Cape Cod Feature
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Provincetown: Gay Summer Playground
America's original gay resort, Provincetown developed as an artists' colony at the turn of the 20th century. In 1899 a young artist and entrepreneur named Charles Hawthorne founded the Cape Cod School of Art. Within 20 years, a half dozen art schools opened; the Provincetown Art Association staged its first exhibitions; and the Provincetown Players, a small band of modernist theater folk, began to produce plays on a small wharf in the town's East End.
After a year in Provincetown the Players moved to New York City's Greenwich Village, where gay culture was already thriving. This kinship helped spur Provincetown's early flourishing as a gay community. Tourism became a significant revenue source, and local homes began letting rooms to the hundreds of writers, painters, and other creative spirits drawn to the town's thriving arts community.
Over the next few decades, many innovative writers and artists spent time in Provincetown, including several openly gay luminaries such as Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams. The town became identified increasingly for its willingness to flout convention, and by the 1960s it was a haven for anyone whose artistic leaning, political platform, or sexual persuasion was subject to persecution elsewhere in America. This hotbed of counterculture naturally nurtured one of the country's most significant gay communities.
Today Provincetown is as appealing to artists as it is to gay and lesbian—as well as straight—tourists. The awareness brought by the AIDS crisis and, most recently, Massachusetts's becoming the first state to legalize same-sex marriage has turned the town into the most visibly gay vacation community in America.
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