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Current exhibits

TENSION: Climate + Environment
Responses to the impact of climate change on our daily experience.
Presented by USM Center for the Book
March 1 – April 20, 2024

An open book displaying various kinds of bird wings, a piece titled "Vanishing Birds" by Sarah Harvey

Vanishing Birds by Sarah Harvey

Our existence is marked by the seasonal bounty of our environment. Yet, in this lifetime, we are witnessing the rapid loss of colorful, melodic, and unique forms of earth’s treasures. This exhibition speaks to the palpable tension engendered by a changing climate and laments the threat to so much of what we love.



Kandapara Brothel: Invited In
Tangail, Bangladesh
Presented by Partners for World Health
March 8 – September 16, 2024

Kandapara Brothel: Invited In is part of an extended exhibit offered in partnership with the Portland Public Library to celebrate the 15th Anniversary of the founding of Partners for World Health. (PWH)  

 Founded in 2009 by Elizabeth McLellan, PWH works to improve health care and reduce environmental impact by collecting surplus medical equipment and supplies and distributing them to communities in need globally and locally. Additionally, PWH sends teams of US medical professionals to developing countries to provide education, training, and direct care to those in need.  

 PWH brought its first medical mission to Bangladesh in 2012, and in 2017 expanded its impact in the region through a partnership with the Rotary Club of Dhaka Pathfinders. It was then that PWH was invited to visit the Kandapara brothel in Tangail to provide healthcare in support of the women and children living there. This relationship continues to this day.  

 In 2018, award-winning documentarian and photographer, David Wright, traveled to Kandapara with PWH. This exhibit represents a selection of the images he captured when he was “invited in” to the brothel.  




Call for Guest Curator identifying as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and Persons of Color)  

Portland Public Library is seeking to expand the curatorial perspective in the Lewis Gallery by contracting a Guest Curator to curate the annual illustration exhibit for 2024. We are seeking an individual or individuals who identify as BIPOC and reside in Maine.


Call for Artists: #OurStoryIsOne

Portland Public Library invites artists to submit work for an upcoming exhibit from July- September 2024 with a focus on international and women’s healthcare and wellbeing. We are looking for work specifically responding to the international #OurStoryIsOne campaign launched by the Baha’i International Community in 2023. The exhibit will be juried by a committee of library staff and volunteers.



A Quarter Century In Frames:
25th Anniversary of The Bakery Photographic Collective
May 3–June 29, 2024
In this exhibit, the Bakery Photographic Collective commemorates a quarter century of visual storytelling and image making.
From the nostalgic black-and-white classics to the vibrant and contemporary captures, each photograph unveils a unique narrative, showcasing the artistry and passion that have defined our journey. Explore the diverse themes, styles, and emotions that have shaped our visual odyssey as a photographic collective.
Celebrate this milestone with us, as we honor the essence of storytelling through the lens, marking 25 years of preserving memories, emotions, and the beauty of the world around us. Join us for an immersive experience that transcends time and invites you to relive, reminisce, and revel in the power of photography and community.

click to enlarge

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The Lewis Gallery is centrally located at our Downtown Library in the heart of Portland’s Art District. It is very accessible and enjoys a large audience of community members. The library is very interested in working with curators and artists to help reflect the diversity of our community including members of the BIPOC community, LGBTQIA+ community, and/or persons with cognitive or mental disabilities. We host exhibits throughout the year with community organizations and collaborators. If you are interested in exhibiting your work please contact Gallery and Special Programs Coordinator, Rachael Harkness at or (207) 871-1700 x723.

The Library’s Cultural Center Team is currently reviewing exhibit proposal guidelines in an effort to make the gallery more accessible to artists and curators and will post them here when the process is complete.


Photos of the Year
Presented by Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram
January 12 – February 17, 2024

FALMOUTH, ME – MARCH 2: Abel Celestino of the Baxter Seagulls reacts after making a basket during their final season game against Pine Tree Academy. (Staff photo by Derek Davis/Staff Photographer)

Beauty comes in many forms. A diver suspended in midair. A flock of pigeons rising in the snow. The stillness of a lobster boat and a man and dog on a paddleboard in calm ocean waters at sunset. Portland Press Herald photographers uncover unexpected beauty every day. They show us the profound beauty of connection. The tenderness of a loving husband and his wife, who is in hospice, celebrating their anniversary. The resilience of families who have traveled from a world away trying to make a new home in a strange land together. The collective grief of a community experiencing enormous loss after an act of previously unimaginable violence. It is a great privilege to photograph the people and stories of Maine. Here is some of our best work from 2023.

Why We Make Comics:
Reflections on Storytelling
October 6 – December 30, 2023
Portland Public Library Lewis Gallery 

Comic Books and Graphic Novels have become one of the most popular formats in the literary world. Known for their lively and visual content, the books are widely read among kids, teens and adults. Many people read them, and if they aren’t reading them, they are wondering why everyone else is! But what are Graphic Novels? Are they different from Comic Books? What compels authors and artists to tell stories using this sequential visual art form? Portland Public Library has asked 4 comic artists and graphic novelists to create a life-sized exhibit to explore what comics mean to them through their own personal connection to this art form and the journey they’ve taken to become practitioners of this powerful and exciting genre.

Isabella Rotman, Caroline Hu, Liz Prince and Mel Gilman, the artists featured in this exhibit, are some of the finest professionals in the field. Each artist rose to the challenge and created a short, autobiographical comic specifically for this exhibit. With Why We Make Comics, Portland Public Library hopes to both educate patrons who might be curious about reading a Graphic Novel or Comic Book for the first time and to celebrate this genre with those already engaging with it.

We have created a zine from the artists’ works—available in French, Spanish and Portuguese—to accompany the exhibit.

July 28th – September 23, 2023

Curated by artists Ashley Page and Meg Hahn, this exhibition each draws inspiration from our constructed world, natural environment, and social structures by transmuting their daily experiences into playful new perspectives. Through various creative processes that include painting, sculpture, photography, and interdisciplinary practices, these artists use the mundane human experience as a point of departure, to create work that displays optimistic truths and transportive new worlds. Viewfinder is an invitation to step into the creative process and experience the world through the artists’ lens that merges worlds, identities, cultures, environments, truths, and more. Our hope is for viewers to leave with a renewed sense of what is possible.

May 5 – July 15, 2023

Sustenance is both a verb (to sustain) and a noun. The history of the word stems from the latin to hold up, to bear; and the French to support, aid, in the context of a means of living. Portland Public Library and Side x Side announce an exhibit exploring the theme of sustenance. SUSTENANCE, on view in the Library’s Lewis Gallery May 5-July 15, 2023, is curated by local artist Lin Lisberger, and Bates College professor Myron M. Beasley. The exhibit will showcase work from local and out-of-state artists with a focus on three elements: food, water, and containers. “Portland Public Library is thrilled to be hosting this exhibit around the accessible and relatable theme of sustenance”, said Rachael Harkness, gallery manager at Portland Public Library. “We are looking forward to the conversations this exhibit starts in our community.” The exhibit will be an invitation to ponder the concept of sustenance, particularly given the recent lived realities of the COVID-19 global pandemic and the increased awareness of inequality in opportunity, race, income, and food security. Lisberger and Beasley state, “At the core of our curatorial interest is the belief that an exhibit should have the highest quality work that encourages viewers to ask questions about how and why the artists felt compelled to make that work, and how art itself sustains us.”

Because the arts have the unique ability to distill complex ideas, convey emotion and pull people into a deeper discussion, there will be a June 2, 2023 (5-7pm) panel and community conversation, with a food ritual event, facilitated by performance artist Flor Cron, intermedia artist Rachel Church, performance artist and forager Rachel Alexandrou, and food writer Alana Dao. They will engage the community in a discussion about how food, art, and storytelling work together in their various art and life practices. The panelists will address a variety of social topics, such as community, identity, land, and food access, providing a foundation to think critically and conceptually about the broader ideas of art and sustenance.

This project is supported by Side x Side, The Maine Humanities Council, and the Maine Arts Commission. Support for SUSTENANCE is also provided by the American Rescue Plan Maine Project Grants, a subgranting program administered by SPACE Gallery for the National Endowment for the Arts.

Art Class: Exhibit of Student Work from the Portland Public High Schools
March 31 – April 21, 2023

Art Class features artwork from all four Portland public high schools: Portland High School, Deering High School, Casco Bay High School, and Portland Arts and Technology High School. All art students attending one of these schools were encouraged to submit work to be displayed in the show with the optional theme of “identity”. Portland Public Library is honored to be hosting this exhibition which gives students the rare opportunity to publicly display their artwork in their own community, we hope that it will encourage students to continue pursuing and creating art beyond the classroom.

Since 2009, Painting for a Purpose has supported youth-led service learning projects in the Portland Public Schools. Check out for more information.

Photos of the Year
Portland Press Herald / Maine Today Media

January 13 – February 17, 2023

The best photojournalists carefully observe the world. They notice the most authentic details and bring them to us in ways we are unable to forget. Photographs by themselves may not be able to change the world or stop a war, but they can pinpoint what we have in common, what’s worth our investment, our hope, our struggle and our fight. They can help us see our surroundings more clearly. They can inspire us to action. We share some of the best of the year from the photographers of the Portland Press Herald in a gallery at the Portland Public Library.




A Blue: Daniel Minter and the Layered Narrative of Illustration
In the Lewis Gallery
November 4 – December 30, 2022

A Blue: Daniel Minter and the Layered Narrative of Illustration explores the children’s book artistry of Coretta Scott King and Caldecott Honor winner Daniel Minter. Using a visual vocabulary, Minter not only communicates the arc of the story, but expresses narratives within each layered illustration. Each image invites readers to explore the depth of the Black experience. Referencing the water, the crossing, the land, and desolation, Minter also tells readers how a people retained, remade, reimagined, and reclaimed themselves through their valorization to family, work, and love.

Minter’s fine art has been featured in numerous institutions and galleries including the Portland Museum of Art, Seattle Art Museum, The Charles H. Wright Museum, Tacoma Art Museum, Bates College, University of Southern Maine, Center for Maine Contemporary Art, The David C. Driskell Center, Bowdoin College, the Farnsworth Museum, Hood Museum of Art and the Northwest African American Art Museum. A travel grant from the National Endowment for the Arts enabled him to live and work in Salvador, Bahia Brazil where he established relationships that have continued to nurture his life and work in important ways. Minter is a graduate of the Art Institute of Atlanta and holds an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from The Maine College of Art.

The award-winning illustrator of over a dozen children’s books, Minter considers picture books a place and medium to hold crucial conversations with children. Featured in this exhibit are illustrations from his books Blue: A History of the Color As Deep As the Sea and as Wide as the Sky, So Tall Within: Sojourner Truth’s Long Walk to Freedom, Going Down Home with Daddy which won a 2020 Caldecott Honor, The Women Who Caught the Babies, Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World Kindness, Ellen’s Broom which won a Coretta Scott King Illustration Honor, and Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story which won a Best Book Award from the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio. Also included in the exhibit are the pieces he created for U.S. Postal Service Kwanzaa stamps in 2004 and 2011.

In Maine, Daniel Minter’s work moves beyond the canvas and the children’s book page. As founding director of Maine Freedom Trails, he has brought the history of the Underground Railroad and the abolitionist movement to the streets of Portland in a series of markers. For the past 15 years Minter has used his art and voice to raise awareness of the 1912 forced removal of an interracial community on Maine’s Malaga Island. His formative work emerges from Minter’s active engagement with the island, its descendants, archeologists, anthropologists, and scholars. This dedication to righting history was pivotal in having the island designated a public preserve. In 2019, Minter co-founded Indigo Arts Alliance, a non-profit dedicated to cultivating the artistic development of people of African descent. Indigo Arts Alliance and Minter are founders of the Beautiful Blackbird Children’s Book Festival, an annual event celebrating children’s books and creators that tell the stories of the African Diaspora.

This exhibit was curated by Kirsten Cappy of I’m Your Neighbor Books and is made possible by the generous support of Camden National Bank and Greenhut Galleries.  Daniel Minter is represented exclusively in Maine by Greenhut Galleries in Portland.


Inside Vision: An Outside Exhibition of Inside ArtCurated by Jan Collins, Olivia Hochstadt, and Sophie Craven
Lewis Gallery
October 3–22, 2022

Inside Vision: An Outside Exhibition of Inside Art features visual art, writing, and music by individuals incarcerated at MaineState Prison and Maine correctional facilities. Residents of Maine’s prisons express their lived experience, their hopes, and their dreams in the art they create. Their artwork defies stereotypes and emphasizes that we are all more than the worst actsthat we have committed. Through their art, those living inside convey the message that, “We are whole people with loves and losses, skills, talents, ideas, and gifts . . . and a longing to be free.” Inside Vision is a joint effort between the Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition and the Maine Department of Corrections.

Supported by the Cottonwood Foundation and the American Rescue Plan Maine
Project Grant provided by SPACE Gallery


Origins of The American-Style Donut
Lewis Gallery
August 5-September 21, 2022

“What love and loathing we have for doughnuts and their holes. And what better place to delve into this ambiguity than the home territory of the putative inventor of the doughnut hole.”
-Food Historian Sandy Oliver, excerpt from Love, Loathing and Doughnuts, 2018

Hole History Show III: Origins of the American-Style Donut began in 2014, as a personal inquiry into ways that artist-curator Alexis Iammarino’s work as a community artist could more assertively combine her interests in interdisciplinary, collaborative, and critical research models and, in an idiomatic fashion, from the field of public history.

The project has its own origins to stories Iammarino heard in Maine’s Midcoast, claiming that the hole-in-the-donut was singularly invented by a 19th-century sea captain, Hanson Crockett Gregory from Rockport, Maine.

This curatorial project offers a conceptual terrain and an inclusive venue for discourse between the dynamics of belief and fact, as well as the implication and significance of “American” as an adjective. In Hole History Show III, Iammarino remains curious about the power of art and aesthetics to intellectualize, editorialize, and inspire resistance to or an embracing of any story.

Living through such a time of national division and American partisan politics, how is it that individuals respond to “our times” and the culture of fake news or false, misleading, or bombastic claims (of all kinds) to prompt their own cultural and societal critique of how knowledge hierarchies operate in relational spaces between faith and fact; representation and abstraction; linear and circuitous; real and fake.

“The past has not been erased, its erasure has not been forgotten, the lie has not become truth. But the past of proof is strange and, on its uncertain future, much in public life turns. In the end, it comes down to this: the history of truth is cockamamie, and lately it’s been getting cockamamier.”

– Jill Lepore, “After the Fact,” In the history of truth, a new chapter begins. The New Yorker, March 14, 2016

Works by Sam Onche, Mayele Alognon, Eamon White

Celebrate the works of three artists in the Lewis Gallery for the month of July. Opening June 28. First Friday Art Walk July 1, 5:00-8:00 pm.


Sam Onche is an illustrator/painter based in the United States. He was born in Nigeria, Benue and moved to the US in 2015. He studied studio art at Colby College with a focus in oil painting. Sam uses the digital and oil medium to create illustrations for posters, prints, book covers and album covers. He uses Black art as a voice to speak on issues, expectations as well as representation of Black people in our world today. Themes that can be seen in his work are fashion, music, culture and afrofuturism. He has worked with Colorforchange, Inspiration Grid, Creative Boom,, ICanvas , Shein, The Hut, iCatch canvas, Outside Colby and over 20 album covers.


Mayele Alognon is a Beninese-born Togolese-American visual artist currently residing in Brooklyn, NY. Mayele’s work explores repetition, fragmentation, as well as the confusing and murky intersections of identity. She works primarily with watercolor and gouache on toned surfaces such as cardboard and paper bags.

Mayele’s artistic practice centers around puzzle solving. Essentially the need to fit images next to, or rather, on top of each other in an effort to get at the true complexity of the subject—oftentimes, herself. The puzzles that she’s most drawn to are imperfect, the ones that are clunky and awkward with maybe a few pieces missing. Ones where the pieces fit just right and just wrong. In a way where the fragments still hold as much significance as the bigger picture.


Eamon White is a Portland, Maine-based artist and graduate of Merrimack College with a degree in digital design. Inspired and taught in painting by his grandmother since childhood, art has become a way for Eamon to encourage people to think about what is happening in our world and highlight social issues in a way aimed at inspiring unity and togetherness. Eamon’s art takes many forms including graphic design and customized hand-painted shoes and athletic footwear. In addition to being an artist, Eamon enjoys his work as an educator, coach, and youth advocate in his home state.


Art Class

Work by Ella Burdin

In the Spring of 2022 PPL featured an exhibit titled Art Class: Exhibit of Student & Teacher work from Portland Public High Schools in the Lewis Gallery.
The exhibit celebrated the work of High School students and their teachers and mentors. Curated by High School senior and Lewis Gallery intern, Ella Burdin, this group exhibit highlights the work of current students at Portland High School, Deering High School, Casco Bay High School and Portland Area Technical High School.


Re-Emergence: USM Book Arts

Kousa Dogwood, by Kathleen Bender

In the Lewis Gallery – April 4-25

The University of Southern Maine Kate Chaney Chappell ’83 Center for Book Arts is delighted to be back in the Lewis Gallery this year, hopeful that 2022 sees us all unfolding, turning pages and re-emerging. The artwork presented in the gallery represents artist’s books from current students in the Visual Book classes, and Critique Group members at the USM Kate Cheney Chappell ’83 Center for Book Arts.

The past two years we continued to make art in isolation and stretched to make connections and learn over Zoom. While not every piece in this exhibit directly speaks to the pandemic, you certainly will find that many of us turned toward nature for comfort, got creative with using materials on hand in our homes, and felt the upheaval of the world work it’s way into our art.

We are grateful for you to view our work in person. We encourage you to have a conversation about the art with others in the gallery. Just as we feel the importance of connecting with a wider audience, we hope you are re-emerging and making connections with your community.


Illustrated Monsters by Monster Illustrators
Curated by Illustration Institute

In creating a monster, a dictionary is of no use.

The definition of “enormous and frightening imaginary creatures” is a wholly inadequate description of our relationship with these beings. Monsters are strangely comfortable in our lives and are culturally more nuanced and confusing to us than ever. They can be horrifying, cute, malicious, dim, powerful and pathetic.

Perhaps the disturbing aspect of monsters is that they remain a foil to our humane characteristics. Monsters in all forms help us understand the things that can happen if our better nature runs astray, help us face our fears, laugh in the face of absudity and embrace otherness with empathy.

Illustrated Monsters by Monster Illustrators provided a unique opportunity to explore a universal subject that spans cultures and informs storytelling on many levels. Each illustrator in the show showed a wealth of artistic expertise, inspiration and stories to share.

This show was curated by Illustration Institute. Thank you to The Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation and The Onion Foundation for their kind support.


Art in Captivity: Inside Out
Part of Freedom & Captivity

artwork on a table with supplies stored in a used creamer box

Portland Public Library partnered with Freedom & Captivity to create an exhibit of photographs of art created by current inmates in Maine. These photographs by Séan Alonzo Harris, Lesley MacVane and Trent Bell from inside Maine’s Correctional Facilities revealed the human necessity to create art. This exhibit was on view in the Congress Street windows at Portland Public Library from September 15 – October 15, 2021.

An outdoor opening reception was held during October’s First Friday Art Walk on October 1, 2021 from 5 – 8 pm on Congress Street with Maine Youth Justice.

Maine Youth Justice is a youth-led, nonpartisan, activist organization whose goal is to close Long Creek, Maine’s youth detention facility, and create safer and stronger communities by investing in a continuum of community-based alternatives to incarceration for youth where all of Maine’s young people can not only survive, but thrive.

The vision of youth justice is a collaborative and equitable response to harm that recognizes and builds on the strengths of individuals and community.

The Youth Justice project was funded in part by a grant from the Maine Arts Commission, an independent state agency supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.

MYJ will have a table with information about the campaign to close Long Creek, how to get involved in the movement to end youth incarceration and Know Your Rights posters created by Central Maine SURJ (Showing Up For Racial Justice).

Freedom & Captivity is a state-wide public humanities initiative during Fall 2021 to bring critical perspectives from the humanities to the interrogation of incarceration. Recognizing that mass incarceration is fueled by racism and profit-generating mechanisms that tear apart communities and families, the project offers opportunities for public engagement about imagining prison abolition and the redirection of resources toward community investments, the repair of racial and gender injustice, intergenerational trauma, and eldercare for the aging population in Maine’s prisons. The project, which includes art exhibitions, workshops, webinars, a podcast, research and creative production, public education materials, and linked courses taught across Maine’s campuses, aims to cultivate opportunities for imagining freedom in an abolitionist society. The project is conceived with the participation of people in Maine directly impacted by the carceral system.


MAPS: Maine Amori Printmaking Society
Curated by Jeff Badger








Curated by Nancy Davidson and Ilana Welch

Terrible Beauties by Stephen Burt


Artists Books
Curated by USM Book Arts
Boundless Possibilities 2: USM Book Arts
Click here to view the virtual gallery 

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