Monson is located at the edge of Maine’s North Woods- a 3.5 million acres of forest bordering Canada. It is the last town on the Appalachian Trail before the beginning of the 100-Mile Wilderness that leads to Mount Katahdin.
Since it was founded in 1822, the community has had an economy based on natural resources. In the late 19th through the early 20thcenturies, slate quarries supported a thriving industry. Moosehead Manufacturing produced wood furniture from the 1945 until its closure in 2007. The region also has a rich arts tradition— ranging from Henry David Thoreau, who wrote about the area in The Maine Woods to photographer Berenice Abbott who lived in Monson and nearby Blanchard, to traditional makers such as the North Woods Canoe Company in Atkinson.
In the spring of 2017 Maine’s Libra Foundation began investing in the development of an arts program for Monson as a way to spur economic and creative growth in the region. The foundation has purchased and renovated over 20 buildings in the community to be used for residences and studios. Stuart Kestenbaum, former director of the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts and Maine’s poet laureate, is advising the foundation on the development of the programs.