March 17, 2013

Doing Farmington proud

The Emery, the performance and gallery space on the UMF campus, has been a game changer for western Maine.

By Bob Keyes
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Emery Center director Jayne Decker in the visual arts gallery known as the Flex Space, which is currently showing works by Ellen Roberts and Karen Adrienne.

Photos by John Ewing/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

The Performance Space.

Additional Photos Below


"We have the tradition of the existing building with the contemporary feel of the new," she said.

The building has won accolades. In August, it received a National Merit Award for Excellence in Architecture for a New Building by the Society for College and University Planning. The building was designed by the Boston architectural firm designLab.

It has been widely used since it opened late in 2011.

The visual arts gallery, which is named Flex Space because of its many potential uses, has hosted exhibitions featuring the work of local, regional and statewide artists. Students from Mt. Blue High School have shown here, along with established artists such as Robert Shetterly, who showed portraits from his "Americans Who Tell the Truth" series.

Farmington painter Mardy Bogar has shown there twice, and calls the center a haven for artists from across the region.

"There are many artists living and working in western Maine -- some known and some not yet discovered -- and the Emery center has provided a venue for such people," Bogar said.

Flex Space is a 1,600-square foot, cube-like gallery with enormous walls. Many artists have taken advantage of the space and used the ceiling to suspend their work.

"We designed it for big installations, and it's been nice to see that artists have responded," Decker said, calling attention to a recently closed "Spirals" exhibition that featured community artists who created mixed-media installations that riffed on the spiral theme.

They filled not just the walls, floor and ceiling of the Flex Space, but much of the entire building.

"I don't think there is a another place in the whole state of Maine where I could go and say, 'I want to do this show,' and they would be open to it," said guest curator Mary McFarland, who pitched the idea to Decker more than a year ago. "It's just such a great space, and it was such an opportunity for us -- for the community -- to have a space where we can actually do that, where we can do what we want."

McFarland recruited artists to create work that made the best use of the space. The space itself dictated the shape and feel of the work that was created, she said.

"We designed our show for that space," McFarland said. "We did it so the space would push our creative edge."

Another community member who appreciates Emery is Mt. Blue art teacher Roger Bisaillon. Last spring, his students filled the building with their work in an exhibition titled "Celebrate Our Youth." The opening was an affirming moment for the students and teacher alike, he said.

"It was nice that this place was put up, but even nicer that they invited us to participate," he said. "The fact that they let a bunch of high school students participate in something like this is pretty cool. It made a big impression on the students. This was a chance for them to show their work in a professional gallery, and it forced them to rise to the occasion."

Which they did. Many of them got dressed up, "made sure they spoke proper English," and invited their friends and family. The opening represented a moment of pride in their lives and their careers as student-artists, Bisaillon said.

It also provided a tangible college experience. Many students do not go to college, or even think it's possible. Having their work exhibited at Emery showed them that college is attainable.

"I think a lot of them left here thinking, 'Maybe I can go to college. Maybe I do have what it takes,' " Bisaillon said.

(Continued on page 3)

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors

Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

UMF’s oldest building, Merrill Hall, stands next to the Emery.

click image to enlarge

UMF student Richard Russell, an actor in an upcoming play, attaches colored gels to stage lights with assistance from stage crew member Leigh Welch (on ladder) and theater designer Dan Spilecki.

click image to enlarge

The Emery’s exterior shell is made mostly from natural wood siding that will turn with the weather.

Further Discussion

Here at we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)



More PPH Blogs