Mission & History

Photo: Richard Bird


To offer meaningful educational and artistic programming that fosters care of land and spirit,
inspires freedom of individual expression, and promotes exploration of the natural world
through the creative arts and sciences.

Bearnstow is a not-for-profit educational institution. It has nourished the arts and nature since 1946 when it was established as a children’s camp replacing a traditional Maine hunting and fishing camp dating from the early 1900s. Since 1994 it has sponsored day camp for children, weeklong workshops in dance and fine arts and sessions in the natural sciences. With its 65 acres of pristine forest, 2,400 feet of rocky shore on Parker Pond, and its historic, rustic camp facilities, Bearnstow is a uniquely suited venue for both art and natural history programs.

Bearnstow has a tradition of well-established and recognized instructors. Students in the arts and natural sciences whose sensitivity to person and place are given clear access to creativity and the natural world. Participation is open to all regardless of religion, race, age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or national origin. We strongly encourage foreign participation and ethnic diversity. It is Bearnstow’s mission to continue this commitment to education in the creative arts and natural sciences.

Performing and Fine Arts: Bearnstow promotes education in both the performing and fine arts by calling upon established and innovative methods of instruction designed to inspire creativity. We emphasize skill in performing and creating artistic works that include dance, drama, music, drawing, painting, and sculpting.

Natural Sciences: Bearnstow promotes both education and research in the natural sciences, including programs in conservation biology, forestry, ecology, and earth sciences. We work closely with regional college and high school science departments as well as the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

Environmental Conservation: To ensure the preservation of the natural woodland in perpetuity, the property has been protected by a conservation easement held by the Kennebec Land Trust since 1994. Bearnstow is committed to the conservation of its natural environment, both its nearly pristine forest as well as that of Parker Pond. This continues the careful and painstaking preservation by Colby College biology professor Webster Chester, who owned and developed the camp in the 1920s and 1930s.

Historic Preservation: Bearnstow, listed in the National Register of Historic Places as Spruce Point Camps, is further committed to the preservation of its historic buildings, the earliest built before 1880 and most dating from the 1920s.

The Lodge—the only building shown on Parker Pond on the 1880 U.S. Geological Survey. Photo: Richard Bird


Bearnstow is located on sixty-five acres of wooded land on Parker Pond in Mount Vernon, Maine, at the headwaters of the west branch of the Forty Mile River, part of the Androscoggin water­shed. The property includes 2,400 feet of unique, rocky shoreline and twelve rustic buildings tucked away behind the treeline. Most of these charm­ing houses are nearly a century old. Our old­est structure, the Lodge, was the only building on Parker on the 1880 U.S. Geological Survey.

Since 1994 Bearnstow has been protected by conservation ease­ment held by the Kennebec Land Trust. In 2007 Bearnstow was recognized for its historic significance and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Founded in 1946 by Ruth Grauert and Frances Reid, Bearnstow has had a rich history of arts-related activities linked to a prac­tice of environmental responsibility. Throughout its history the resonance of place in all activities has been a critical part of its mission. Bearnstow’s unspoiled environment provides an alterna­tive freedom for aesthetic expression away from the demands of daily life. This attention to the care of place, land, and spirit is central to the daily practice.

Read more about Bearnstow’s history from Ruth Grauert.