Welcome to the summer semester at the College of the Cranberry Isles featuring an East Campus on Islesford and a West Campus on Great Cranberry Island.

Like a college, the islands are a crossroads for people from all over the country. Summer classes begin in July and extend through August. New arrivals have the nervous excitement of college freshmen, while those who have been here before return with the self-assuredness and enthusiasm of upperclassmen.

For those who live here all year, summer brings a buzz of activity and fresh faces that are akin to living in a college town. Courses are definitely not limited to summer visitors, and many of them are free. There are meeting halls on each campus: the Cranberry House, and the Community Center on Great Cranberry; and the Neighborhood House on Islesford, where many of the lectures are held.

Not everyone owns a vehicle, but you can walk or bike on either campus. At anytime of day and most evenings, you will run into people you know on the street. Even if you are not acquainted, you have probably seen each other before.

The artist in residence program at the Heliker-LaHotan Foundation on the west campus features a number of artists who are invited to spend a month working in the studios. People from both islands travel back and forth to attend open studios and lectures given by visiting scholars. On a recent Monday on Islesford, Joseph Norman, a painter, printmaker and professor of Art at the University of Georgia, talked about “finding your voice,” while showing slides of his own work. The appreciative audience was evenly mixed with people from both islands. After the presentation it was announced that the studios of three artists would be open to the public on Thursday between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., on Great Cranberry.

“Are you going?”

“No, I’ve already signed up for the poetry workshop with Rick Benjamin on Islesford, on Thursday afternoon.” Among other places, Rick teaches classes at Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design, when he is not on vacation on Islesford. The syllabus is full for each campus, and no student is able to get to every event.

Course offerings on the west campus include: water color classes with Helen Bertles; drawing classes with Wini Smart, who also offers a free matting and framing class; digital photography with Geoff Wadsworth and Bruce Komusin; basket making with Christy Benson; tennis lessons, and a poetry class taught by Susan Deborah King.

There are art exhibits at the library, photography exhibits at the museum, and movies on Tuesday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings at the Cranberry House. Guest lecturers are scheduled to talk about the history of shipbuilding, a trip to Antarctica, forestry management, and magic. Want to know more about the west campus? Stop in to see the exhibits at the Great Cranberry Historical Society, or talk with Ruth Westphal at the Great Cranberry Library, or visit the Web site: www.cranberryisles.com.

Course offerings on the East Campus include: Boat Building at Islesford Boatworks, a poetry workshop, a guitar workshop, Children’s Theater classes, a painting workshop with Henry Isaacs, bible studies, yoga classes and sailing classes.

There will be a guest lecture on the paintings of Harold Warren at the Islesford Historical Society meeting, four nights of performances by the Islesford Theater project, directed by Sonja Moser who teaches theater at Bowdoin College, a performance by the Maine humorist Tim Sample, and movies at the Neighborhood House every Tuesday night. For more information about the East Campus, check in at the Islesford Library to talk with Cindy Thomas, and visit the Historical room there.

The Islesford Museum, part of Acadia National Park, also has a wealth of information and exhibits about the history of the Cranberry Isles. The East Campus has a Web site too: www.islesford.com.

Instead of a campus bus, the Mailboat and the Cranberry Cove Ferry serve as the link between activities on the two islands campuses. For dining there is Hitty’s Cafe and Cranberry General for tasty offerings on Great Cranberry, and the Islesford Dock Restaurant for more formal meals on Islesford.

Each island also has a regular farmer’s market. Even with no dining halls, many people seem to be on the same meal plan as they gather regularly at each others homes for drinks and dinner. There may be no fraternities or sororities, but that doesn’t stop kegs of beer from arriving for a party now and then!

There is no college bookstore, but the Islesford Artists Gallery features sketchbooks and colored pencils along with an amazing collection of work for sale by local artists. Winter’s Work has a selection of books from local authors along with crafts, T-shirts and fudge. And books are also for sale at the Islesford Museum. For more Islesford shopping there is Island Girl Sea Glass, the Islesford Pottery, and the Islesford Dock Art Gallery. On Great Cranberry, The Whale’s Rib and the museum shop at the Cranberry House are the shopper’s choice in place of the campus bookstore. Each island also hosts a fair in August for fun and fund raising.

Most students graduate by Labor Day and the islands become quieter, though there are still opportunities for cultural and intellectual stimulation for those who stay behind. To paraphrase Rachel Field: “If once you’ve attended the College of the Cranberry Isles, you’ll never be quite the same.” The islands may not be for everyone, but most alumni can’t wait to come back for a reunion. See you around campus!