By Kay Tobler Liss
“This was one of the best historic talks I’ve ever heard,” said one of the 50 attendees at the Maine Art Gallery’s event on May 18, which featured reminiscences of gallery founder Mildred Burrage, by the Maine State Historian Earle Shettleworth and local art restorer Peter Fogg.
The talk was in conjunction with the current 65th anniversary show, “Generations,” at the Wiscasset gallery, honoring its founding members as well as contemporary members.
Shettleworth recalled meeting Burrage in 1968 when he was 20 and a summer reporter at the Maine Sunday Telegram. “Mildred quickly proved to be a young reporter’s dream,” he said, “requiring little prompting as she traced Wiscasset’s historical development…” He said he got to know her better the following year when she invited him to help her establish historical properties in Dresden and Wiscasset, like the Old Jail and the Pownalborough Courthouse. This proved to be “an intense experience,” he added, because of the “energetic way she approached every project.”
Burrage was a font of knowledge, the historian recounted, from tales of her father’s friend Joshua Chamberlain to American and French Impressionist painters (she had even met Claude Monet while studying in France). Shettleworth delighted the audience with a recording of an interview he did with Burrage in his final year at Colby College. Hearing her voice, in addition to Shettleworth’s vivid personal remembrances, “made her come alive,” commented one attendee.
Peter Fogg had met Burrage when he was five years old. “As we mature we realize the influences certain people have had on us. Such is my on-going relationship with Mildred Burrage.” Fogg became more acquainted with her as he helped his grandmother work at the Old Jail and the Pownalborough Courthouse, later incorporated into the Lincoln County Historical Association, for which Burrage was the driving force.
“As kids we attended wonderful art shows at the Maine Art Gallery. Right here in Wiscasset! There was Louise Nevelson … Dahlov Ipcar and Maurice Day,” Fogg said.
Their friendship continued throughout his life and to the end of hers’, in 1976. He said she helped him with ideas when he was a public school art teacher. “She stretched my mind and challenged me, as she did so many people. She stretched the minds of the community and challenged them to preserve historic places … and 65 years later, her vision and enthusiasm still prevails.”
One member of the audience, Martha Frink, who has written about Burrage, urged Wiscasset residents present to preserve the founder’s vision of the Maine Art Gallery by voting at the upcoming town meeting in favor of the town’s continued support in helping maintain the building.
The next talk in conjunction with the “Generations” exhibit will be at 5 p.m. June 1, when David Etnier, son of Steven Etnier, one of the Maine Art Gallery founding artists, will share his experiences photographing many of Maine’s most accomplished artists. Twenty-one of his portraits are featured in the show.
A nonprofit organization, the Maine Art Gallery is dedicated to the advancement and preservation of the visual, fine and applied arts through exhibitions, lectures, demonstrations and educational programs for children and adults since 1958. More information can be found at www.maineartgallerywiscasset.org and on Facebook at Maine Art Gallery Wiscasset. The gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.