1953.

See below for a Timeline of OMAA History.

Visitors often ask how a nationally recognized art museum came to be located in a small coastal fishing village in southern Maine. The answer lies in both the beauty of the area, which lead to the formation of the famous Ogunquit Art Colony in the late 1890’s, and the drive and generosity of the Museum’s founder, Maine painter and philanthropist Henry Strater.

Henry Strater first came to Ogunquit in 1919 to study at Hamilton Easter Field’s Summer School of Graphic Arts. After success as a painter and years in Paris as part of the Lost Generation, he built a permanent home in Ogunquit in 1925. In the early 1950’s he purchased an oceanfront spot that generations of painters had come to know as Narrow Cove, and chose architect Charles S. Worley, Jr. to design a museum. (See the article "Henry Strater's Ogunquit Museum of American Art" by Sharon Cummins for more, especially about Henry Strater.)

The Museum of Art of Ogunquit, as it was called until 1992, was completed in 1953, and the collection grew rapidly with donations by Strater, John Marin and other artists and collectors.

Timeline of OMAA History

1951 - Museum of Art of Ogunquit incorporated

1952 - Museum of Art of Ogunquit building construction begins

1953 - Museum construction completed; museum dedicated; first exhibition season; museum Founder Henry Strater becomes the first Director; Permanent Collection consists of thirteen works of art

1954 - 50 works added to the Museum's Permanent Collection

1986 - Museum Bulletin is first published; museum has 86 members

1987 - Founder and Director Henry Strater dies; John Dirks becomes the second Director in the Museum's history

1988 - Climate control system installed; first attendance records show 2545 visitors for the 1988 season

1989 - Docent program begins

1991 - 1400 sq. ft. climate-controlled Permanent Collection storage facility added; the Museum Shop opens; Permanent Collection now exceeds 1000 works of art

1992 - Museum is renamed the Ogunquit Museum of American Art; membership exceeds 300 for the first time

1994 - An admission fee is instituted; season is extended to September 30 (was traditionally July 1 - Labor Day)

1995 - Michael Culver becomes Curator/Associate Director

1996 - Barn Gallery Associates Wing is added

1997 - Membership exceeds 600 for the first time

1999 - Evening Education programs begin

2000 - Attendance exceeds 10,000 for the first time; season extended to October 15

200I - October free admission program for school students begins; John Dirks steps down as Director, names Michael Culver as Director

2003 - 0MAA celebrates its 50th Anniversary Season

2005 - First Almost Labor Day Auction is held; attendance record set with 13,493

2006 - 0MAA season extended to October 31

2007 - Attendance record set at 16,580; membership record of 854 set

2008 - 0MAA celebrates its 55th Anniversary Season; the Permanent Collection now exceeds 1600 works of art

2009 - Ronald L. Crusan becomes Executive Director


Images from the OMAA's history (click an image to see it larger):





Ogunquit Museum of American Art, 543 Shore Road, Ogunquit, Maine 207-646-4909
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