Frontier brings more than food to the table. Igniting conversation about the world beyond its rustic walls, Frontier, located in Fort Andross, describes itself as a “food, art and cultural destination.” Here, visitors share intimate conversations and globally inspired meals with views of the churning Androscoggin River below. People gather at wood tables resting on wide-planked floors. Vibrant jazz echoes through the spacious building and weaves itself through the stories being told.
“It starts really as a focus around storytelling,” said Frontier founder and owner Michael Gilroy. “The theater, the art and music are focused on making the world home.”
Before founding Frontier, Gilroy led lengthy expeditions around the globe—primarily through Russia, China, parts of central Asia and into the Middle East.
“I did that work for about a decade, up until 9/11, and really the world changed,” said Gilroy.
His goals shifted as he began to ponder ways to bring these stories home.
“We’d like to bring some of those stories here. To give our community exposure and avenues for conversations and to expand ideas,” said Gilroy.
Gilroy started screening films at Frontier 11 years ago, but as the business grew, Sean Morin, now Frontier’s programming director, stepped in and together they expanded their offerings.
“We book film, we book community events, sometimes centered around the films, sometimes centered around discussions and sometimes centered around both,” said Morin.
Morin tends to steer more towards documentaries.
“You get a film like ‘Whose Streets?’ that is a very, very important topic that we need to be discussing right now, and if you’re not engaging within the theater you’re processing it and you’re engaging within the community of your own by taking that conversation outside,” said Morin.
“Whose Streets?” is a documentary that features the stories of the people involved in the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, prompted by the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in August 2014. The documentary explores solidarity within communities which sparked a nationwide movement.
In addition to exhibits and films, Frontier hosts a series of storytelling events known as “Sound Bites,” in which Moth StorySlam Champions and locals share true tales from their lives. This event sells out every time that it’s hosted.
“Frontier brings in tellers that are local, but a majority of their participants are storytellers that come from The Moth podcast. And some stories are sad, some are absolutely hilarious, some are a mixture of all of those. Some are politically charged, some are not politically charged and some are deeply personal,” said Morin.
Gilroy feels that, despite online communities and the abundance of digital media like podcasts, we still live in silence.
“Look at the world right now in particular. If anything, having this place is so critical for a community to get engaged,” said Gilroy.
In its best form, Frontier is a space where silence ends and voices can be amplified.
“Frontier is beyond just a business endeavor, this is not why we are here. If we can even do the smallest bit to advocate and inform our community, then we are thankful. Just as much as they inform and educate us,” said Gilroy.
“Frontier is all about diversity, connecting the world and creating the space for conversations,” said Morin.
At Frontier, the conversations are continuous.
“I feel that when you bring different people together, that’s a catalyst for dynamic change and opportunity. And that could be one person that walks away from an event with a new perspective. And in order for that to happen, you got to create those environments for those things to happen,” said Gilroy.