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Meet Ella, Teen Curator of Lewis Gallery Exhibit

High school senior, Ella Burdin, organized, promoted, funded, and executed a Portland Public School district-wide exhibit of student and faculty artwork.

When we first introduced high school senior Ella Burdin in November 2021, she was interning in the Lewis Gallery under the guidance of Gallery Manager Rachael Harkness, learning the process of how the fall exhibit, ILLUSTRATED MONSTERS BY MONSTER ILLUSTRATORS , was curated, hung, and promoted. This spring, Ella has returned to the Lewis Gallery as the curator of  Art Class, a new exhibit highlighting the art of students and teachers from Portland-area high schools. This fresh work gives visitors the opportunity to browse the work of emerging young artists, including Ella.


Ella’s artistic talents and interest in the field were shaped by her early exposure to the arts. She grew up in galleries and recalls spending many rainy days at the Portland Museum of Art with her family, exploring their collections. She vividly remembers pieces that made an impression,  specifically Dahlov Ipcar’s Blue Savannah. This stunning painting has remained a favorite. As a teenager, a Fellowship opportunity at the PMA solidified her desire to work in a museum as a curator. Today, PMA continues to have an impact and remains one of her favorite places to visit.


Art Class: Exhibit of Student & Teacher work from the Portland Public High Schools on display in the Lewis Gallery.

At PPL, her hands-on experience curating and hanging Art Class energized her post-high school goal of pursuing a career in the arts and presented a fresh appreciation for the details required in creating a dynamic exhibit: from selecting the work to the detail-oriented tasks of measuring and leveling, running mathematical calculations to creative improvising when specific tools were unavailable.  

“The Lewis Gallery internship has been an amazing experience and I couldn’t imagine a better opportunity. Seeing the gallery all finished and watching the artists see their work in a professional gallery was amazing!” – Ella

Under the guidance of Rachael, Ella (along with friends and fellow artists who helped with the hanging process) created a thoughtful presentation with a wide range of work.


As a gifted artist, it is the materials that often inspire her dynamic work. She delights in experimenting with mixed media and incorporating as many possible materials into her pieces. This past year, she enjoyed melting wax and oil pastels creating beautiful pools of color.

In the Fall, Ella will be heading to Tufts University to pursue a dual degree program in art history at the college of arts and sciences and mixed media art at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA) where she plans to focus on her long-term goals of being becoming a museum gallery curator while continuing to create her art. 

Ella, with Lewis Gallery Manager, Rachael Harkness, poses under one of Ella’s pieces.

“I really enjoyed working with Ella on her internship.  She’s incredibly smart and hardworking and because of that, we were able to work together to make her internship interesting and a great learning experience for both of us.  With just a little guidance from me, she organized, promoted, funded, and executed a Portland Public School district-wide exhibit of student and faculty artwork.  She is the true definition of a self-starter and I am excited to see what her bright future holds.” – Rachael Harkness, Portland Public Library, Programming & Lewis Gallery Manager

Thank you, Ella, for being part of the Library’s art gallery programming and creating a beautiful show spotlighting the talent of our schools for all to enjoy!

posted: , by Heather Wasklewicz
tags: Adults | Teens | Teen Events | Parents & Teachers | Kids & Families | Discover Portland | Seniors | Art & Culture | News
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