Lincoln Middle School art teacher Louis-Pierre Lachapelle consults with gallery manager Danielle Frye about this month’s student art show. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

PORTLAND — Noted abstract artist Leo Rabkin’s work was shown in art galleries near and far throughout his long career, and as a school teacher, he often opened his New York City studio to students. A Portland gallery that houses more than 2,400 of his pieces not only welcomes students, it’s now giving them the thrill of seeing their own work professionally exhibited.

On Friday, Dec. 6, The Dorothea and Leo Rabkin Foundation on Brown Street will unveil Shaping Minds, a show of abstract pieces from 11 seventh and eighth grade students in Lincoln Middle School’s Event Arts, an after school club offered by art teacher Louise-Pierre Lachapelle.

The show, which runs through January, is made up of abstract prints inspired by Rabkin and other modern abstract masters. The students also created 3D pieces that correspond with their work.

Lachapelle said he challenged Event Arts students, who were selected not necessarily for their art skills, but for their art vision, to think about the elements incorporated into the print and 3D pieces and how the public would connect the two.

The show features abstract prints and 3D pieces by 11 students from Lincoln Middle School. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

While Lachapelle has frequently brought his students to the gallery, this is the first time he and The Dorothea and Leo Rabkin Foundation have teamed up for a student exhibition.

“Almost 100% of the time, the art that students create will stay in the school or stay at their homes (and) no one else ever gets to see it. That inspired me,” Lachapelle said.


Danielle Frye, the foundation’s curator of collection and gallery manager, said not only do the students see their art displayed, they are also learning what goes into putting together an exhibition.

Susan Larsen, a friend of the Rabkins and executive director of the foundation, said the joint venture made sense because as an artist Leo Rabkin and former public school teacher loved to open his studio in New York City to school groups.

Introducing students to a professional art studio is important, Lachapelle said, especially one like the Rabkin Foundation, where people are encouraged to interact with the art.

“When students walk into a gallery for the first time, they see that art is accessible. It is not about going to a large gallery and looking at a large mural and having to keep your hands in your pockets,” he said.

Frye said she hopes students learn art is much more than using paint or clay.

“There are so many possibilities than what you normally find in a school art studio,” she said.

Larsen said Rabkin, who died in 2015, was known for using some of his prints in his other art pieces.

“His whole idea was as an artist you are never done. You may want to go back and look at something another way and create something else with it,” she said.

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