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Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes has written about the arts in Maine since 2002. He’s never been much an artist himself, other than singing in junior high school chorus and acting in a few musicals. But he’s attended museums, theaters, clubs and concert halls all his life, and cites Bob Dylan as most influential artist of any kind since Picasso. He lives in Berwick.

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Posted: January 5, 2016

Art in the Capitol exhibition in Augusta puts focus on Acadia National Park’s centennial

Written by: Bob Keyes

Brad Betts' Champlain Mountain Brad Betts’ Champlain Mountain

Howie Motenko lives about one mile from Jordan Pond at Acadia National Park. When conditions are favorable to see the northern lights, he heads to the pond with his camera.

“Once the forecast comes in, I can just run down there and grab a shot,” he said.

That’s the reward for living in a beautiful place. This winter, legislators, staff members, aides, lobbyists and everyday citizens who have business in Augusta will benefit from the beauty that Motenko and five other Maine artists appreciate most at Acadia. The Maine Arts Commission recently opened an Art in the Capitol exhibition spotlighting the centennial of Acadia National Park. The park was established in July 1916.

Others artists whose work is hanging in the Capitol complex are Brad Betts, Tom Blagden, Mary Bryom and the mother-daughter team of Wini Smart and Gail Cleveland.

Their paintings and photographs hang in the Capitol and Cross Office Building through April 8.

The idea is to bring beauty and joy to the capitol during the legislative session, curator Julie Horn said. “It’s a great art advocacy tool, and perhaps the most significant tool we have,” said Horn, the visual arts director for the Maine Arts Commission. “It puts art in front of legislators while they are in session, every single day.”

Motenko hopes his work can positively influence legislators during times of stress and contentious policy discussions. If art work helps set a calming, conciliatory tone that leads to compromise and progress, he’s thrilled to be a part of it. He’s also happy to help call attention to Acadia’ 100th anniversary.

“What I love about this place is the same thing that everybody loves about this place: It’s beautiful up here,” he said.

Betts has made his life in Maine since he came up from south Florida to attend college. He met his future wife in Maine, and never looked back. They live in East Boothbay, but Acadia holds their heart. “We lived in Southwest Harbor our first summer together and it has been our special place ever since,” he said. “We spent our honeymoon in Bar Harbor and have taken our children to Acadia every year of their lives. We do a lot of hiking, and while I occasionally paint plein air, I more often capture the majestic beauty of the area in photographs and create the paintings later on in my studio.”

He calls Acadia “one of Maine’s greatest treasures, and I hope this exhibition inspires others to visit and experience it for themselves.”

Gail Cleveland made her first painting at Acadia when she was 5. She and her mother show their work at Smart Studio in Northeast Harbor. They both live in Florida during the winter, though Cleveland lived in Maine year-round many years, raising her family in Trenton.

She paints sweeping landscapes, depicting the water, mountains, rocks and trees of what she calls “God’s beautiful creation.” She paints in the park as often as she can. “I’m the one sitting in the middle of the path, with my paints all over,” she said laughing.

Mary Byron of North Berwick paints at Acadia nearly every year. She likes to go up before the crowds arrive, and paints in several locations throughout the park. She appreciates the variety of Acadia. “You are literally 10, 15 to 20 minutes from one outrageously gorgeous place to another,” she said. “There is so much there. You could paint for the whole summer and never run out of material. It’s phenomenal.”

Art in the Capitol features Maine artists and Maine themes, Horn said.

The exhibition features about two-dozen works. Admission is free.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

Twitter: pphbkeyes

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