In 1988 Raquel and Peter Boehmer had a dream. The dream evolved out of the realization that rents on Monhegan were rising and most serious young artists could not afford to spend time on the island experiencing the light, the color, the community, the rugged headlands, and the fishing shacks that had inspired the likes of William Trost Richards, George Bellows, Charles Ebert, Rockwell Kent, Eric Hudson, and James Fitzgerald. The dream was to develop an artist residency program that would allow some serious Maine artists to live for a period of several weeks on the island, free from all responsibilities, so they could experiment and grow. The residency would provide them a time for reflection that they could use any way they chose.
The Boehmers shared their dream with their good friend Robert Semple who was a well-known fiber artist on Monhegan. At the time, Semple had owned the Carina House for many years, but in 1987 he had made an agreement with the Boehmers to sell them the Carina House when he was no longer able to return to the island. Semple loved the idea of an artist residency and was delighted by the possibility of using the Carina House for that purpose. During the summer of 1988 he decided that his deteriorating health would not allow him to return the following year, so the sale of the house went forward.
The Boehmers also discussed their plan with Chris Crosman, Director of the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, and he helped to formulate the program and bring it to fruition. Initially the Farnsworth provided some support each year of the program.
In 1989, the first two residents were selected and each spent six weeks in residence on Monhegan. Living was rent-free, and each resident received a modest stipend for living expenses. Residents were not permitted to have family or friends with them; it was their time to be with themselves, with the island, with their work. The residents lived on the second floor of the Carina House, and initially their studio was on the second floor of what is now the Lupine Gallery provided as a donation by Bill Payne. Eventually, the Boehmers added a studio to the second floor of the Carina House.
During its first few years the Carina House Residency was truly a mom-and-pop operation. The Boehmers did most of the work and paid many of the program’s expenses out of their own pockets. Gradually, ex-residents began to help with the work—organizing mailings and jurying the applications, for example—and eventually other individuals who were Monhegan regulars or supporters of the arts in Maine began to make financial contributions. In years when contributions were adequate to do so, a very modest rent was paid to the Boehmers.
By the end of the first six years it became clear that it would be useful to make the endeavor somewhat more formal. So, a new not-for-profit corporation was formed—the Monhegan Artists Residency Corporation.