“Live in a storybook while you write one”: Faison Residency on Peaks Island


Prepare yourself for a virtual tour of a magical place, a stone house on a high point of land on an island in Portland Harbor: the Stone House of the Illustration Institute‘s Faison Artist Residency. This virtual tour, recorded during a recent open house, shows the doors and windows thrown open to let warm, summer air and curious guests drift into the adorable cottage. The stone fireplaces await a rainy or foggy day when their flames would make a visiting artist or writer feel welcome.

Like many writers, I long for a writing retreat the way a desert pilgrim would a cold drink of water. I once described, “[A retreat] doesn’t have to cost money. Go out and find that [secret] place, that corner, that view that brushes aside cobwebs and sets your writing free.”

Certainly, living on an island offers many resident island writers the sense that we live in a retreat. Every day. Perhaps the feeling that we live on the edge of the world does it. But, I didn’t imagine that Peaks Island would establish its own official retreat. An open house in the Tolman Heights neighborhood recently celebrated the Illustration Institute’s creation of the Faison Artist Residency.

This historic stone house rests on a property originally established as a bohemian, island enclave in 1919. Nearly a century later, in 2017, Scott Nash and Nancy Gibson Nash, co-founders of the Illustration Institute, launched a summer artist residency on this property.

stonehouseNancy Gibson Nash said, “Every summer, the illustration institute invites distinguished illustrators, writers, and artists to recharge, be inspired, and to create at our Faison Residency. In turn, each artist presents a lecture or workshop at public venues that are open to all.”

Scott Nash said, “This sweet single story stone cottage is set just across the lane from the Guest House and truly looks as if you are stepping into a story book. (Live in one while you write one!) As if it were built with artists in mind, this beautiful stone structure holds a kind of woodland magic that can only inspire creativity. There are two bedrooms, one and a half bathrooms (rinse off the sea salt in the stone shower), and a working fireplace in the comfy living room (always welcome should the Maine fog roll in). There is a separate parlor for writing, and a screened in porch for drawing. The back deck faces the woods, a perfect place to daydream. As with the Guest House above, you are close to the ocean, where there are plenty of smooth rock promontories for picnics and painting.”

The current owner of the property, John Faison, who owns five of the original structures, has agreed to sell the property and build a studio for the Illustration Institute, Gibson Nash said. 

Check out the many events that resident artists/writers offer to the public on the Institute’s website here. This week, Leela Corman offers the workshop “Going Deep: Storytelling with Words and Pictures” on Thursday June 28th from 9:30 – 12:30 & 1:30 – 3:30. Corman’s latest book, Unterzakhn, a graphic novel set in the tenements, brothels, and vaudeville houses of the Lower East Side at the turn of the last century, was published by Schocken/Pantheon in the spring of 2012, won Le Prix Millepages in 2013, and has been nominated for the L.A. Times Book Award, the Eisner Award, and Le Prix Artemisia in France.  It has been translated into French, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish, and Italian, and recently won an award for best Anglo-American comic at the Rome Festival.

Patricia Erikson blogs about Maine writers, travel, and science from a vibrant, literary community perched on Peaks Island, two miles off the coast of the beautiful and award-winning city of Portland, Maine. If you haven’t already, follow her on Instagram at @seashorewrite or subscribe to Peaks Island Press in the upper right corner at

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