Jessica Skwire Routhier
Word person. Museum person.
Job President / Maine Archives and Museums
Lives In South Portland
I'm a writer, editor, art historian, and independent museum professional. I'm the author and editor of several publications that celebrate the rich visual culture of Maine, including an upcoming book about the Moving Panorama of Pilgrim's Progress. I'm a former staffer at the Portland Museum of Art, Maine and past director of the Saco Museum, and I also serve as president of the board of Maine Archives and Museums, where I advocate for the crucial role collecting institutions play in preserving and sharing the literary and artistic heritage of Maine. I am the project coordinator for the Maine Photo Project, a statewide collaboration in 2015.
I live near Willard Beach in South Portland, so you can find me strolling the beach and getting some treats at Scratch Bakery with my family almost any time of year. We're also regulars our local ice cream emporiums: Willard Scoops, Beal's, and Red's Dairy Freeze. In the winter, we're all about outdoor skating at Deering Oaks and Mill Creek parks. We also love to go on weekend adventures, and Portland is a great jumping-off point. We spend time each summer swimming, kayaking, and dining around the idyllic Bailey island, just a ferry ride away.
Photo: Kari Wehrs
Why did you choose Portland? My story is a lot like that of many people "from away." I grew up outside of Cleveland, but we used to vacation in Maine, and that had a lot to do with why I chose Bowdoin for college. I put down deep Maine roots during my college years – including two summers in Portland – and apart from two years in Boston for graduate school (I was homesick for Portland the whole time), I've pretty much stayed.
Who are Portlanders you admire and why? Andy Verzosa of Aucocisco Galleries has that great combination of vision and enthusiasm, and he really gets stuff done! Kristen Levesque, director of public relations at the Portland Museum of Art, and Arlene Schwind, curator of the Victoria Mansion, are good friends and incredibly valuable mentors who REALLY know their stuff. There are too many to name, but I'm also starstruck by Portland's artists, including my neighbor Celeste Roberge, who does incredible work and is also just a lovely person.
What do you like to do with out-of-towners? All we have to do to dazzle out-of-towners is walk them down to Willard Beach for the lighthouse tour of Greater Portland: start at Fisherman's Point, where you can see Portland Head Light, then walk along the beach to Spring Point Light, then down to Bug Light Park. Of course, then they're going to need lobster, so it's off to the Lobster Shack in Cape Elizabeth or Gilbert's in Portland.
Where's your "happy place" on the peninsula? I love the handsome old homes and beautiful gardens in the West End. I used to live on Bramhall Street and then Winter Street when I first came back to Portland, so when I walk around that part of town I always feel close to that time when I was falling in love with the city and really becoming a Portlander. I'm also happy whenever I'm watching the Sea Dogs play at Hadlock Field, especially when there's a beer in one hand and a Sea Dog biscuit in the other.
What's your favorite indulgence and where do you find it? Apart from baked goods and ice cream, it's all about the Goodwill store at South Portland's Mill Creek Shopping Center. It's the best thrift store in the city--MAYBE THE WORLD.
What's the most under-appreciated place or thing in town? So few people know about how amazing the interiors are at the Maine Masonic Civil War Library and Museum on Congress Street. And just down the road from there, the Maine Charitable Mechanics Hall and Library is another hidden gem.
Describe your perfect night—and the following morning—in Portland. Walking from our front porch to an early dinner at David's 388, then a musical at Portland Players theater. I'll be wearing something fabulous from Goodwill, naturally. Breakfast is donuts from the Cookie Jar and coffee served on the front porch.
Do you have a serendipity spot? Where do you always bump into good people? Everybody's at Elsemere Barbecue on Cottage Road in South Portland.
My work is collected both locally and internationally. I've been educating art students in New England since the Millennium.