Category Archives: June 21

Pursuing a passion for ‘community radio at its finest’

Most Monday evenings Jo Lindsay can be found at her home in Tenants Harbor online, combing through the most recently posted Knox County obituaries to find the seven or eight she will read during “Afterwords,” her one-hour radio show on WRFR-LP 93.3fm Tuesday mornings at 8am. “After each one I play a song based on whatever I have gleaned about the person’s life,” Lindsay notes. “It’s unbelievable what you learn about people. The sad thing is that you find these things out after these people are gone.”

“Afterwords” is one of two radio shows Lindsay produces for WRFR, Rockland’s very local Low Power radio station, which also reaches Camden at 99.3fm. The other is “In Town Tunes,” which airs Thursdays at 9am. “This was my first show,” Lindsay says. “I focus on music by local musicians and on musicians playing in Maine, often at the Strand.”

Producing the shows scratches an itch that Lindsay says she’s had for a long time. “I always had dreams of being a performer,” she admits with a laugh. But her involvement at WRFR has become a quite separate,—and even stronger—passion.

WRFR (Radio Free Rockland) first went on air on February 14, 2002, following Joe Steinberger getting a permit to have a Low Power fm radio service in Rockland in 2000. “The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) gave out Low Power licenses because people were getting very upset with the way big corporations were taking over the airwaves and sucking up all these small stations,” Lindsay explains. “So they opened up a window for people to apply and we were on the air full time, 24/7, in 2002. We were one of the first LP stations in the country and definitely the first in Maine.” In 2003 WRFR obtained a license to also bring its programming to Camden.

In 2005 the station started streaming on the web at www.wrfr.org—something that has allowed the small 100-watt station, which occupies a converted garage behind a house on Gay Street, to transcend the limitations of its 25-mile transmission radius in both Rockland and Camden. “It’s pretty much a line-of-sight thing,” Lindsay says with a wry smile. “If there’s a hill between you and the transmitter you’re not going to get the signal. With streaming we now have listeners all over the country and in places like Switzerland, China and Saudi Arabia. The nicest thing with the streaming is that we have a lot of summer people who find us when they’re here for the summer and then they can take the station home with them so they can still listen and stay connected with the area.”

A unique thing about WRFR is that it is a completely volunteer enterprise, which is how Lindsay first got involved.

“Eleven years ago I kept calling WRFR to volunteer because they said they needed volunteers. I kept leaving my name and nobody would call me back. And then I went to a party and Joe Steinberger was there and I said, ‘How in the world do I get to volunteer to work at the station?’ and he said, ‘Meet me tomorrow. I have something for you to do.’ So I met him and he said, ‘This will take 20 minutes a week, I just need you to write the checks and pay the bills.’ So I started coming in once a week. And now I’m running it! I’m station manager! I’m there 10 to 20 hours a week. It’s great, it’s so fun. Everybody there wants to be there.”

Lindsay still pays the bills, but much of her work as station manager involves providing support for the volunteers who produce the station’s programming and lining up local business sponsors for that programming.

“You learn how to do your own show, you do the board yourself,” Lindsay says of the logistics involved in airing a show. “I tell people no one is going to get hurt if it doesn’t work, just call me and we’ll figure it out. It takes about two or three times doing a show and then basically most people are pretty comfortable. It’s really not very hard. Some people will need a little more time to get ready because they have vinyl—they’re playing actual records—and it takes a little longer to set that up, but it’s a pretty easy change over.”

Since every show needs a sponsor, Lindsay asks that people doing shows explore any connections they might have with potential sponsors so that cold calls aren’t necessary. Lindsay says the station currently has 80 or so local sponsors in hand. This, along with donations from listeners, Lindsay says, “is how we stay afloat. It’s how we pay the rent, utilities, everything.”

As part of its commitment to being a “community radio” station, Lindsay notes with a touch of pride, “All our shows shows are locally produced—nothing is canned.” Even during the hours between midnight and 6am, when the station relies on a recorded play list, the offerings are an idiosyncratic collection of things the volunteers have put together. “You could hear Chopin and then Leonard Nimoy, or poems by Edna St. Vincent-Millay.”

During the hours between 6am and midnight, on the other hand, the station airs shows that Lindsay believes could go statewide if a larger station wanted to pick them up. One such show is “Uncle Paul’s Jazz Closet” produced by Cindy McGuirl for two hours on Mondays starting at 3pm. McGuirl’s uncle, Paul Motian, was a prominent jazz drummer, percussionist and composer. McGuirl inherited all of Motian’s personal musical archive when he died in 2011.

“What an odd thing to have on our little station,” Lindsay marvels. “We’ve got people listening from New York City to catch that show, real jazz people. Cindy does interviews, explores the jazz scene her uncle was involved with and plays cuts that no one has ever heard before. She got everything, including his personal reels—it’s a treasure trove for sure. So this is how she’s archiving it. It’s basically a history show.”

Most of the shows on WRFR—like “Mental Health,” “Stone Coast,” “On the Bus” and “Built For Comfort”—are music shows, but there is also a show by Jacinda Martinez about gardening, shows like the Chris Wolf Show and Rockland Metro that explore local community topics, and even one by Ron Humber called the Pen Bay Report that is about all things Penobscot Bay, its waters, its shipping lanes, its harbors.

Lindsay stresses that the funkiness of WRFR might suggest that its programming has a left-leaning point of view, but the station has no political agenda. “This is community radio. We want to be open to everyone in the community. Shows can have a point of view—some are quite conservative in content—but we don’t want anyone to be able to put a label on the station. However, we do insist that people be respectful of others.”

The newest venture for the station is a print companion called “The Buzz.” “This is another idea from Joe Steinberger,” Lindsay explains. “He just wanted another format for people to get their opinions out there. It’s got community people writing articles on whatever interests them. It’s usually just one story at a time. The Wednesday ‘Rockland Metro’ radio show usually uses the Buzz topic as the basis for a round-table discussion.”

The main thing, Lindsay says in summing up WRFR’s core mission, “is that we are just trying to be a resource that everyone is welcome to use. People can come to the station and hang out, if they want—we have free wi-fi. It’s a funny little place, but it’s a great place.”

After a pause, she adds, “There’s a window in the studio that, during the summer, I usually open when I’m doing one of my shows. Then somebody nearby will start up a lawn mower.” She laughs. “To me, that’s local radio at its finest.”—JW

PHOTOS: Julie Wortman

DASH bus serves St. George residents via local ride program

Driver Minna Grotton

A new and inexpensive public bus service in Thomaston and Rockland is available to anyone who doesn’t—or doesn’t wish to—drive their own car.

Called DASH, this shuttle bus is not unlike a trolley system that operated in the area generations ago. Between 7am and 4:50pm, the shiny red buses make scheduled stops in a continuous loop from the Wal-mart parking lot in Thomaston to Penobscot Bay Medical Center in Rockport. Buses have a lift for wheelchairs.

For St. George residents, the free Neighbor-to-Neighbor ride service, in private cars, can connect with a DASH bus, allowing the driver to return home, run errands and pick up their rider later in the day. The bus service was only launched on May 1st, and ridership is still light, but already Neighbor to Neighbor is starting to receive requests for rides to a DASH bus stop.

Jane Matthews of St. George recently gave the bus a try, and had this to say afterward: “I rode up to the hospital, had the 10 minute break and we headed back down. I wanted to get some bagels and shop at the Good Tern, so [bus driver Minna Grotton] saved me quite a walk by dropping me right in front of the co-op!”

Steffany Pyle, community engagement facilitator for Mid-Coast Public Transportation, said there are many rural residents who do not drive, and even some who do, who can take advantage of public transportation. You save the cost, stress and environmental impact of driving your own car, and you can ride the bus for $2. A day pass is $5, and a punch ticket for a dozen rides is $20. For $50, you can buy a monthly pass, and there are discounts for riders over 60, as well as for someone with a physical disability.

The bus will travel up to three-quarters of a mile off route to pick up someone unable to reach a bus stop, so long as the delay doesn’t push things off schedule.

Pyle said Waldo County has had public bus service for 30 years, and Knox County had a similar service in the past. She hopes DASH will succeed where its predecessors failed. Funding comes from the Federal Transit Administration, as well as state transportation funds, local matches, grants and donations.

“We’re figuring out what stops are working, what’s not. It’s an ongoing process,” Pyle said.

Matthews, who is a “proud owner” of a monthly bus pass, praised the service: “My southbound (bus) had picked up a woman in a wheelchair at Pen Bay and dropped her right at her apartment in the South end. She is a frequent rider. The wheelchair exit was efficient and without any catches, thanks to the great vehicle and experienced driver.”

Matthews hopes the DASH experiment is a success. “Of course we all have dreams of weekend hours, expanded weekday hours and expanded routes or connections to other systems.”
—Steve Cartwright

The DASH bus service can be reached at 338-4769, or midcoastpublictransportation.org; Neighbor to Neighbor can be contacted at 691-7069, or ridesinstgeorge@gmail.com.

Cruising for puffins and more

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

Getting to be a “chaperone” on cool field trips is recognized as one of the four major bonuses of having a kid. So it was a “no-brainer” for me when Mrs. Elwell’s 3rd grade class (Leif’s class) sent the word that they were looking for adults to join them for a “puffin cruise” field trip. I jumped quickly to reserve my spot (I am at my best in no-brainer situations). To make things even better, Ms. Thompson’s 1st graders and Mrs. MacCaffray’s 4th graders were also going to be on the trip, so it was truly a case of “the more, the merrier”!

In preparation for the trip the 1st graders have been studying birds and the 4th graders have been researching animal adaptations (super cool topic). For their part, Mrs. Elwell’s class has been specifically studying the Atlantic Puffin. The class even designed, created and sold t-shirts that explain the puffin life cycle and lifestyle through the students’ artwork. Proceeds from the shirts went to support Project Puffin and the National Audubon Society for their efforts to help understand and protect puffins and other seabirds. The kids proudly wore the shirts as we loaded onto Monhegan Boat Line’s “Elizabeth Ann,” and headed out with visions of dancing puffins and food (it was lunch time).

Puffins may have been the focus for the day and Eastern Egg Rock the destination for the boat ride, but it was clear early on that this trip was about more than just puffins. The day was gorgeous—the reason “rain dates” were created—and everyone seemed grateful for that. After we passed Marshall Point Light, some of the kids got to practice with their binoculars by focusing on a small feeding frenzy of Common Terns, Black Guillemots and Double-crested Cormorants. Before we knew it the boat was pulling up alongside a handful of rocky ledges and small islands where Harbor Seals had hauled out and everyone got great views of the wildlife. It’s pupping season for Harbor Seals and there were many mother-seal-and-pup combinations in and out of the water. The pups only stay with the moms for about a month, and so the timing couldn’t have been better. Needless to say the kids were psyched!

Eastern Egg Rock is a classic seabird nesting island—devoid of trees, it’s more of a seven-acre rock pile, sprinkled with grasses and bird blinds that the puffin project researchers observe from. The list of seabirds that nest on Eastern Egg Rock is impressive—Common, Arctic and federally endangered Roseate Terns as well as Common Eiders, Leach’s Storm-petrels, Black Guillemots and, of course, the roughly 170 pairs of Atlantic Puffin. In early June the puffins and seabirds were incubating eggs, so the comings and goings are somewhat muted as compared to when young are being fed (late June-July). We were entertained, though, by a mob of terns “escorting” a Great Black-backed Gull away from the nesting colony. Terns never sound happy, and the combination of their cries and quick dives towards the gull made for a fun show.

We started to see puffins after motoring about half way around the island, cute little “sea parrots” bobbing on the water. The captain and crew did a great job snuggling the boat up close to the birds, and the birds were impressively tolerant of not only the boat but of all the excited screams and energy coming from the boat’s passengers! It’s always great to see puffins (unless you are a fish) but seeing them with a boatload of kids is definitely the way to do it. Everyone saw them, and everyone was pumped—including the puffins (I think)!

The return trip was highlighted by a session with an incredibly user-friendly Harbor Porpoise. It took relatively quick dives (less than a minute), popped up somewhat close to the boat several times and then stayed at the surface for many breathes between dives. Needless to say, the cheers from the kids with each porpoise sighting had the boat rocking—in a good way.

“That was the best field trip I’ve ever been on”, was the quote from Leif when we got back to Port Clyde and I wholeheartedly agreed. The kids were great (parents too!), the day was beautiful and the wildlife was abundant. Just another reason I am glad I am a parent!

Let’s get this show on the road—Nature Bummin’ is going live with stories and slides at the next St. George Historical Society meeting on Thursday June 28th, 7pm at the St. George Grange at Wiley’s Corner. Potluck precedes the talk at 6pm–should be a fun show!

Solo exhibitions—looking beyond the opening reception

One of the most frequently celebrated events on the St. George peninsula during the summer is the opening of an art exhibition. Most weekends feature at least one new show heralded in by open invitations to the community. The opening reception, usually on a Friday evening, is the celebration of an artist’s body of work. Large crowds often attend these openings, causing traffic jams as drivers jockey for one of the precious few parking spaces. After filing through a narrow doorway into a crowded gallery or hall, folks are treated to a beautiful display of fine art accompanied by wine and hors d’oeuvres. Normally, these folks quickly make their way to the wine and food table, which is always enticing. Turning to the art, most take a look and then locate the artist to express their admiration and appreciation. And, all too soon, their backs are turned to the art as they feast and socialize for the rest of the evening. That’s only natural. After all, this is a community where friends and acquaintances abound. However, if we could look behind the scenes at how some of our local artists prepare for a solo exhibition and what it means to them, we might want to spend a little more time considering the art on display.

A solo exhibition of fine art is years in the making. In fact, when someone asks me how long it took me to create a particular painting, I like to say “all my life.” In truth, every work produced by an artist is the culmination of a lifetime of hard work and dedication to this discipline. Mastery isn’t achieved overnight. Creating art is only part of the equation. We also endure the struggle and expense of figuring out how to exhibit it. It’s complicated. Each painting selected for an exhibition is like a chapter in a novel. It must fit the theme, be displayed in a sequence that serves the narrative, and have enough chapters to complete the story. And, like any novel, an exhibition needs readers.

Geoff Bladon prepares for an exhibition by “thinking about the venue, size and number of paintings that would be suitable, associated costs like the venue fees, framing, reception, publicity” and any other responsibilities that fall to the artist. Bob Steinmetz adds that assigning prices to the works is another important factor, and that “it is important to me how well the show is hung and the overall quality of how well my work is presented to the public.” This means proper framing, expert hanging, and adequate lighting. As Bjorn Runquist puts it, this stage of preparation is “triage.” And, if you’re wondering how much all this costs, it can be, and often is, thousands of dollars.

But, an exhibition without patrons and viewers isn’t worth much to the artist. So, our advance efforts include photography, writing notices, creating posters, mailing postcards, sending out emails, and talking to friends. The majority of artists that I’ve spoken with would love to have a personal assistant to handle this. For that matter, we’d like them to handle marketing and bookkeeping as well. Only a select few artists have enough funds to afford this type of help, so we’re mostly on our own.

Once the exhibition is up and ready, the artist has only to deal with her emotions. What will happen? What do I hope will happen? What’s the worst that can happen? Anxiety sets in. As Otty Merrill puts it, exhibiting her work “is a blessing and opportunity, and a bit of a curse to show and get feedback. It’s important to remind myself often that my art is simply a product of my energy and point of view, and putting myself out there is a choice.” Therefore, a solo exhibition is an existential experience for the artist. We feel hope and anxiety beforehand. On opening night, we’re happy for the viewers who contemplate our work and offer us encouragement. If our work sells, we’re ecstatic and confident in our ability. Relief sets in when the exhibition ends, and then despondency if we take home most of the art that was on display. This leads to postpARTem blues as we doubt our talent and struggle to find the rationale that will send us back to the easel. Optimism and confidence eventually win the fight and we can again declare “I AM an artist!”

By now, you might be asking yourself why an artist would choose to have a solo exhibition. There are several reasons. We need the income to pay the expense of creating the work in the first place. That income also allows us to exclusively devote our time creating art throughout the year. Because most patrons don’t beat on the doors of our studios to see our work, we must bring it to the public. There is also the psychological aspect of why we make art. Merrill feels that “making art alone can be like singing in the forest alone…does anyone hear me?” Artists use their works to communicate with others, so it needs to exist among others. According to Runquist, “My hopes for a show have changed a great deal over the years. At first, it was hope for recognition, good reviews, etc. Now, it is more the pleasure that others will enjoy it as well and that some will sell.” Bladon feels “there is a sense of satisfaction in seeing a considerable amount of your work hung together. You feel like you’ve accomplished something. Sales, of course, indicate viewers support you by voting with their wallet, which is encouraging. But, meaningful positive comments from your peers whom you respect is probably the best outcome hoped for.” Therefore, communication and support are important motivators for artists who decide to hold a solo exhibition.

This summer, there will be dozens of artist receptions at venues dotting the St. George peninsula. Awaiting you is an artist who took a lifetime and great effort to create and display the works that you will view, and who hopes that you’ll spend some time in a meaningful contemplation. A solo art exhibition is much more than a cocktail party, it’s a culturally enriching experience that creates dialogue within a community and within oneself. It’s where we can discover our humanity.

—K­atharine A. Cartwright­

Practicing French—and having fun—where French is spoken

On the morning of May 31, twenty-four 8th grade students and eight adult chaperones departed the St. George School in a coach bus at 6:30 am bound for Quebec City. After months of planning and fundraising, the trip was finally a reality!

The first stop once we crossed the border was a break at the Galeries de Capitale Mall to do some shopping, get lunch, and stay cool in the 90 degree heat. After checking into the Hotel de Concorde, we had time to swim before getting a bite to eat on the Grand Alleé around the corner from the hotel. Then we were off for some intense games of laser tag at Defi Laser.

After a late night, we rose early to visit Ecole de Secondaire Rochebelle, a high school in Quebec. There we met our pen pals, a group of immigrant students who had been learning French much like us. We had written back and forth during the school year and now finally got to meet some of them. We did some ice breaker games, got a school tour, were amazed by the student art show, and then went outside for some games on the sports fields before we said au revoir.

The bus then dropped us off in the lower town of the Old City of Quebec where we had lunch at various cafes, shopped, and took in the famous sites of Old Quebec. We practiced our French at every place we visited and the people of Quebec were very patient and friendly.

Back to the hotel for another swim, and to get ready for dinner and the Dance Cruise. After enjoying some poutine and other food at Les Trois Garcons, we walked through the Old City again to get to the boat for the cruise. The boat was packed with kids from Philadelphia, Vermont, and Quebec and we danced away the evening. It was a beautiful night on the St. Lawrence with the city all lit up behind us.

The next morning we walked to Paillard, a French bakery, and enjoyed the croissants, breads, and chocolat chaud. We then drove to Montmorency Falls, a beautiful sight, and walked up the steps on the side of the falls (some of us got soaked by the mist) before riding down on the cable car. After that we went to the Aquarium Du Quebec where we saw polar bears, seals, walruses, and a beautiful display of jellyfish. Then it was time to take the long bus ride home.

What an amazing trip it was! Thank you to all of the parents, the school, and the St. George Community for making this happen!

—This report was prepared by members of the 8th-grade class and Josh McPhail.