GORHAM — A new exhibit at the University of Southern Maine Art Gallery is giving art teachers around the state the chance to show their own creativity while also showing their students that they “practice what they preach.”

“We’re not just teachers, we’re artists too,” said Mary Pennington, an art teacher at Gray-New Gloucester High School.

The University of Southern Maine Art Gallery on the Gorham campus will unveil “Portals: Work by Maine Art Education Association Members” at an opening reception Saturday, Jan. 28, from 2-4 p.m. Artist talks begin at 2:30 p.m. The exhibit will be open through March 2.

The Maine Art Education Association, which promotes innovation and connection among Maine art teachers, and is hosting the event, asked members to create pieces inspired by the theme “Portals.”

The creative talents of the teachers span subject and medium. The exhibition includes whimsical ink and watercolor drawings, large scale canvas paintings and pinhole photographs captured using the first type of camera ever invented.

Joe McLaughlin, an art teacher at Windham High School, said the exhibit helped him show his students that he, like them, struggles and works through the challenges of the creative process. As he developed the series of paintings from which he chose his submission, he kept his students in the loop.


“I’ll even acknowledge when I’m having an issue in the studio,” McLaughlin said. He’ll tell his students, ”You know the things I always say to you? I had to tell myself that the other night.”

“When they can see that I’m creating as well, I’m believable,” he said. “They understand that I actually practice what I preach.”

For teachers who struggle to create art due to busy work schedules and families, the exhibit offered them the important motivation of an opportunity to show their work.

“We don’t have a lot of time to paint and be creative because we’re teaching all the time,” said Rachel Somerville, the art director at the Westbrook School Department. “But it’s essential for all teachers, no matter what their subject, to have a place to practice.”

For Maine art educators, this exhibit created that place. Teachers pursued their personal projects while getting the chance to relate to their students on a different level–as fellow artists.

In addition to reinforcing that these teachers are artists in their own right, the exhibition allowed them to show their students that displaying art in a gallery is not some far off dream, but a reality they can achieve.


Cheri Juniewicz, a teacher at the Saccarappa Elementary School in Westbrook, plans to take a video of her work at the exhibit to show her students.

“Often they feel that artists are people they don’t know … but when they know it’s somebody like me, a regular person doing it, I think it makes it more real for them. Like they can do it, too,” Juniewicz said.

James Jelin is a contributor to the Lakes Region Weekly.

A Closer Look

Portals: Work by Maine Art Education Association Members

USM Art Gallery, Gorham campus, 37 College Ave.


Opening Reception: Saturday, Jan. 28, 2-4 p.m.; artist talks begin at 2:30 p.m.

Regular hours: Through March 2, closed Feb. 22-24; Wednesdays-Thursdays, noon-6 p.m., Fridays-Sundays, noon-4 p.m. Other days and times by appointment.

Cheri Juniewicz, a teacher at Saccarappa School in Westbrook, shown here with some of her students’ work, says the “Portal” makes being an artist more of a reality for youth.

Windham High School art teacher Joe McLaughlin, with one of his works at his home, is among the exhibtors at a special show at the USM Art Gallery in Gorham.

“Portals: Work by Maine Art Education Association Members” will be shown through March 2.

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