It has been three years since artists Catherine Day and Sue Kenney opened Black River Gallery in downtown Boothbay Harbor. The gallery, which showcases their photographic art and the work of guest artists, was in Booton, New Jersey. However, the pair knew they had to move after falling in love with the state after years of visiting and Day’s experiences working at Oliver's in Cozy Harbor Wharf and at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.
Day and Kenney have decided to give back to the community they love by designing and trademarking "For the (heart) of Maine" t-shirts, with the heart symbol and giving 15% of the sale price to Community Resource Council (CRC).
“We feel so blessed to be where we are. We think that the people in Maine are so nice and kind and generous, and we wanted to be able to give back, too,” said Day. “I find that in this area everybody is doing something to help someone, so we thought it only necessary to do that too.”
The project has been in the works since before the COVID-19 pandemic but Kenney also noted the support the gallery received from locals during quarantine. She said it would have been a “disastrous year” without them. “We're part of this community and we just want to give back to this community because we feel like we've gotten so much,” she said.
The owners said the gallery isn’t a t-shirt, sweatshirt kind of place, but they thought it was important to make the product accessible. Kenney explained, “People are not necessarily going to take a piece of art but everybody buys a T-shirt.”
The pair have expanded the design to sweatshirts, and hope to sell hats and other apparel.
Day and Kenney had different priorities when deciding on a charity. Day knew she wanted to donate to a food-based program because stories of children going home to no food broke her heart. Kenney, who has lost two family members to addiction, was drawn to outreach programs. The women found CRC to be a great fit for both their causes.
CRC provides seven programs for Boothbay, Boothbay Harbor, Southport, and Edgecomb residents. The Community Navigator Program (CNP) is a free and confidential service to connect community members with services such as heat, food, (un)employment/vocational support, transportation, housing, healthcare, and grocery delivery (a COVID-19 program).
Other programs include the Addiction Outreach Program, Food for Thought, the Fuel Fund, Boothbay Community Rides (free medical and non-medical transportation), Woodchucks (firewood for households on low incomes), and Set for Success (back-to-school supplies).
“We are deeply touched that (Day and Kenney) chose the Community Resource Council to be the beneficiary from the sales of the well-designed and incredibly thoughtful lobster heart logo shirts,” said Addiction Outreach program director Holly Stover. “We are excited to see the red logo start to appear all over town and when people see the logo, they will think of the heart and soul of our community.”
Day and Kenney are not interested in personal recognition. Day explained, “We’re doing this for the love of Maine.”
The gallery is at 16 McKown St.