Michel Droge, “The Absence of You in Moonlight (Night Harvest #5),” oil and acrylic on canvas, and on view in January at a Mayo Street Arts pop-up exhibition. Courtesy of Mayo Street Arts

June Fitzpatrick, the beloved former gallery owner known for her quiet good cheer, brightens winter with her buoyant spirit as she lends her artistic eye to a pair of pop-up exhibitions presented by Mayo Street Arts in the former Nissen Bakery Building at 67 Washington Ave., Portland.

The contemporary art exhibitions will include works by Richard Wilson, Michel Droge, Shannon Rankin, Justin Richel, Noriko Sakanishi, William Manning, Christopher Patch and others. The first show opens Friday and the second will open Feb. 5.

It’s the first time Fitzpatrick has been involved in the contemporary art scene since she closed her Congress Street gallery in 2016.

“I am very excited about it,” she said in a phone call from her Portland home. “I haven’t left the house for almost two years. It’s always exciting to see more art coming on the scene.”

Richard Wilson, “The Choice,” curated by June Fitzpatrick into a pop-up exhibition hosted by Mayo Street Arts. Courtesy of Mayo Street Arts

Blainor McGough, Mayo Street’s executive director, said the pop-up space in the former bakery will enforce all CDC guidelines, including masking and limiting visitors. “The MSA Pop-Up is a way to keep our spirits up during the days ahead,” McGough said in a press release. “Even during tough times, art brings joy and meaning to our lives.”

The first show, on view until Jan. 22, will feature Wilson, Droge, Rankin and Richel. “The January show is larger. There are more artists showing because it’s a dodgy month,” Fitzgerald said, invoking the slang of her native Britain. “There’s that lull after the holidays. I used to close in January, or give the gallery to an artist to do with what they wanted. I didn’t have a regular show, it seemed. But a group show brings in more energy of course – more artists, more energy. There’s quite a bit of color in this show.”

From Feb. 5-26, she will feature Manning, Sakanishi and Patch.

There is no theme for either month. “Just a gathering of artists,” Fitzpatrick said. “They’re all Maine artists. I am the only outsider, but I have been here 50 years, so I consider myself a Mainer.” Upon her retirement, Maine College of Art recognized Fitzpatrick with an honorary doctorate of the arts for her contributions to the art world.

She curated the pop-up exhibitions entirely online, communicating with the artists and Mayo Street by phone and email. Although she knows most of the artists from her gallery days, Fitzpatrick hasn’t seen them in ages. “I am in my 80s, so I am at high risk of COVID. There has been no meeting face-to-face, unfortunately. But I will see them when they drop off their work and we hang the show. It’s interesting for me to be once again surrounded by artists and new art. It is going to be great.”

June Fitzpatrick sits behind the desk at her gallery for the last time in 2016. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

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