YARMOUTH – If you limp into Mercy Primary Care with a broken toe, you will walk out with a plan for better health — and perhaps a deeper appreciation for fine art.

Mercy designed the waiting room of its new facility on Route 1 with walls large enough to accommodate rotating exhibitions of contemporary art.

Ann Mohnkern, a landscape and seascape painter from Yarmouth, has the first show in the new primary and express care center. She exhibits a collection of recent paintings from around Casco Bay and downtown Portland.

“When people come in here to see Ann’s work, it doesn’t feel like a place of sickness. It’s a happy place. It makes it less intimidating,” said Susan Dempsey Rouillard, Mercy’s chief development officer.

Mercy Health System opened the Yarmouth center in April. It was designed with art in mind.

The reception and waiting area is a light-filled space, and the ceiling includes an art-hanging system so the rotating art exhibitions do not punch holes in the walls with nails and hooks.

Mohnkern’s original oils are visible everywhere you turn, including on the small walls in the private reception cubicles.

The Yarmouth facility is the ninth in a network of community-based health centers opened by Mercy Health System since 2007. Rouillard said Mercy is installing similar hanging systems in other community centers to better accommodate rotating exhibitions.

The idea of filling the new center with original artwork goes to the heart of using art in the healing process, as well as engaging the community by featuring local artists and recognizable scenes.

“Health care these days is so much about 15 minutes in the door, 15 minutes out. We’re saying, ‘Slow down. Stay a while.’ We’re trying to stop the hurriedness of the day,” Rouillard said.

“When we saw Ann’s work, it was perfect. There is nothing more peaceful than being on the water. It has a calming effect on people, and helps reduce some of the stress they may be feeling because of their condition. This will help transport them to a serene, joyful place.”

People are welcome to come in and view the art even if they are not in need of medical attention. All the paintings in the show are for sale.

Mercy Yarmouth will rotate its exhibitions on a seasonal basis. Mohnkern’s work will be on view through mid-June, and it will be replaced for the summer by another body of work by an artist to be determined. The fall and winter will bring new shows by other artists.

A lawyer by trade, Mohnkern has lived in Yarmouth since 1973 and began painting a decade ago. She got started after taking a continuing studies class at Maine College of Art. Her instructors have included Michael Vermette, Janet Manyon, Don Demers and Diane Dahlke.

Mohnkern has shown her work across New England, and was part of the biennial at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockport in 2010.

This show represents the largest grouping of paintings she has shown in a single space in recent years.

“It’s a great opportunity for me to get my work out there,” she said. “I paint all the time, and I’ve shown my work quite a bit over the years. But I don’t often get the opportunity to put it all together as a cohesive group of paintings.”

Her inspiration is a small island in Casco Bay, off Phippsburg.

Mohnkern paints what she knows well. She has a close relationship with the ocean, which serves as the primary foundation for her work.

She spends much of her time down at Phippsburg. She paints lobster boats and bell buoys, and also faithful depictions of the surf crashing on the rocks at Bailey Island, the quiet serenity of Cat Cove and views of nearby islands.

Mohnkern is also interested in the architecture of the city and the blending of industry on the waterfront. She has long views of the tank farms in South Portland, a perspective of the Casco Bay Bridge and street scenes at Custom House Wharf.

As she has progressed as a painter, she has learned to focus. The tighter her content, the better the image.

“When I paint, I am painting something very specific with essential content,” she said. “I want my work to take the viewer to a very specific time and place.

“I want them to see what I saw and feel what I felt.”

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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