Dorothy Schwartz, an accomplished artist, professor, and past director of the Maine Humanities Council, who was the driving force behind Maine’s cultural scene for more than two decades, died on Monday. She was 75.
Mrs. Schwartz, known by everyone as “DeeDee,” trained as a graphic artist, working under one of America’s great printmakers, Leonard Baskin. She exhibited her work regularly. Last year, a retrospective of her work was featured in solo exhibition at the Maine Jewish Museum.
Most recently, she collaborated with three Maine artists for a group show that is expected to open April 11 in Lewiston. The subject is ANTS (!). The artists call themselves the “ant girls.” Schwartz’s artwork hangs in galleries and living rooms across Maine and throughout the country.
She was the loving wife of Elliott S. Schwartz, a classical music composer and the Robert K. Beckwith Professor of Music Emeritus at Bowdoin College. He remembered his wife Wednesday as an amazing woman and gifted artist, whose work had a great impact on people.
“She was a dynamo of energy, non-stop with passions that reached out in many, many different directions,” he said. “She wore so many different hats in her life and made so many friends. As an artist, she had a great impact on people who saw her work.”
Mrs. Schwartz was the public face of culture in Maine for 25 years as executive director of the Maine Humanities Council. She joined the council in the early 1980s and was appointed director shortly after. She stepped down in 2006 to retire.
Hayden Anderson, executive director of the Maine Humanities Council, said she transformed the council from a sleepy little nonprofit to one that is active in all counties across Maine.
“DeeDee saw the writing on the wall and realized that federal funding wasn’t a sure thing,” he said. “She was the first person who looked the funding picture and said we can’t sit around and wait for the money to come in. We need to be out there raising money on our own and running programs in the state that are nourishing for people and that will inspire people about the work we are dong. …She had an iron will and a backbone of steel and was driven to accomplish the mission of the organization.”
Mrs. Schwartz served on numerous boards, committees and philanthropic organizations throughout the state, including the Morton Kelly Trust and the University of Southern Maine’s re-structuring task force. She was also a trustee at Maine College of Art for four years, and served a stint as vice chair of the academic and student affairs committee.
“She really understood our students as artists and contributed to improvements in our curriculum through our strategic planning process,” Don Tuski, president of the Maine College of Art, said in a statement. “Her thoughtfulness and insight into arts and culture in Maine and beyond will be truly missed.”
Another hallmark of her career came as a teacher. Mrs. Schwartz taught art courses at Bowdoin College and the University of Maine. Most recently, she co-taught a course in philanthropy at the University of Southern Maine. As part of the course, the class was given $10,000 to distribute to local nonprofits.
“DeeDee was a real inspiration to her students,” said Adam Tuchinsky, associate dean of USM’s College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, who co-taught the course with Schwartz. “She was relentlessly positive and optimistic. She took real pride in the work she did. The amount of energy she had for this project … she was just a force of nature. While she was teaching, she had art exhibits going.”
Mrs. Schwartz and her husband, who lives in Brunswick, were married for 53 years and raised two children. He reminisced Wednesday about their life together. He said it was a full life. They spent a lot of time at music festivals and in art galleries throughout the country.
Mrs. Schwartz became ill in November of 2013 when she started experiencing arthritic issues. The symptoms progressively became worse.
Doctors diagnosed her with an aggressive form of Lymphoma. She had one round of chemotherapy, but experienced various complications. A few days before she died, she decided not to pursue more treatment.
“She had the best of all possible deaths,” her husband said. “She had enough time to know there are hundreds that care about her and loved her. She went very peacefully and quickly.”
Funeral services will be private. A celebration of her life is being planned for this summer at Bowdoin College.”
Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: