As Maine’s tourist season draws upon us and people from around the world flock to our state to relax and recharge by our lakes, mountains and shoreline, as well as at our museums, concert halls and cultural institutions, I can’t help but think about how all these destinations come together to offer the full Maine experience.

Throughout the year, people stop in the Portland Museum of Art on their way to Katahdin, Sugarloaf or Acadia National Park, complementing their outdoor adventures with the state’s vibrant arts and culture. This range of experiences is why the world remains captivated by our way of life, and why visitors return again and again.

This has been the case with Maine for nearly two centuries now. Paintings by artists such as Winslow Homer and Frederic Edwin Church inspired America’s new middle class to explore regions such as Maine. Robert Laurent, featured in our summer exhibition “A New American Sculpture, 1914-1945: Lachaise, Laurent, Nadelman, and Zorach,” co-founded the Summer School of Graphic Arts in Ogunquit, drawing countless artists to the state.

This relationship between art and tourism continues through today — it is no coincidence that the Maine Office of Tourism is supporting the exhibition “Marsden Hartley’s Maine,” which is currently on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and will soon travel to the Colby College Museum of Art, where it was co-organized along with the Met. The natural beauty of Maine has long attracted artists to the state, and their representations of Maine have in turn attracted visitors, residents and businesses.

Furthermore, the influence of art on conservation efforts and our national parks cannot be overstated. Ansel Adams’ photographs of the American West, especially Yosemite National Park, have embedded themselves into the national consciousness, helping spur preservation initiatives. We have several works in the PMA collection representing Maine’s own Acadia National Park, by everyone from Adams to painter Richard Estes, and I return to these artworks often, contemplating how fortunate we are to live near such inspiring natural beauty, and how important it is to keep these places pristine and accessible.

For these reasons and many more, the PMA supports the mission of our national parks. Last year, the museum proudly joined Friends of Acadia and became an Acadia Centennial Partner, celebrating the park’s 100th year — a year that saw a reported 3.3 million people enjoy the park’s mountains, beaches and trails, bringing hundreds of millions of dollars to the surrounding communities and the state.

Here in Maine, U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King have recognized the importance of Acadia to our state and have co-sponsored bipartisan legislation to dedicate funding to the deferred maintenance backlog of our national parks. If passed, the National Park Service Legacy Act text would allocate $500 million annually to the Park Service, reflecting the kind of commitment necessary to support Maine’s tourism economy and preserve our heritage.

At the PMA, we have applied this commitment to one of our most treasured locations: the Winslow Homer Studio. Working with the Prouts Neck Association and the Scarborough Land Trust, we have preserved the land around the Winslow Homer Studio in perpetuity. The vistas Homer viewed, painted and drew inspiration from are an integral part of his narrative, and it was imperative that we protect them. To see this small part of the Maine coast is to understand why Homer felt the urge to make it both his home and his muse.

The relationship between Maine’s arts and culture and its natural wonders and the respite that the land offers are intrinsically tied together. To support one is to support the other, and both must be made available to as many as people as possible. This summer at the PMA, we’re making our own green space — the David E. Shaw and Family Sculpture Park — open and accessible to everyone, so that whoever you are, you can spend time outside and feel refreshed, recharged and inspired. We must enable our national parks to continue offering similar experiences to all.

As stewards of a collection of more than 18,000 artworks, we at the PMA know something about conservation. I believe that together, we can preserve the natural beauty of Maine for centuries to come – on the canvas or out in the world.

Mark Bessire is director of the Portland Museum of Art.

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