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October 1, 2009

As I trekked northward to Maine last month for a lobster-filled weekend getaway, I stumbled upon the Ogunquit Museum of American Art.  A little ways from the shops and beach bustle of Shore Road, it sits unpretentiously at barely 7,500 square feet -- but its petite size belies the wonders of its collection and awe-inspiring landscape on the New England cliffs.

ogunquit exterior back

The first moment one enters the OMAA is probably the most breathtaking. After opening the doors, I was immediately confronted with the immense glass wall of its main gallery, which overlooks an incredible view of the coast and horizon -- nearly a work of art in itself.

Built in 1953, the museum is low-slung, with shallow sloping roofs, modest overhangs, and horizontal planes nestled into the rocky site—it's easy to see Frank Lloyd Wright's sweeping influence on architect Charles S. Worley. Elements of both mid-century American modernism and Classical Greek architecture mix to create this original piece of regional Maine architecture.

ogunquit front
ogunquit exterior rocks
ogunquit window

Museum founder and philanthropist Henry Strater wanted the structure to be built from predominantly local materials -- he even garnered his artist and lobstermen friends to scour the South Berwick Church rubble to build the granite lintels that you see above the doorways! Strater originally wanted the building to sit along the lively street, but luckily, Worley convinced him that perching it towards the Atlantic would be a winning move. Today, its permanent collection boasts works of Marsden Hartley, Eliot O'Hara, Reginald Marsh, Charles Woodbury, and other artists associated with the legendary Ogunquit arts colony.

After sunbathing on the cliff rocks, musing into the reflecting pool, and dancing through the sculpture garden, I left the OMAA satisfied, rejuvenated, and in full agreement with Metropolitan Museum of Art Director Francis Henry Taylor -- that it could very well be "the most beautiful little museum in the world."

ogunquit atlantic
ogunquit interior

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