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One of the first works you see when you enter the Albert Brenner Glickman Galleries to view Relational Undercurrents: Contemporary Art of the Caribbean Archipelago is Juana Valdes’ Under View of the World /El mundo desde abajo. In this deep, blue work, she uses objects such as porcelain figurines and bone china saucers—each one stamped with an identifying mark that often references the country of production—to highlight the global circulation of commodities as a metaphor for colonialism.

A globally renowned artist, Valdes says she “sustains a multidisciplinary practice that explores matters of race, trans‑nationalism, gender, labor, and class. My work functions as an archive that analyzes and decodes that intersectionality of this subject by investigating their history of place of origin. I map complex experiences of migration as an Afro‑Cuban American artist or Latinx artist, if you want to say that. What comes into multiple cultures nation constructions of identity and how these identities constantly being shaped and reshaped by the experience of displacement and transculturation.”

Prior to the opening of Relational Undercurrents, The PMA sat down with Juana to discuss her work and the exhibition.

 

Juana: I was born in Cuba. I guess that's the most important thing. I grew up in Miami. A lot of my childhood was in Miami. I moved to New York in my early 20s to become an artist and my educational foundation takes place in New York. Also, in many ways, my coming of age.

I've realized over the last couple of years that my worked really looks back at this whole issue of migration and trans‑nationalism. It looks at women and specifically women of color. Then, questions their role in society—their labor, their worth as women, their worth as laborers, physical labor, how does that work with this whole socio-economical structure that exists already in the world.

For the last couple of years, I've specifically been working with domestic ware. I realize that a lot of the work does use mass-produced objects. I've been using mass-produced objects to talk about the labor it takes to make these objects. Lately it has been bone china. Through the bone china, I'm tracking this idea of commodity as it begins in Europe and it travels to the Americas through the Caribbean, and how that is also tied to the issue of slave, the issue of labor, ultimately globalization.

Graeme: Your work hasn't always been ceramics and these sorts of things. How would you describe how your work has evolved over the past few years?

Juana: I went to school for sculpture and I think I always see myself as a sculptor. I find that a lot of the work I do, even if it's two‑dimensional, has a three‑dimensional quality to it, such as the sienna prints. When you look at it, it really makes you think about where your body is physically, and then you have to realize that you're looking up, and that already gives you a sense of orientation. The work started out as sculpture and it started out as prints. Then it evolved into a large‑scale installation that dealt with the environment and space.

I decided very specifically that I wanted to look at this whole idea of ethnicity, which began also with my looking at my own personal history. When that work came about, I started to shift mediums more in terms of working again with the re‑found objects, making pieces that were sculptures.

The first piece of ceramics that I did was a series of small porcelain birds. That was recreating a memory that I had in my childhood when I was still in Cuba. You didn't have money. You didn't have places to buy stuff. Kids would have to make up their own toys, and we used to make paper boats. We were lucky to have paper. We were very happy to have paper. The little things in life make a major difference. We used to make paper boats and we would run out and go to puddles and put the paper boats in the puddle and stamp on the water to make them move.

I had gone back to Cuba and had done a performance piece in which I sit in the Malecón and for a whole afternoon ripping pages of this traditional novel called Cecilia Valdez. I rip the pages out of the book, make them into boats, and then I throw them into the ocean to see if they will sail away. It's their futile attempt at escape. When I was in Holland, I had the opportunity to do ceramics and I'm like, "I'm going to make myself paper boats in porcelain."

I figured out how to do it and I did and I started this whole interest of working with porcelain and understanding the material and where it come from and ultimately the history of it. I really love the way in which the boats were able to really mirror the actual paper boats. I realized that this was a material that I had a natural affinity to. I've been working with it integrated into the materials that I use all the time now.

Graeme: Has your work changed at all over the last few years in response to this cultural moment that we seem to find ourselves in?

Juana: Well, yes and no. Actually, it has impacted the work because the work was already there. I want it to look at my own ethnicity. What does it mean to be a black woman? What does it mean to be of Afro descent, to be Cuban?

I want my work to address that component of how people are dealing with very hostile situations. I think now that people have a better understanding of intersectionality, that as a woman and as a black woman you might actually be dealing with double aggression. You get it from one point and you're also getting it from the other; you're always negotiating the space in which you're in. And the work addresses that. It has been addressing that for quite some time.

Graeme: Can you talk a little bit about your experience at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture?

Juana: I just fell in love, love, love, love with Maine. Skowhegan in and of itself is just wonderful. It's a magical place. It was my first introduction to Maine. I was very much an urban child and I was kind of mystified at first. A component about Skowhegan is that they have all the land around it. That sense of land and the sense of space and moving about. Because it was rural it felt very safe, but very open at the same time. Like you can just wander and just enjoy the nature. I don't know if I'm being naive because I was so young at the time. It just felt very wholesome and safe.

Graeme: Can you talk about the environmental themes of the show a little bit?

Juana: My work is probably not oriented more to the touristy ecology like some of the other artists. Part of what I do want my work to address is the idea of how we use resources and commodities and the fact that it's not this never-ending supply of land and natural resources. That the continual use of that in the way that we're doing is going to create a planet that is not sustainable. Hopefully, we'll find ways in which to change it.

Graeme: Maine is the only venue for this exhibition without a large center of Latinos, Caribbean folks, Latin culture, Caribbean culture. It seems there is a unique opportunity there, in that the state may appear disconnected from the issues and the people of this region.

Juana: I want to believe that we are not that disconnected anymore. I think social media made us aware. I feel that there're connections between people that are close to water or have a relationship to water. I believe that there are going to be point of entries into the work. I think also a lot of the works in the show are made in the way that the artists work in places where people don't necessarily have a lot of resources. They make do. That's another point of entry if I'm right about Maine.

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Originally printed in the spring 2019 issue of PMA Magazine, Nicole shares  her views on making art, the ways cultures evolve, and how she prefers to work outside the constraints of other people’s perceptions and limitations.
Nicole Awai knows what you’re thinking when you hear the word “Caribbean." Growing up in Trinidad and Tobago, she was surrounded by the standard portrayals of the region.

“I have no problem with people painting palm trees and beaches—go right ahead,” she says as we walk through the Prizm Art Fair at Art Basel Miami in December 2018. “I grew up with artists who did that, whose works were in our living rooms. Those works gave me a respect for painting and art, but the ideas that I have right now are not going to come out in that way. As an artist, that’s not what I’m interested in sharing with the world or looking at.”

What Awai is interested in is exploring the multitude of influences, histories, and cultures that inspire her and have had a hand in the make-up of her country, while ensuring she has room to work outside the constraints of other people’s perceptions and limitations. Primarily, she explains, most people just don’t know much about the region at all. “I think people still think of the Caribbean as some monolith in a very fixed way, but we’ve had so many different influences, different histories, so many different political actions. The effects of so many European, imperial places that developed completely different characters: the Anglophone Caribbean is so different from the Francophone Caribbean, from the Dutch Caribbean,” she says with a laugh. “People don’t know it.”

Awai is an easy laugher. As we walk around the fair, talking about her practice and the other work in the hall, her answers and observations are peppered with laughter, sometimes light and easy and sometimes tinged with a sense of release. “You might know this work,” she says as we approach the African-American artist Dread Scott’s performance Money To Burn from 2010. In it, Scott stands in front of the New York Stock Exchange and asks people passing by if they have any money to burn, before proceeding to light bills on fire. “It still cracks me up,” she says. “They tried to arrest him and all this nonsense. They must have been pissed.”

The dynamics of power, race, and representation have been at the fore of global culture over the past few years, and are prevalent throughout the Prizm Art Fair, which features international artists from the African Diaspora and various emerging markets who focus on sociopolitical and cultural issues pertinent to people of African descent. In addition to the artworks in the show, there are booths that sell novels by writers of color, as well as fashion cap

sules and even a wellness pop-up run by Black Lives Matter that offers free acupuncture to relieve stress.

Walking through the hall in the historic Alfred I. DuPont Building, Awai directs my eyes to the ceiling, where painted beams from the early 20th century heroically depict the Spanish colonization of Florida from the Spaniards’ point of view. There are conquistadors unloading cargo from their ships, erecting buildings and steeples, and battling Native Americans—all depicted as one might expect from commissioned artists in the early 1900s. The effect of this backdrop was not lost on either of us. “It’s like reclamation,” Awai says with a smile.

Indeed, there was something powerful about being in an exhibition of artworks by artists of color and featuring artists of color, redirecting the visitor focus from the historically one-sided narrative above. However, the lingering portrayals of colonial glory serve as a reminder that the legacies of colonialism, white supremacy, and racial inequality are not legacies at all—they are still very much alive, serving as the background for even the most progressive visions for the future.

The time it takes to reconcile these histories is a recurring theme throughout our conversation, as it turns to the impact of the current sociopolitical climate on Relational Undercurrents: Contemporary Art of the Caribbean Archipelago, the PMA exhibition that features her work, “Dream On—Happy Ending . . .”

“The one thing you do see that’s interesting,” she says, “is the response to [Relational Undercurrents], everywhere it goes, is characterized by the community that is there. I was able to come down for the opening here in Miami, and the conversations were so different than, say, the one in New York or the one in Los Angeles... In a way, I think everywhere it goes, it highlights the quality of the interaction of Caribbean people in America and how that, in itself, is so diverse.”

“On that note,” I interject, “Maine?!?”

Awai laughs. “That’s going to be a completely different interaction, as well.”

I tell her how the state is one of the least-diverse and oldest populations in the country, although we do have burgeoning populations of East Africans immigrants and first-generation Mainers, an influx of younger professionals moving from major cities, as well as one of the largest populations of same-sex couples per capita than all but six states.

I think it actually makes it more important that [Relational Undercurrents] is in those spaces,” she says. “There’s obviously this effect of all of these cultures on the Americas that people are not aware of, but is active and is influencing all these communities in some way. We’re in a moment in the country where that’s the problem: people don’t understand that even though you’re not seeing all these people around, all of their culture and interactions have had an effect on your culture as a whole. That’s something that’s not recognized.”

In an era of disconnectedness, Awai strives to connect the dots. As an Afro-Asian artist from one of the most culturally diverse countries in the Caribbean, her work creates opportunities to discover throughlines of history, culture, people, and even materials. Her work in Relational Undercurrents, for example, conveys the distinct natural resources of Trinidad and Tobago while speaking to shared experiences throughout the Caribbean and the elasticity of time, space, and place. The exhibition catalogue describes the work as “a hybrid painting and sculpture made of black polyurethane resin that resembles nothing as much as a congealed oil spill.” This “black ooze,” as Awai describes it, is a direct reference to the landscapes of Trinidad and Tobago.

“To this day,” she says, “people are so surprised when I tell them I’m not from a tourist economy. Trinidad and Tobago is not a tourist economy. It is oil and natural gas—that stuff. Maybe that’s part of why I’m so interested in materiality and always have been.

Whether the country’s landscape and resources are a subject for Awai or a part of Awai’s identity is a distinction that becomes complicated and intertwined.

She is fairly adamant that issues of personal identity are not what her work is about, even though, she says, “it seems like all of our history, especially in the Americas, is beneath our feet. My work isn’t about identity, per se, but, of course, every time somebody writes something, it’s like, ‘Oh, about identity.’ I’m like, ‘No, not particularly that.’ I think all of that is naturally in there, but I think it’s naturally in all artists’ work—in all the white male artists’ work [too]. In a sense, you’re [always] talking about yourself.”

It is exhibitions like Relational Undercurrents that can help transcend perceived cultural divides and create room for empathy through shared personal experiences. Specifically, for Awai and other artists throughout the Caribbean diaspora, there is opportunity here for connection, agency, and expression in terms that may be new to some regions such as Maine.

For example, Awai believes that the perception of a close knit and unified cultural tradition in the Caribbean stems largely from the geographic reality that these countries are islands and thus isolated, with the benefit of the shared experiences and understanding that create a deep sense of culture and identity. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen in other communities or regions, but, she warns, “If you’re only thinking about cultures as these monolithic kinds of things, then that’s also helping rob you of participating in all the changing and evolving culture.”

In Awai’s view, cultures develop and evolve when people have to deal with other types of people. “That might be the only thing that the Caribbean has a foot up on,” she says, “but I think that when you’re geographically locked in, it’s going to be ‘we’ or else it’ll be nobody.”

“If somebody asks me about Trinidadian culture, I give you this whole thing. ‘We have the influence of the African and the Indians, this, that, and that, blah, blah, blah.’ You think about it. Do people here talk about culture in the same way, especially in places where it’s predominantly white? Maybe now young people in your area might talk about it this way. ‘Oh, OK, if you downtown, you could get Somalian food, you could get that. We could do this. We could do that. All right, we have this.’ Do you see what I’m saying? That is the recognition of shared culture. That is what it is, where you say, ‘we have.’ That’s when you know that people have understood and understand that their culture is evolving and they take ownership in it.”

“That’s a nice way of phrasing it,” I say.

“We’ve known that for centuries,” she says with a laugh.

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As part of Relational Undercurrents: Contemporary Art of the Caribbean Archipelago PMA Director of Communications Graeme Kennedy had the chance to sit down with artist Nicole Awai and listen to her story. Originally printed in the spring 2019 issue of PMA Magazine, Nicole shares  her views on making art, the ways cultures evolve, and how she prefers to work outside the constraints of other people’s perceptions and limitations.

Nicole Awai knows what you’re thinking when you hear the word “Caribbean." Growing up in Trinidad and Tobago, she was surrounded by the standard portrayals of the region.

“I have no problem with people painting palm trees and beaches—go right ahead,” she says as we walk through the Prizm Art Fair at Art Basel Miami in December 2018. “I grew up with artists who did that, whose works were in our living rooms. Those works gave me a respect for painting and art, but the ideas that I have right now are not going to come out in that way. As an artist, that’s not what I’m interested in sharing with the world or looking at.”

What Awai is interested in is exploring the multitude of influences, histories, and cultures that inspire her and have had a hand in the make-up of her country, while ensuring she has room to work outside the constraints of other people’s perceptions and limitations. Primarily, she explains, most people just don’t know much about the region at all. “I think people still think of the Caribbean as some monolith in a very fixed way, but we’ve had so many different influences, different histories, so many different political actions. The effects of so many European, imperial places that developed completely different characters: the Anglophone Caribbean is so different from the Francophone Caribbean, from the Dutch Caribbean,” she says with a laugh. “People don’t know it.”

Awai is an easy laugher. As we walk around the fair, talking about her practice and the other work in the hall, her answers and observations are peppered with laughter, sometimes light and easy and sometimes tinged with a sense of release. “You might know this work,” she says as we approach the African-American artist Dread Scott’s performance Money To Burn from 2010. In it, Scott stands in front of the New York Stock Exchange and asks people passing by if they have any money to burn, before proceeding to light bills on fire. “It still cracks me up,” she says. “They tried to arrest him and all this nonsense. They must have been pissed.”

The dynamics of power, race, and representation have been at the fore of global culture over the past few years, and are prevalent throughout the Prizm Art Fair, which features international artists from the African Diaspora and various emerging markets who focus on sociopolitical and cultural issues pertinent to people of African descent. In addition to the artworks in the show, there are booths that sell novels by writers of color, as well as fashion capsules and even a wellness pop-up run by Black Lives Matter that offers free acupuncture to relieve stress.

Walking through the hall in the historic Alfred I. DuPont Building, Awai directs my eyes to the ceiling, where painted beams from the early 20th century heroically depict the Spanish colonization of Florida from the Spaniards’ point of view. There are conquistadors unloading cargo from their ships, erecting buildings and steeples, and battling Native Americans—all depicted as one might expect from commissioned artists in the early 1900s. The effect of this backdrop was not lost on either of us. “It’s like reclamation,” Awai says with a smile. Indeed, there was something powerful about being in an exhibition of artworks by artists of color and featuring artists of color, redirecting the visitor focus from the historically one-sided narrative above.

However, the lingering portrayals of colonial glory serve as a reminder that the legacies of colonialism, white supremacy, and racial inequality are not legacies at all—they are still very much alive, serving as the background for even the most progressive visions for the future.
The time it takes to reconcile these histories is a recurring theme throughout our conversation, as it turns to the impact of the current sociopolitical climate on Relational Undercurrents: Contemporary Art of the Caribbean Archipelago, the PMA exhibition that features her work, “Dream On—Happy Ending . . .”

“The one thing you do see that’s interesting,” she says, “is the response to [Relational Undercurrents], everywhere it goes, is characterized by the community that is there. I was able to come down for the opening here in Miami, and the conversations were so different than, say, the one in New York or the one in Los Angeles... In a way, I think everywhere it goes, it highlights the quality of the interaction of Caribbean people in America and how that, in itself, is so diverse.”

“On that note,” I interject, “Maine?!?”
Awai laughs. “That’s going to be a completely different interaction, as well.”

I tell her how the state is one of the least-diverse and oldest populations in the country, although we do have burgeoning populations of East Africans immigrants and first-generation Mainers, an influx of younger professionals moving from major cities, as well as one of the largest populations of same-sex couples per capita than all but six states.

I think it actually makes it more important that [Relational Undercurrents] is in those spaces,” she says. “There’s obviously this effect of all of these cultures on the Americas that people are not aware of, but is active and is influencing all these communities in some way. We’re in a moment in the country where that’s the problem: people don’t understand that even though you’re not seeing all these people around, all of their culture and interactions have had an effect on your culture as a whole. That’s something that’s not recognized.”

In an era of disconnectedness, Awai strives to connect the dots. As an Afro-Asian artist from one of the most culturally diverse countries in the Caribbean, her work creates opportunities to discover throughlines of history, culture, people, and even materials. Her work in Relational Undercurrents, for example, conveys the distinct natural resources of Trinidad and Tobago while speaking to shared experiences throughout the Caribbean and the elasticity of time, space, and place. The exhibition catalogue describes the work as “a hybrid painting and sculpture made of black polyurethane resin that resembles nothing as much as a congealed oil spill.” This “black ooze,” as Awai describes it, is a direct reference to the landscapes of Trinidad and Tobago.

“To this day,” she says, “people are so surprised when I tell them I’m not from a tourist economy. Trinidad and Tobago is not a tourist economy. It is oil and natural gas—that stuff. Maybe that’s part of why I’m so interested in materiality and always have been.

Whether the country’s landscape and resources are a subject for Awai or a part of Awai’s identity is a distinction that becomes complicated and intertwined.

She is fairly adamant that issues of personal identity are not what her work is about, even though, she says, “it seems like all of our history, especially in the Americas, is beneath our feet. My work isn’t about identity, per se, but, of course, every time somebody writes something, it’s like, ‘Oh, about identity.’ I’m like, ‘No, not particularly that.’ I think all of that is naturally in there, but I think it’s naturally in all artists’ work—in all the white male artists’ work [too]. In a sense, you’re [always] talking about yourself.”

It is exhibitions like Relational Undercurrents that can help transcend perceived cultural divides and create room for empathy through shared personal experiences. Specifically, for Awai and other artists throughout the Caribbean diaspora, there is opportunity here for connection, agency, and expression in terms that may be new to some regions such as Maine.

For example, Awai believes that the perception of a close knit and unified cultural tradition in the Caribbean stems largely from the geographic reality that these countries are islands and thus isolated, with the benefit of the shared experiences and understanding that create a deep sense of culture and identity. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen in other communities or regions, but, she warns, “If you’re only thinking about cultures as these monolithic kinds of things, then that’s also helping rob you of participating in all the changing and evolving culture.”

In Awai’s view, cultures develop and evolve when people have to deal with other types of people. “That might be the only thing that the Caribbean has a foot up on,” she says, “but I think that when you’re geographically locked in, it’s going to be ‘we’ or else it’ll be nobody.”

“If somebody asks me about Trinidadian culture, I give you this whole thing. ‘We have the influence of the African and the Indians, this, that, and that, blah, blah, blah.’ You think about it. Do people here talk about culture in the same way, especially in places where it’s predominantly white? Maybe now young people in your area might talk about it this way. ‘Oh, OK, if you downtown, you could get Somalian food, you could get that. We could do this. We could do that. All right, we have this.’ Do you see what I’m saying? That is the recognition of shared culture. That is what it is, where you say, ‘we have.’ That’s when you know that people have understood and understand that their culture is evolving and they take ownership in it.”

“That’s a nice way of phrasing it,” I say.
“We’ve known that for centuries,” she says with a laugh.

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This year’s #PMABash was a smash! Thank you to all who attended the can’t-miss party of the season. The PMA is extra thankful for Little Giant restaurant for their involvement in helping the Contemporaries raise more than $1,600 for Friends of the Collection and in support of Isamu Noguchi’s Play Sculpture through their raffle and congratulations to Chloe for winning dinner for four.

Check out these links below to relive the best moments of the 2019 Winter Bash.


Click here to download and check out these pics P3 snagged of Contemporaries members diving deep and really getting into the PMA.

 

 
Click here to take a look back and share your favorite moments with all your friends on Facebook.

 


Click here to read up on what the Maine Sunday Telegram thought of your #PMABash

 
The Contemporaries are a diverse and active group of creatives and influencers throughout the region, and if you’re already a member we’re glad to have you. If you are not a Contemporaries member and you want to set the course for the PMA's future while enjoying events such as the Winter Bash, learn more about the Contemporaries here. Membership starts at $16 a month and we’d love to see you at our Summer Garden Party, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on July 17.
 

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As part of Relational Undercurrents: Contemporary Art of the Caribbean Archipelago we had the chance to sit down with artist Maria Martinez-Cañas and listen to her story. Originally printed in the spring 2019 issue of PMA Magazine, Maria shares how she came to America from Cuba, her views on making art in Miami and how she prefers to "go with the flow", and the importance of photography to "deal with the inside."

When my parents left Cuba,they were two 23-year-old kids with three girls already. I’m the youngest of the three. I was three months old.

I never heard the word "immigration" in my home. I always heard the word "exile" because my parents did not leave Cuba because they wanted to come here to make a better life. They left a better life because they had no choice.

That is a very different feeling because one of the things that happens is that something is detached from you, something that is so intrinsic to who you are and to your identity. I think that if you understand that, you look at things very different. My parents did not want to come here because they wanted to make a better living. They had a great living over there. They left because everything was taken. The company that my grandfather owned was nationalized. The houses were taken. The cars were taken. Everything was nationalized and taken. They had no choice but to leave. 

It’s very different because you grow up always with this sense of something is missing. There is a sense of belonging that has been ruptured and detached. Something broke. A part broke. Maybe you can continue using the tool or the machine or whatever. But something is not completely there. That sense of detachment was something that was very strong in my parents and also the breakup of the family. I have family members that I never met. My grandmother had sisters and brothers that she never saw again. I am totally convinced that is the reason that I started looking at photographs completely different, absolutely. There was so much importance put to [family photographs] that they became like a precious object, almost like an archeologist.

The importance my parents put on photographic images of family members or houses that they had in Cuba or things like that—they were really important to them. It was a way that they would show my sisters and I who were our family members. I never got to meet my paternal grandfather because he died when my father was only 15. The way that I knew him is by only two photographic images that my father got much later. Probably when I was in my 20s is the first time that I was able to see an image of my paternal grandfather because I never saw one before.

[When my parents left Cuba] they never imagined they were going to celebrate 58 years in exile, still. They thought that it was going to be a much shorter time. I think my parents didn’t really completely take everything out of the suitcase until after the first year that they had already been here. They never imagined that they were going to be out of Cuba for such a long time and never go back.

I have never been back. I have people that ask me that often, why I never been back. I would love to know and to see the place that I was born. But I cannot forget the reason that I was not allowed to grow up in the country that I was born in. My grandparents are dead. My parents are still both alive. It’s beyond me [that I could] do that to them because for them, they would be devastated. They don’t feel that it’s the right thing to do. I also don’t think I want to go with the way that things are. I’ve been here too long. Honestly, I am an American citizen. It’s the passport that I have and the passport when I travel. I got the Fulbright because I was an American citizen. I could not even apply to that if I wasn’t. I am an American. I’m just a Cuban-born, Puerto Rican-grown American citizen. It’s what it is. 

When I was very little, I was given a Polaroid Swinger, I think it was called. It was the white camera with the red or blue button. I was given one when I was in elementary school. I started taking pictures. The idea that you saw that image come out, oh my god, it was fascinating. I think the science of the medium was the first thing that took me. The cameras, the science, the seeing the image come out, I was totally taken by that. It was like seeing magic. It’s still magic which is what is so interesting about it. I also like change. It’s even in my personality. If I have to move from one place to the other, some people see it like a sad moment . . . I always see it as a beginning, not an end. It could be an end because it could be that I ended a relationship and I need to move. But for me, it’s always a beginning. It’s always an opportunity to begin. I just love what I do.

I always knew that it was not going to be easy, that it was going to be very challenging, probably a lot more failures than accomplishments. I just go with the flow. I work with what I feel is important to me at the time because I also don’t see a separation between my life and my work. I deal with the issues that are of importance to me as I am living life and thinking about my work. Maybe that is something that has helped me change.
When you work and continue and continue, how much longer can you continue dealing with the same issues? I get bored. Somebody came here to my studio, a collector, he said, “I hear that you’re changing.” I smile. I look at him. I say, “No, I am evolving.” I am not the same person I was at 25. How can I not also be the same person in my work? If I continue doing the work that I did at 25—oh my god—that would be horrible. It’s not that I force myself to change. It’s that I look forward to change. I let change happen when it needs to happen.

I think maybe one of the things of having a long journey or trajectory is that I don’t know what else to do. This is the only thing I know how to do. I just don’t know. It’s what I have done my entire life. I’m still fascinated by photography. That’s what is so interesting . . . It’s always been very experimental. My idea of using photography is not to document the outside world. It’s to deal with the inside, with a very personal way of working with the medium. People normally don’t see me with a camera. I am not the type of person that I walk out with a camera on me all the time. But when I go out with a camera to photograph, I photograph the outside world. It just that I ended up not using it completely the same way. It is there—you just don’t really see it.

You can hope that people would understand what the work is about. But art should be only universal. I hope that anyone would understand or at least would be curious to look at the work, not only Cuban-born. Many times [people] ask me, “Are you a Miami artist?” I say, “No, I’m an artist who, that happens to live in Miami.” My work is not about Miami. I can do my work here as I can do my work in Chicago as I can do my work in Philadelphia as I can do my work in New York. I don’t have to live here. Also, one of the things that happened once I moved here is that I became in many ways part of a majority. That’s very different than doing your work as part of the minority. That was really different. [Also] I didn’t have to explain myself so much. People understood the search for personal identity that I was going through when I moved here. [Recently, I was] nominated for a fellowship that I didn’t get. It was very interesting because they had a theme. I have never really applied to a fellowship that have a theme. But I did. It was called “The Last Photograph.” You can either use it very literal or you can use it very personal. I decided to turn it personal.

I interviewed four friends that are Cuban exiles in different stages, some older, some younger, about the significance of images in their life as they were growing up, just like I had with my parents. Then in talking to one of them—she left on Peter Pan*— she had a sign on her neck with her name and the address which she was going to go to in Miami. She was six years old. She’s sent to a completely different country on her own at the age of six, as a child, with four other kids.

What she didn’t know—that she found out almost at the age of 40—is that somebody took a picture of the five of them at the airport in Cuba. When she mentioned this to me, because her mother showed her this picture when she was writing a book about the whole process of Peter Pan, I became fascinated. I’m thinking, “You know, this is amazing because this is actually the last photograph of her as a Cuban national. This is the last image of her before she became an exile.” To me, it was really incredible the significance of that, of how before she started this journey that would forever change her life, a photograph was taken that exists today. She can see it. For her, it was incredible because she had no memory of that day. Her memory goes blank. Now she has evidence and proof of that moment when she becomes an exile. That to me was really, really fascinating to see and to hear and to think about it . . . Photography is really amazing.

One of the things that I love the most is to travel. I love to travel because I love to learn about other cultures, and I love to learn about other languages. I have met some extraordinary people by chance in a café, on the beach, you name it—people with whom I have remained friends my entire life, and they have been a big inf luence in my thing.

I think [Relational Undercurrents] is one of those opportunities that [audiences in New England] have to learn about cultures that maybe you know nothing about, because it can open your eyes to some extraordinary ways of looking not only at your own life, but looking at other people’s lives.

The more knowledge you have about other cultures, the less racism and prejudice, because people, when they don’t know, they are afraid. We’re all very similar. We’re the same. We have different accents, we have different ways of dealing with the world. We have different perspective of dealing with things that we are confronted with in our lives, but I think that that’s the beauty of it. Can you imagine if we were all the same? How boring it would be? That’s terrible. I think that the people that live in Miami, at least people that I know in Miami, we’re very open to different cultures because we are all from different cultures. . . We’re not afraid because we are all very different. I think that’s the way. That’s how we break down barriers. I highly believe that is one of the most important things— we get to learn about other people’s cultures. This is what makes this country so great, I think.

* Operation Peter Pan was a mass exodus of over 14,000 unaccompanied Cuban minors to the United States between 1960 and 1962.

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As part of Relational Undercurrents: Contemporary Art of the Caribbean Archipelago we had the chance to sit down with artist Maria Martinez-Cañas and listen to her story. Originally printed in the spring 2019 issue of PMA Magazine, Maria shares how she came to America from Cuba, her views on making art in Miami and how she prefers to "go with the flow", and the importance of photography to "deal with the inside."

When my parents left Cuba,

they were two 23-year-old kids with three girls already. I’m the youngest of the three. I was three months old.

I never heard the word "immigration" in my home. I always heard the word "exile" because my parents did not leave Cuba because they wanted to come here to make a better life. They left a better life because they had no choice.

That is a very different feeling because one of the things that happens is that something is detached from you, something that is so intrinsic to who you are and to your identity. I think that if you understand that, you look at things very different. My parents did not want to come here because they wanted to make a better living. They had a great living over there. They left because everything was taken. The company that my grandfather owned was nationalized. The houses were taken. The cars were taken. Everything was nationalized and taken. They had no choice but to leave. 

It’s very different because you grow up always with this sense of something is missing. There is a sense of belonging that has been ruptured and detached. Something broke. A part broke. Maybe you can continue using the tool or the machine or whatever. But something is not completely there. That sense of detachment was something that was very strong in my parents and also the breakup of the family. I have family members that I never met. My grandmother had sisters and brothers that she never saw again. I am totally convinced that is the reason that I started looking at photographs completely different, absolutely. There was so much importance put to [family photographs] that they became like a precious object, almost like an archeologist.

The importance my parents put on photographic images of family members or houses that they had in Cuba or things like that—they were really important to them. It was a way that they would show my sisters and I who were our family members. I never got to meet my paternal grandfather because he died when my father was only 15. The way that I knew him is by only two photographic images that my father got much later. Probably when I was in my 20s is the first time that I was able to see an image of my paternal grandfather because I never saw one before.

[When my parents left Cuba] they never imagined they were going to celebrate 58 years in exile, still. They thought that it was going to be a much shorter time. I think my parents didn’t really completely take everything out of the suitcase until after the first year that they had already been here. They never imagined that they were going to be out of Cuba for such a long time and never go back.

I have never been back. I have people that ask me that often, why I never been back. I would love to know and to see the place that I was born. But I cannot forget the reason that I was not allowed to grow up in the country that I was born in. My grandparents are dead. My parents are still both alive. It’s beyond me [that I could] do that to them because for them, they would be devastated. They don’t feel that it’s the right thing to do. I also don’t think I want to go with the way that things are. I’ve been here too long. Honestly, I am an American citizen. It’s the passport that I have and the passport when I travel. I got the Fulbright because I was an American citizen. I could not even apply to that if I wasn’t. I am an American. I’m just a Cuban-born, Puerto Rican-grown American citizen. It’s what it is. 

When I was very little, I was given a Polaroid Swinger, I think it was called. It was the white camera with the red or blue button. I was given one when I was in elementary school. I started taking pictures. The idea that you saw that image come out, oh my god, it was fascinating. I think the science of the medium was the first thing that took me. The cameras, the science, the seeing the image come out, I was totally taken by that. It was like seeing magic. It’s still magic which is what is so interesting about it. I also like change. It’s even in my personality. If I have to move from one place to the other, some people see it like a sad moment . . . I always see it as a beginning, not an end. It could be an end because it could be that I ended a relationship and I need to move. But for me, it’s always a beginning. It’s always an opportunity to begin. I just love what I do.

I always knew that it was not going to be easy, that it was going to be very challenging, probably a lot more failures than accomplishments. I just go with the flow. I work with what I feel is important to me at the time because I also don’t see a separation between my life and my work. I deal with the issues that are of importance to me as I am living life and thinking about my work. Maybe that is something that has helped me change.
When you work and continue and continue, how much longer can you continue dealing with the same issues? I get bored. Somebody came here to my studio, a collector, he said, “I hear that you’re changing.” I smile. I look at him. I say, “No, I am evolving.” I am not the same person I was at 25. How can I not also be the same person in my work? If I continue doing the work that I did at 25—oh my god—that would be horrible. It’s not that I force myself to change. It’s that I look forward to change. I let change happen when it needs to happen.

I think maybe one of the things of having a long journey or trajectory is that I don’t know what else to do. This is the only thing I know how to do. I just don’t know. It’s what I have done my entire life. I’m still fascinated by photography. That’s what is so interesting . . . It’s always been very experimental. My idea of using photography is not to document the outside world. It’s to deal with the inside, with a very personal way of working with the medium. People normally don’t see me with a camera. I am not the type of person that I walk out with a camera on me all the time. But when I go out with a camera to photograph, I photograph the outside world. It just that I ended up not using it completely the same way. It is there—you just don’t really see it.

You can hope that people would understand what the work is about. But art should be only universal. I hope that anyone would understand or at least would be curious to look at the work, not only Cuban-born. Many times [people] ask me, “Are you a Miami artist?” I say, “No, I’m an artist who, that happens to live in Miami.” My work is not about Miami. I can do my work here as I can do my work in Chicago as I can do my work in Philadelphia as I can do my work in New York. I don’t have to live here. Also, one of the things that happened once I moved here is that I became in many ways part of a majority. That’s very different than doing your work as part of the minority. That was really different. [Also] I didn’t have to explain myself so much. People understood the search for personal identity that I was going through when I moved here. [Recently, I was] nominated for a fellowship that I didn’t get. It was very interesting because they had a theme. I have never really applied to a fellowship that have a theme. But I did. It was called “The Last Photograph.” You can either use it very literal or you can use it very personal. I decided to turn it personal.

I interviewed four friends that are Cuban exiles in different stages, some older, some younger, about the significance of images in their life as they were growing up, just like I had with my parents. Then in talking to one of them—she left on Peter Pan*— she had a sign on her neck with her name and the address which she was going to go to in Miami. She was six years old. She’s sent to a completely different country on her own at the age of six, as a child, with four other kids.

What she didn’t know—that she found out almost at the age of 40—is that somebody took a picture of the five of them at the airport in Cuba. When she mentioned this to me, because her mother showed her this picture when she was writing a book about the whole process of Peter Pan, I became fascinated. I’m thinking, “You know, this is amazing because this is actually the last photograph of her as a Cuban national. This is the last image of her before she became an exile.” To me, it was really incredible the significance of that, of how before she started this journey that would forever change her life, a photograph was taken that exists today. She can see it. For her, it was incredible because she had no memory of that day. Her memory goes blank. Now she has evidence and proof of that moment when she becomes an exile. That to me was really, really fascinating to see and to hear and to think about it . . . Photography is really amazing.

One of the things that I love the most is to travel. I love to travel because I love to learn about other cultures, and I love to learn about other languages. I have met some extraordinary people by chance in a café, on the beach, you name it—people with whom I have remained friends my entire life, and they have been a big inf luence in my thing.

I think [Relational Undercurrents] is one of those opportunities that [audiences in New England] have to learn about cultures that maybe you know nothing about, because it can open your eyes to some extraordinary ways of looking not only at your own life, but looking at other people’s lives.

The more knowledge you have about other cultures, the less racism and prejudice, because people, when they don’t know, they are afraid. We’re all very similar. We’re the same. We have different accents, we have different ways of dealing with the world. We have different perspective of dealing with things that we are confronted with in our lives, but I think that that’s the beauty of it. Can you imagine if we were all the same? How boring it would be? That’s terrible. I think that the people that live in Miami, at least people that I know in Miami, we’re very open to different cultures because we are all from different cultures. . . We’re not afraid because we are all very different. I think that’s the way. That’s how we break down barriers. I highly believe that is one of the most important things— we get to learn about other people’s cultures. This is what makes this country so great, I think.

* Operation Peter Pan was a mass exodus of over 14,000 unaccompanied Cuban minors to the United States between 1960 and 1962.

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As part of Relational Undercurrents we had the chance to sit down with artist Maria Martinez-Cãnas and listen to her story. Originally printed in the spring 2019 issue of PMA Magazine Maria shares how she came to America from Cuba, her views on making art in Miami and how she prefers to "go with the flow", and the importance of photography to "deal with the inside."

When my parents left Cuba,

they were two 23-year-old kids with three girls already. I’m the youngest of the three. I was three months old.

I never heard the word "immigration" in my home. I always heard the word "exile" because my parents did not leave Cuba because they wanted to come here to make a better life. They left a better life because they had no choice.

That is a very different feeling because one of the things that happens is that something is detached from you, something that is so intrinsic to who you are and to your identity. I think that if you understand that, you look at things very different. My parents did not want to come here because they wanted to make a better living. They had a great living over there. They left because everything was taken. The company that my grandfather owned was nationalized. The houses were taken. The cars were taken. Everything was nationalized and taken. They had no choice but to leave. 

It’s very different because you grow up always with this sense of something is missing. There is a sense of belonging that has been ruptured and detached. Something broke. A part broke. Maybe you can continue using the tool or the machine or whatever. But something is not completely there. That sense of detachment was something that was very strong in my parents and also the breakup of the family. I have family members that I never met. My grandmother had sisters and brothers that she never saw again. I am totally convinced that is the reason that I started looking at photographs completely different, absolutely. There was so much importance put to [family photographs] that they became like a precious object, almost like an archeologist.

The importance my parents put on photographic images of family members or houses that they had in Cuba or things like that—they were really important to them. It was a way that they would show my sisters and I who were our family members. I never got to meet my paternal grandfather because he died when my father was only 15. The way that I knew him is by only two photographic images that my father got much later. Probably when I was in my 20s is the first time that I was able to see an image of my paternal grandfather because I never saw one before.

[When my parents left Cuba] they never imagined they were going to celebrate 58 years in exile, still. They thought that it was going to be a much shorter time. I think my parents didn’t really completely take everything out of the suitcase until after the first year that they had already been here. They never imagined that they were going to be out of Cuba for such a long time and never go back.

I have never been back. I have people that ask me that often, why I never been back. I would love to know and to see the place that I was born. But I cannot forget the reason that I was not allowed to grow up in the country that I was born in. My grandparents are dead. My parents are still both alive. It’s beyond me [that I could] do that to them because for them, they would be devastated. They don’t feel that it’s the right thing to do. I also don’t think I want to go with the way that things are. I’ve been here too long. Honestly, I am an American citizen. It’s the passport that I have and the passport when I travel. I got the Fulbright because I was an American citizen. I could not even apply to that if I wasn’t. I am an American. I’m just a Cuban-born, Puerto Rican-grown American citizen. It’s what it is. 

When I was very little, I was given a Polaroid Swinger, I think it was called. It was the white camera with the red or blue button. I was given one when I was in elementary school. I started taking pictures. The idea that you saw that image come out, oh my god, it was fascinating. I think the science of the medium was the first thing that took me. The cameras, the science, the seeing the image come out, I was totally taken by that. It was like seeing magic. It’s still magic which is what is so interesting about it. I also like change. It’s even in my personality. If I have to move from one place to the other, some people see it like a sad moment . . . I always see it as a beginning, not an end. It could be an end because it could be that I ended a relationship and I need to move. But for me, it’s always a beginning. It’s always an opportunity to begin. I just love what I do.

I always knew that it was not going to be easy, that it was going to be very challenging, probably a lot more failures than accomplishments. I just go with the flow. I work with what I feel is important to me at the time because I also don’t see a separation between my life and my work. I deal with the issues that are of importance to me as I am living life and thinking about my work. Maybe that is something that has helped me change.
When you work and continue and continue, how much longer can you continue dealing with the same issues? I get bored. Somebody came here to my studio, a collector, he said, “I hear that you’re changing.” I smile. I look at him. I say, “No, I am evolving.” I am not the same person I was at 25. How can I not also be the same person in my work? If I continue doing the work that I did at 25—oh my god—that would be horrible. It’s not that I force myself to change. It’s that I look forward to change. I let change happen when it needs to happen.

I think maybe one of the things of having a long journey or trajectory is that I don’t know what else to do. This is the only thing I know how to do. I just don’t know. It’s what I have done my entire life. I’m still fascinated by photography. That’s what is so interesting . . . It’s always been very experimental. My idea of using photography is not to document the outside world. It’s to deal with the inside, with a very personal way of working with the medium. People normally don’t see me with a camera. I am not the type of person that I walk out with a camera on me all the time. But when I go out with a camera to photograph, I photograph the outside world. It just that I ended up not using it completely the same way. It is there—you just don’t really see it.

You can hope that people would understand what the work is about. But art should be only universal. I hope that anyone would understand or at least would be curious to look at the work, not only Cuban-born. Many times [people] ask me, “Are you a Miami artist?” I say, “No, I’m an artist who, that happens to live in Miami.” My work is not about Miami. I can do my work here as I can do my work in Chicago as I can do my work in Philadelphia as I can do my work in New York. I don’t have to live here. Also, one of the things that happened once I moved here is that I became in many ways part of a majority. That’s very different than doing your work as part of the minority. That was really different. [Also] I didn’t have to explain myself so much. People understood the search for personal identity that I was going through when I moved here. [Recently, I was] nominated for a fellowship that I didn’t get. It was very interesting because they had a theme. I have never really applied to a fellowship that have a theme. But I did. It was called “The Last Photograph.” You can either use it very literal or you can use it very personal. I decided to turn it personal.

I interviewed four friends that are Cuban exiles in different stages, some older, some younger, about the significance of images in their life as they were growing up, just like I had with my parents. Then in talking to one of them—she left on Peter Pan*— she had a sign on her neck with her name and the address which she was going to go to in Miami. She was six years old. She’s sent to a completely different country on her own at the age of six, as a child, with four other kids.

What she didn’t know—that she found out almost at the age of 40—is that somebody took a picture of the five of them at the airport in Cuba. When she mentioned this to me, because her mother showed her this picture when she was writing a book about the whole process of Peter Pan, I became fascinated. I’m thinking, “You know, this is amazing because this is actually the last photograph of her as a Cuban national. This is the last image of her before she became an exile.” To me, it was really incredible the significance of that, of how before she started this journey that would forever change her life, a photograph was taken that exists today. She can see it. For her, it was incredible because she had no memory of that day. Her memory goes blank. Now she has evidence and proof of that moment when she becomes an exile. That to me was really, really fascinating to see and to hear and to think about it . . . Photography is really amazing.

One of the things that I love the most is to travel. I love to travel because I love to learn about other cultures, and I love to learn about other languages. I have met some extraordinary people by chance in a café, on the beach, you name it—people with whom I have remained friends my entire life, and they have been a big inf luence in my thing.

I think [Relational Undercurrents] is one of those opportunities that [audiences in New England] have to learn about cultures that maybe you know nothing about, because it can open your eyes to some extraordinary ways of looking not only at your own life, but looking at other people’s lives.

The more knowledge you have about other cultures, the less racism and prejudice, because people, when they don’t know, they are afraid. We’re all very similar. We’re the same. We have different accents, we have different ways of dealing with the world. We have different perspective of dealing with things that we are confronted with in our lives, but I think that that’s the beauty of it. Can you imagine if we were all the same? How boring it would be? That’s terrible. I think that the people that live in Miami, at least people that I know in Miami, we’re very open to different cultures because we are all from different cultures. . . We’re not afraid because we are all very different. I think that’s the way. That’s how we break down barriers. I highly believe that is one of the most important things— we get to learn about other people’s cultures. This is what makes this country so great, I think.

* Operation Peter Pan was a mass exodus of over 14,000 unaccompanied Cuban minors to the United States between 1960 and 1962.

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The Portland Museum of Art (PMA) is requesting information from qualified investment firms for consideration in the selection process to provide services for the management of the PMA’s Endowment.

The consultant firm’s objective will be to assist the Portland Museum of Art’s Investment Committee, Board of Trustees, and staff in developing and carrying out investment policies that are designed to ensure that sufficient assets are available to meet current and future benefit obligations, as well as endowment management to ensure that annual returns are sufficient to assist in funding museum operations.

With an extensive collection and nationally renowned exhibitions, the Portland Museum of Art is the cultural heart of Portland, Maine. The PMA boasts significant holdings of American, European, and contemporary art, as well as iconic works from Maine, highlighting the rich artistic tradition of the state and its artists. The museum brings it all to life with unparalleled programming. From members events, free school tours, and a commitment to family activities to PMA Films, curator talks, and tours of the Winslow Homer Studio, the PMA strives to engage audiences in a dialogue about the relevance of art and culture to their everyday lives.

The PMA’s Endowment assets, currently valued at more than $37 million, are invested to maintain their real value over time after distributions pursuant to the PMA's Endowment spending policy, fees, and expenses. In the selection of investments, expected total return—defined as capital appreciation plus income—is prioritized over current yield. The PMA seeks to achieve its return objectives while controlling risk through diversification among asset classes and securities, forming a blended portfolio that is expected to exhibit lower volatility than its constituent investments and broader equity market indexes.

The PMA is using a Request for Information (RFI) structure in hopes of reaching a broad spectrum of investment advisors. The Investment Committee intends to choose 4 institutions, to whom further questions will be asked. The 4 finalists will be selected after all responses have been evaluated.

Please submit completed responses no later than March 15, 2019. Questions about the RFI process will be accepted until February 22, 2019.  Only electronic questions and responses will be accepted. All questions and completed RFI responses should be submitted to: endowmentRFI@portlandmuseum.org

Firms interested in consideration should provide the following:

1. Please provide a brief description of your firm (100 words).
2. Please outline what differentiates your firm from others.  (100 words).
3. Please summarize your approach to working with the PMA.  (150 words).
4. Please list 3 firm clients and 3 team clients that you feel are similar to the PMA.
5. The PMA would be interested in analysis of how our IPS is aligned with our goals and preferences.  Please provide an example of your IPS analyses which can help us fine-tune our policies accordingly (Appendix A).
6. Please provide an overview of a portfolio that might be recommended for a client like the PMA (150 words).
7. Please provide an example of a quarterly portfolio review slide deck (Appendix B).
8. Please provide the 1,3,5,10-year performance, and 20-year if available, as of 12/31/2018, net of fees, for your (1) equity allocations, (2) fixed income allocations, and (3) other allocations.  Please provide the performance for the corresponding benchmark and a brief description (20 words) of each. (Appendix C).
9. Can you allocate to: (1) private equity or (2) venture capital?  If so, please describe (35 words).
10.  On-site meetings expected per typical year: ___ Conference calls expected per typical year: ___
11.  Please outline proposed fee level including: your total fees, fees of underlying funds, transaction costs, costs associated with PE/VC, any other expenses we should expect (Appendix D).
12.  Biographies of key personnel (Appendix E).

The PMA is an equal opportunity employer and values diversity at our museum. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, sex, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, veteran status, status as a whistleblower, marital status, gender identity or expression, genetic information, or any other basis prohibited by applicable law.
 
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This has been a cruel January in many ways. We learned last week of the passing of Phyllis Mills Wyeth, a major force in the cultural and artistic communities of Maine and the Brandywine River Valley, and beyond. To many, Wyeth was the beloved wife of American painter Jamie Wyeth, although she was also—and independently—revered for decades in the competitive thoroughbred community as both a carriage driver and a horse breeder. To the young people whose lives were improved through her teaching, or who experienced the wonders of marine science at Herring Gut Learning Center, Wyeth’s legacy is that of service and environmental education. To the legions of people who benefitted from her arts advocacy, her advocacy on behalf of people with disabilities, or her environmental advocacy, her legacy was larger still.

I met Phyllis only once, at a dinner party in which the animated discussion turned to the beauty and wonder of seeing a fox traipse across winter snow (a very Winslow Homer theme, of course). I remember the sparkling pleasure of that conversation, of Wyeth’s keen aesthetic as well as scientific insight into the subject of foxes in non-wild environments. I remember the joy she brought to the conversation, and the pleasure we all took at her insights. I remember feeling very lucky to be in her presence.

Over the course of the past two years, I have worked with wonderful colleagues at the Brandywine River Museum of Art on a shared project, an upcoming retrospective of the paintings of N. C. Wyeth, the towering figure who established the Wyeth name as an integral part of American art history. We were all looking forward to sharing the show with the Wyeth family, including Jaime and Phyllis together. This will not happen, now, and we are immeasurably sorry. On behalf of all of us as the PMA, we extend our kindest condolences to Jamie Wyeth, and the Wyeth family, as well as to the communities of Monhegan and Tenant’s Harbor, Maine, and to Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. Mrs. Wyeth will be missed.

Learn more about Wyeth's life in the Portland Press Herald obituary here.

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The PMA lost a great friend this Sunday when Rosalyne Spindel Bernstein passed away. Roz was a longtime Trustee and one of the "Museum Five," a group of five women who helped shape the PMA—and the Portland—that you know today. We all owe her tremendous gratitude and will miss her terribly. Learn more about her and the Museum Five in the Portland Press Herald story below.

One of the Portland Museum of Art’s most beloved longtime supporters passed away Sunday at her home on Portland’s Eastern Promenade. Rosalyne Spindel Bernstein, who was known to friends and family as Roz, died one week after her 90th birthday. Bernstein, the widow of well-known Portland lawyer Sumner Bernstein, served for six decades on the Museum’s Board of Trustees. She also served as the organization’s President from 1979 thru 1981. During that time, she co-chaired the steering committee that raised funds for the construction of the Charles Shipman Payson Building – the landmark structure that stands at the corner of High Street and Congress Square. The Payson Building opened in 1983. “We are deeply saddened to learn about the passing of one of our most beloved trustees, Rosalyne Spindel Bernstein,” the museum said in a statement issued Wednesday evening. “Roz was one of the Museum Five, a group of five women, including her close friend, the late Peggy Osher, who were integral to making the Portland Museum of Art the institution that it is today,” the Museum said. “The legacy that she leaves, especially due to her steadfast and tireless work and advocacy on behalf of the museum’s collections, cannot be overstated. Her contributions to the Portland Museum of Art will be forever recognized and she will be missed by all who had the honor of knowing her.”

The Museum Five consisted of five prominent Portland area women who were dedicated to making the museum a cultural and educational destination in dowtown Portland. Katherine Woodman, Rachel Armstrong, Wilma Redman, Osher and Bernstein made up the group, according to Owen Wells, who knew them well. Wells served as past president of the museum. Wells, who is now the vice chairman for the Libra Foundation’s Board of Directors, said the Libra Foundation gave $2 million to the Portland Museum of Art in honor of the Museum Five. Wells said a gallery at the museum is named after the women. Wells said that Bernstein was a particularly strong advocate for the museum, a woman he says made an positive impact on Portland’s cultural life. “Roz was one of the brightest women I have ever known. She had an interest in so many things,” Wells said. According to her family, Bernstein was the daughter of immigrant parents – Harry Spindel and Bertha Lehrer Spindel. She was born December 22, 1928 in the Bronx, New York city. She attended Radcliffe College, which has merged with Harvard University, graduating in 1950. That is where she met her future husband, Sumner Thurman Bernstein of Portland. The couple moved to Portland in 1950 and never left the city. Sumner Bernstein died in 2002.

Bernstein’s daughter, Beth Bernstein Schneider, who lives in London, England, said her mother’s lifetime devotion to public service and giving back to the community was inspired by her parents. When they arrived in the United States, Bernstein’s parents took jobs in knitting factories. “She had immigrant parents, who felt they were incredibly lucky to live in the United States,” Schneider said. “They felt they had an obligation to do good in the world and my mother spent her life doing just that.” Schneider said her mother’s parents also impressed upon her the importance of education, a value that led to a lifetime of learning. She co-founded Headstart in the Portland Public Schools and served three terms on the Portland School Committee, including one term as committee chair. When she stepped down from the School Committee in 1972, the Portland Press Herald published an editorial that praised her service called “She Made Waves.” Bernstein eventually earned a law degree in 1986, at the age of 58.

 
Funeral services will be held Friday, January 4, at Congregation Bet Ha’am, 81 Westbrook Street, South Portland. The service will start at 10 a.m.

The family is asking that contributions be made in Bernstein’s memory to the Portland Museum of Art, the Rosalyne and Sumner Bernstein Scholarship Fund at Bowdoin College and to Congregation Bet Ha’am.

Original printed in the Portland Press Herald. 
Dennis Hoey, Staff Writer
January 3, 2019
Read the original article on the Portland Press Herald's website by clicking here.

 

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