ROCKLAND, Maine — From the iconic first cover that showed sheep being towed behind a small fishing boat to this year’s issue featuring Andrew Wyeth’s last completed painting, the Island Journal has had a memorable — and beautiful — first 25 years, say Island Institute officials and a prominent politician.
The nonprofit Island Institute’s glossy annual publication celebrates its 25th birthday this evening with a “Hometown Celebration” at the organization’s Rockland headquarters.
“Island Journal is a kind of beautiful way of documenting the islands,” said Maine House Speaker Hannah Pingree, D-North Haven. “It’s the kind of thing that’ll be in our island historical societies, and I think people are really proud to be documented in the Island Journal.”
Peter Ralston, who photographed the sheep and co-founded the Island Institute, said that from the beginning the journal was intended to get people’s attention and that it has succeeded in doing so. The publication has a press run of about 7,500 issues, of which 5,000 get sent to the institute’s members.
The journal never has been just about pretty pictures, Ralston said, unlike some other magazines which center on a place.
“Along the coast, winter’s hard, and bleak, and tough, and skeletal,” Ralston said. “That’s the reality that the journal has tried to reflect. It’s a world that’s not always blue skies.”
And it’s a world that has people in it. The Island Institute is a community development organization which has a particular focus on the 15 year-round communities off the Maine coast.
“We’ve never published a cover that doesn’t have the hand of humankind in it,” he said. “That’s where we play. We’re not a land, or a forever-wild organization. We’re about people.”
Over the years, some of the people documented by the journal — which Pingree calls the salt of Maine island life — have included schoolchildren, fishermen and those who are working to get one of the state’s first community wind power projects off the ground.
“A lot of the stories do capture what the islanders are all about,” Pingree said. “I remember the Island Journal for a long time. I remember seeing people I grew up with.”
Ralston said that while the journal has documented some “fantastic good news,” those aren’t the only stories.
“Working communities along the coast of Maine are all about coping with challenge, the need to have passion for one’s community and fierce commitment,” he said. “That’s how the Island Institute has approached what we do.”
The Island Institute’s Hometown Celebration takes place 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, July 8, at the Island Institute at 386 Main St., Rockland, and is free and open to the public.
For more information, visit www.islandinstitute.org.