David Abolafia

Kennebunk: A Place Where Artists Thrive

David Abolafia


Maybe it’s something in the water or at the waterfront, maybe it’s the cold winters or maybe it’s the New England scenery.  Whatever the cause, Kennebunk, Maine, is a place that’s known for the artistic achievements of its present and former residents. Among those notables who have taken pen (or paint) to paper while calling Kennebunk home are:

  • Booth Tarkington (author and illustrator) – In a poll conducted by Publishers Weekly in 1921, booksellers rated Tarkington “the most significant contemporary American author.” He won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction twice (for his novels “The Magnificent Ambersons” and “Alice Adams”), as well as the O. Henry Memorial Award for his short story “Cider of Normandy.” Although he never earned a college degree, he received honorary degrees from Princeton and Columbia Universities. Beginning in 1923, Tarkington and his second wife, Susannah Keifer Robinson, spent summers at Seawood, their home in Kennebunkport. While there, Tarkington used his boathouse, known as “The Floats,” as a studio. Over the course of his career, he wrote novels, plays and short stories, and illustrated books – his own, as well as those of other authors. Despite losing his eyesight in his 50s, he continued to produce works by dictating to a secretary. Today, Tarkington’s extensively renovated studio is the home of the Kennebunkport Maritime Museum.
  • Margaret Deland (author and poet) – An important figure in the literary realism movement and a women’s rights activist, Deland published 33 books during her lifetime. She got her start authoring verses for her husband’s greeting-card business, and published a book of poetry, “The Old Garden,” in 1886. Today, Deland is known principally for her novel “John Ward, Preacher” and her short story collections known as the “Old Chester” books. The Delands maintained a summer home, Greywood, overlooking the Kennebunk River, for about 50 years.
  • Kenneth Roberts (author) – Born in Kennebunk in 1885, Roberts worked as a journalist, writing for the Saturday Evening Post for 10 years before turning to writing historical fiction. It was his neighbor, Booth Tarkington, who convinced Roberts to devote himself to being a full-time novelist. Tarkington even edited Roberts’ first six novels, and was offered co-authorship on two of them (Tarkington declined). His novels “Arundel,” “Rabble in Arms” and “Oliver Wiswell” take place during the American Revolution, while “The Lively Lady” and “Captain Caution” tell of life during the War of 1812. His 1937 novel “Northwest Passage” was serialized in the Saturday Evening Post and became a best-seller. In 1957, two months before his death, Roberts received a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation “for his historical novels which have long contributed to the creation of greater interest in our early American history.”
  • Frank Handlen (painter) – For nearly 70 years, Handlen has depicted ships, the sea and the Maine landscape in oil and pastels. As a young man, he worked in a shipyard on the Kennebunk River, and eventually designed and built his own 40-foot topsail schooner, The Saltwind. Handlen was a Fellow of The American Society of Marine Artists for 22 years. In 1994, he was commissioned to create the heroic bronze statue, “Our Forbears of the Coast,” that stands on the Kennebunkport River Green. His pastels, oil paintings and pen and ink drawings are extensively owned by private and corporate collectors including The Kennebunkport Historical Society.
  • Wiley Miller (cartoonist) – Perhaps best known for his comic strip “Non Sequitur,” Miller has worked as an editorial cartoonist and staff artist. Wiley was named Best Editorial Cartoonist by the California Newspaper Publishers Association in 1988 and won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for editorial cartooning in 1991. “Non Sequitur” is the only comic strip to win its division in the National Cartoonists Society awards during its first year of publication, and it is the only comic feature to win in two divisions, Best Comic Strip for 1992 and Best Newspaper Panel Cartoon for 1995, 1996 and 1998. In 1994, Miller pioneered the use of process color in comic strips, and developed a format in 1995 that allows one cartoon to be used in two different ways for both panel dimensions and strip dimensions. In 2004, Miller and his wife moved to Kennebunkport, and today he periodically sets panels of “Non Sequitur” in Maine, with the goal of capturing the people’s “genuineness.”

No matter whether it’s words or images, inspiration flows along the Kennebunk. To book your trip there – or to any of our other amazing destinations worldwide, give us a call at (888) 269-0182 Mon – Fri. 9am to 5pm.

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