This is an excerpt from the film series, Maine Masters. For more information on this feature of Beverly Hallam go to

February 22, 2013

Maine arts pioneer Beverly Hallam dies at 89

By Bob Keyes
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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In this January 1998 file photo, Beverly Hallam works in her York studio. Hallam, a Maine arts pioneer, has died at age 89.

Doug Jones / Staff File Photo

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Beverly Hallam's "Golden Splendor." Hallam was most famous for her detailed and intricate airbrush paintings of flowers.

Courtesy the University of New England Art Gallery

News of Hallam's death signaled "a sad, sad day," Little said. "Beverly was a great friend and a wonderful artist."

She came from a family that included inventors, engineers and artists, said Little, who wrote a book about Hallam, "An Odyssey in Art."

"She had something in her DNA that led her that way," he said. "She took in everything, and she was really committed to art. That's all there is to it. She was one of those people who put her mind to it and went after it."

Hallam was born in Lynn, Mass., in 1923, studied at the Massachusetts College of Art and taught art in Massachusetts until the early 1960s. She began coming to Ogunquit in 1949 and was part of a second generation of artists who made their home on Maine's southern coast.

She was active in the Barn Gallery in Ogunquit and the Ogunquit Museum of American Art.

"She came at a time when the New York scene was turning to abstraction," said Ron Crusan, director of the Ogunquit museum. "With the dramatic cliffs and breaking waves of Ogunquit as inspiration, she brought youth, innovation and enthusiasm" to the region.

She was instrumental in bringing acrylic paint to Maine, helping to set the tone for modernism in contemporary Maine painting, he said.

Her home on Surf Point Road is legendary in art circles. It is a sprawling home, with magnificent views of the ocean. She and Smart spent several decades together at their seaside home.

After Smart dies, the Surf Point Foundation will operate the home as a retreat for artists, scholars, critics and historians.

Several of Hallam's paintings are on view at the Art Gallery at the University of New England on Stevens Avenue in Portland. Her paintings are part of a show that celebrates Maine female pioneers in art. The show runs through March 3.

"Her spirit in this show is huge," said UNE gallery director Anne Zill. "She will be sorely missed. ... In this show, people often stop in front of Beverly's works. They have a power to them that is completely arresting. People stop and spend time in front of her works."

Zill called Hallam "a force of nature. She was strong, organized and driven to work every day, to discover new things about her work as an artist. She owned her world. She owned her art world."

The Portland Museum of Art began collecting Hallam's paintings in the late 1960s, and has acquired her paintings and prints regularly through the past decade. That puts her in a small group of artists whose achievements and innovations the museum consistently heralded over several decades, said Jessica May, curator of contemporary and modern art.

Hallam was the subject of a Maine Masters film, "Beverly Hallam: Artist as Innovator." Filmmaker Richard Kane spent many days with Hallam on the project, which was completed in 2011. He called her a "real joyous personality. She found humor in everything. She was a lot of fun to work with."

Little is fond of telling a story about Hallam from her youth. It illustrates her family's dedication to Hallam's career choice.

Hallam's mother, Alice, ran a hair salon. One day, she met Leonard Bernstein's father, Sam, who sold hairdressing supplies. They started talking about their kids.

"You can't imagine what my son Lennie wants to be," Bernstein told Hallam's mother, according to Little.

"He wants to be a composer ... of music ... a musician. Can you believe it? I can't stand it."

He then asked Alice Hallam what her daughter wanted to be.

"She's going to be an artist," Hallam's mother answered.

"Oh, my god," Bernstein replied. "They're both going to starve to death."

In addition to her work in the studio, Hallam was remembered Friday for her work as a teacher. She taught continuously for most of her life, including at the Maine College of Art in Portland. The college gave her its Art Honors award in 2001.

In her artist's statement, Hallam cited her lifelong process of learning.

"As the mediums in art change, I change along with them. As Michelangelo said, 'I am still learning.' "

-- Staff Writer Melanie Creamer contributed to this report.

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

Twitter: pphbkeyes

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