MUSCONGUS BAY, Maine - (NEWS CENTER) Most people would be perfectly content with one island. Artist Andrew Wyeth and his wife Betsy bought two.
Benner Island and Allen Island sit side by side in Muscongus Bay, about five miles off Port Clyde, and except for lobstermen and sailors about the only people who would customarily see them are passengers heading to Monhegan Island on the ferry. “Islands are unique,” says Jamie Wyeth, Andrew and Betsy’s son and an acclaimed artist himself who has spent much of his life in this part of Maine. “I mean, you come here and it grabs you.”
The Wyeth family’s foundation, Up East, has been opening up Allen Island to a small number of educational institutions, and this summer it hosted about two dozen incoming students from Colby College who used the island as a classroom for a week to study art, archeology, climate change and more. Only one of the students was from New England; others came from Texas, New Mexico, the Bronx. For them, just being on a Maine island was an education. “I’m never going to forget this experience,” says Derek Zapata, who’s from San Antonio, “just because it’s so different from what I’ve experienced before.”
That kind of intellectual charge is what the Wyeths and Colby were both hoping for. “My mother, when she bought this island, felt very strongly that it shouldn’t be a museum,” Jamie Wyeth says. “It ought to be a working, living, breathing island.”