From Homer to Horovitz: History, Arts Bless Locale

GLOUCESTER is a city of vibrant ethnic neighborhoods, beautiful beaches, and a scenic working harbor. This colorful seaside community - much of which comprises an island - is also rich in history and the arts.

Rocky Neck, an artist's haven, is home to several painters and sculptors during the summer. Some well-known painters who spent time in Gloucester include Winslow Homer, John Sloan, and Stuart Davis. Fitz Hugh Lane, the great 19th-century painter of maritime New England, was a native of this city.

``The 19th-century artists were fascinated with the fishing schooner ... most importantly Fitz Hugh Lane in that period,'' says Judith McCulloch, administrator of Gloucester's Cape Ann museum. Today, one of the city's best-known painters is Nell Blane.

Early 20th-century sculptor Leonard Craske is another fixture. He created the often-photographed statue of a helmsman overlooking the sea. It was dedicated to the city in 1923 for its 300th anniversary as a memorial to all its courageous fishermen.

Gloucester also has an active theater community. Its stage company, established in 1979, features works written by renowned playwright Israel Horovitz. His plays are sometimes premiered here before going to New York and other cities.

Besides its arts, visitors also enjoy the diverse ethnic flavor here; many fishermen are of Italian and Portuguese heritage.

Each year, on the last weekend in June, the city holds its St. Peter's Fiesta. A celebration of the fishing community, it was started in the 1920s by Sicilian fishermen. Events include seine-boat races, a street dance, and a blessing of the fleet by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston. In another event, young men try to capture a flag on a greased telephone pole extending across the ocean. ``Only the young men who are possessed with either some degree of lunacy, a great deal of machismo, and maybe not a huge amount of sense go to the end of this pole and try to get the flag off it,'' says Geoffrey Richon, a Gloucester Arts Council member.

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