Coming to the Lewis Gallery


May 5-July 15, 2023 

Portland Public Library Lewis Gallery 

 *See below for information on how to purchase a piece of art from the exhibit

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. The exhibit is 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. 

Portland elementary school teacher Jes Ellis worked with Side x Side and Teaching Artist Pamela Moulton to integrate mixed media sculpture with the third grade waterways and salmon curriculum. The students’ sculptures are exhibited alongside the nationally recognized artists. 

Because the arts have the unique ability to distill complex ideas, convey emotion and pull people into a deeper discussion, guided community conversations and ritual event programming will accompany the exhibit, facilitated by performance artist Flor Cron, intermedia artist Rachel Church, performance artist Rachel Alexandrou, and food writer Alana Dao.  They will engage the community in a dialogue around sustenance, food security, and sustainability, providing a foundation to think critically and conceptually about community impact. 

This project is supported by Side x Side, the Maine Humanities Council, the Maine Arts Commission, and Space Gallery’s ARP funding. 

*If you are interested in purchasing a piece of art from the exhibit, please contact Rachael Harkness at (207) 871-1700 x723 or  Click here for price list.

Africa to Maine
March 24 – June 18

In the Lower Level Hallway

The photography exhibition Africa to Maine, on display at the Portland Public Library March 24-June 18, opens a window on immigrants’ perspectives of their homelands. The forty-seven pictures are personal family photographs taken by Mainers of African descent. Maine’s African immigrants arrived here as refugees fleeing violence and conflict with few possessions–but one thing portable enough to travel across continents and oceans, and holding deep personal meaning, was a handful of cherished family photographs. Posed group portraits or candid snapshots, these pictures depict relatives and friends, social occasions and every-day scenes in Angola, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda and Zambia between the 1960’s and 2022.

This exhibition was assembled by the Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center as a community response to the exhibit Outside the Frame: Todd Webb in Africa, running concurrently at the Portland Museum of Art. Webb was an American photographer who travelled across Africa in the 1950’s on assignment from the United Nations. The wars, famines and social upheavals that constitute the history of the next sixty years are absent from Webb’s images, but they hover in the background of the photos shared by Maine’s African community members. The presence of this community in Maine is a direct result of those conflicts, but as these extraordinary images show, they do not define the way Africans view their homelands. Rather, the images are characterized by love, dignity, and the sanctity of the family. Maine’s Africans have their own story to tell–these photographs speak for themselves.

Young people smiling, a sample of the work found in the photography exhibit "Africa to Maine," Photographs of Maine Immigrants’ and Refugees’ Homelands


click to enlarge

click to enlarge

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.


Art Class: Exhibit of Student Work from the Portland Public High Schools
March 31 – April 21
*See details below to purchase artwork

In the Lewis Gallery

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.

*If you would like to purchase a piece of student work that is for sale, please contact Gallery and Special Programs Coordinator, Rachael Harkness at with the title and/or a photo of the piece.

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 Art Curated 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 acts
that 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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