Steve Swain: The Frying Pan Gallery in Wellfleet

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Along the harbor in Wellfleet sits an historic oyster shack. It was built more than a century ago by local oystermen from pieces that had washed ashore from the nearby Billingsgate Island which had been all but erased due to erosion. This shack, the last in the Wellfleet area, no longer serves the shellfishing industry. It is now home to an absolutely exquisite gallery featuring sculptures, sketches, photographs, and paintings. This gallery includes work from fifteen local artists. One of those is Steve Swain, owner of The Frying Pan Gallery along Wellfleet Harbor.

While helping to develop the Pearl on Wellfleet Harbor restaurant in 2006, Swain took notice of the dilapidated shack sitting next door. He knew of the building’s significance.

“I recognized it as being the last of the iconic Wellfleet oyster shacks,” Swain said, “and struck a deal with my good friend and business partner Dana Heilman to undertake the restoration of the shack. My intention was to display my metal work and possibly a few of my friend’s artworks.”

The shack was restored quickly to be opened and after a short first season a more in depth restoration project was undertaken. The Frying Pan Gallery was opened in August 2008 and public interest was high from the start.

It should come as no surprise that Steve Swain would end up the salt life has been in his family for generations.

“My Mother’s Father was an avid Bass fisherman,” Swain explains, “who purchased land and built a camp on the edge of Long Pond in Harwich in the 1930s. As a child we spent much of our summers at the Cape cottage.” Though he was not born on Cape Cod the time he spent here growing up made an impact on him.

“I worked at an Architectural firm south of Boston after graduation (from UMass-Amherst) in 1986,” Swain says, “and jumped at the chance to relocate to the Cape office shortly after.” It is fitting that Swain, his wife, and three children live along the shores of the very same lake where he spent his summers. He designed and built a home in 2012 where his family resides today.

Swain’s love of creating beautiful works of art came from his childhood.

“I was raised in the 60s by a Mother who was very art centered and a Father who was a very progressive engineer/musician and was frequently surrounded by artists and musicians throughout my formative years.” He went on to major in Architectural-Interior Design at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. It was during this time in the early-1980’s that he fell in love with 3D metalworking in the foundry.

As the first decade of The Frying Pan Gallery gets closer to wrapping up, Steve Swain is working hard to make sure that there is always something new and exciting for visitors to see when they walk in.

“I am currently working on designs to expand my lighting work as well as designing on some larger outdoor pieces that may not see the light of Wellfleet until the 2017 season. We are looking forward to a summer season that will include the re-launching of “Flying Fish”, my sailboat that has been dormant since my first child was born 11 years ago.”

For Steve Swain the projects never seem to end. Stop in and see him at The Frying Pan Gallery located at 50 Commercial Street in Wellfleet.

All of Steve’s steel sculptures are available in the gallery and by commission. Check out some examples of his work at

By Chris Setterlund

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