The First Coast is a mobile studio / exhibition space that travels to year-round coastal communities in Maine during the off-season. Through collaborations and workshops, residents engage in conversation about their community’s working maritime identity and personal perspective of place.
The First Coast is an initiative to collect sounds, stories, images, and ideas that contribute to a collective coastal memory and seek to reconstruct existing narratives and mythologies of both Maine and Mainers.
In The Human Shore author John R. Gillis quotes the late John Cheever when he describes the “second coast.” A “port of gifts and antique shops, restaurants, [and] tearooms,” the second coast is a waterfront built around the nostalgia for a working past, for the “first coast.”
Gillis goes on to write, “The surrealism of the second coast is more and more obvious, the product of inlanders’ imaginations, sustained by their needs and desires.”
The First Coast is an effort to reclaim the Maine coastline by creating a body of multimedia work that expresses the needs, desires, and identities of year-round coastal Mainers.
The mobile studio / exhibition space, The First Coast, is currently traveling to Stonington and Lubec in the Spring of 2018. The Airstream will visit Jonesport and Beals,Friendship, and Chebeague Island in the Fall of 2018. Galen Koch and collaborating writers and photographers will work with local residents and communities to reconstruct and repossess a changing maritime identity.
Collaborations with residents take place in workshops and through traditional storytelling and documenting practices.
The workshops are community-focused in nature, asking participants to identify the ways in which they keep and share records of their past, both personally and as a community. The artists ask: How do we pass down the culture and traditions of a place to future generations? How is the memory of the sea and those who work there threatened? How do you store and record personal ephemera and stories?
Workshop participants learn methods of digital and analog recording and are encouraged to record memories in the mobile soundbooth (recordings are given local historical societies as “living histories”). The artists and documentarians work with residents to produce intimate portraits of the town, its people, and the their evolving maritime identity.
This is a crucial time to preserve, celebrate, and critique the changes happening along Maine’s coast.
In 2007, the Island Institute’s mapping project “The Last 20 Miles” reported that there is “approximately 20 miles of working waterfront access remaining on Maine’s 5,300-mile coast.”
The First Coast draws attention to those communities who still have access and still rely on the sea through community-driven storytelling and material collection. The First Coast artists will gather a vast amount of media and information to be made into site-specific exhibits for a tour during the Fall of 2018.
The work produced for The First Coast exhibit tour is not intended as a commodity for tourists, rather, it is intended for the people who live and work by the sea. It is an effort to preserve a collective coastal memory and living maritime history.