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Pilgrim Monument, line drawing by Ewa Nogiec
Provincetown History: Former Days Lumberyard, Fine Arts Work Center


The Days family were the biggest contractors in Provincetown in the early part of the century, constructing a number of public buildings as well as private homes. (The 12"x12" hand-hewn supporting beam installed as part of the Art Association renovation completed in 1921 still bears the chalked label "Frank A. Days, Provincetown, Mass.") The Days also owned many properties in town, several of which were made into artists' studios and rented at low rates. The availability of this kind of space helped encourage artists to come to Provincetown.

Frank Days Jr. built the complex of buildings at 24 Pearl Street in 1911 to house his lumber, coal and wood, plumbing and heating supply businesses, then added ten studios on the upper level. These unheated and unfurnished spaces, sharing one common toilet, rented for $50 a season -- usually just the warmer months, although a few hardy souls survived the winter there. Charles Demuth's 1920 cubist painting of the exterior is now owned by the Museum of Modern Art.

Ross Moffett was the first tenant; he and Henry Sutter moved into Unit #2 in July of 1914. Charles Hawthorne moved into Unit #1 soon thereafter, followed by several of his students including Edwin Dickinson. Hawthorne's monumental "The Crew of the Philomena Manta " (now hanging in Town Hall) was painted there using other studio residents as models.

From 1914 to 1971 Days Lumberyard housed painters and sculptors from each of the successive periods of art in Provincetown. It was always a place for serious work, but for many it was also a community, a home, and the site of passionate aesthetic discussions. In the summer of 1945 Hans Hofmann used Fritz Bultman's studio for teaching as well as painting and a number of his students from both Chicago and New York followed him here.

Joe Oliver bought the property in 1951, adding heat, hot water, toilets and stoves as part of major renovations. He also began raising rents, which finally reached $250 for the season. In 1972 Oliver sold the former lumberyard to the Fine Arts Work Center (FAWC).

In 1978 an exhibition at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, "Day's Lumberyard," showed the work of 60 artists who had rented space at the Lumberyard; another 40 were listed. The catalog contains a memoir by Robert Motherwell recalling the summers of 1961-62 when he and Helen Frankenthaler rented the renovated barn at the Lumberyard.

Founded by a group of artists, writers and patrons (led by Hudson D. Walker), FAWC was developed at a time when tourism was burgeoning, studio space was limited and expensive, and in many ways the community of artists was at a low point in its history. The founders believed it essential to bring new artists and writers to town and to foster their growth, with the hope that some would choose to remain in the community.

The FAWC had been operating since 1968 in a building on Standish Street, but moving to the Lumberyard in 1972 meant that they now had adequate studio and workspace available. The plumbing and heating storerooms were converted to the Hudson D. Walker Gallery in 1976, named for the Center's most generous benefactor and early president. In 1989 the Stanley Kunitz Common Room was dedicated to the Pulitzer Prize winning poet, also a FAWC founder. Since then two adjoining houses have been purchased, now making it possible to house all 20 annual fellows on campus.

The FAWC is the only fellowship program in the country providing long-term residencies for emerging artists and writers. They are given living quarters, a place to work, financial assistance and opportunities to consult with established artists. There are more than 1,000 applicants from the United States and abroad for the 20 fellowships offered annually. Over the past three decades, many of the fellows have remained in town after their fellowship year.

The Fellows are in residence from October through April. Readings and exhibitions by the Fellows are scheduled, and throughout the year Visiting Artists and Writers programs are held along with shows by Committee and Board members. In the summer, weeklong open enrollment workshops are offered and weeklong residencies available. A special program of Senior Fellowships for writers and artists was inaugurated in 1995.

 

from PROVINCETOWN: THE ART COLONY A Brief History and Guide by Nyla Ahrens, published by Provincetown Art Association and Museum, 1997. Revised edition published 2000. Available in print at Provincetown Art Association and Museum Store.


© Nyla Ahrens

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