Announcer: You are listening to Love Maine Radio, hosted by Dr. Lisa Belisle, and recorded at the studios of Maine Magazine in Portland. Dr. Lisa Belisle is a physician and editor in chief of Maine, Maine Home+Design, Old Port, Ageless, and Moxie magazines. Love Maine Radio show summaries are available at LoveMaineRadio.com.
Dr. Lisa B.: This is Dr. Lisa Belisle, and you’re listening to Love Maine Radio. Show number 345, airing for the first time on April 29th, 2018. Today we speak with Danielle Devine, the managing editor of Maine Home+Design, and Rachel Walls, the owner of the gallery Rachel Walls Fine Art located in Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth. Thank you for joining us.
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Dr. Lisa B.: Danielle Devine is the managing editor of Maine Home+Design, and has been writing, editing, and managing art design at architecture magazines for the past 12 years. Thanks for coming in.
Danielle Devine: Thank you for having me.
Dr. Lisa B.: It wasn’t that far a distance for you to travel actually, since your office-
Danielle Devine: Right down the hall.
Dr. Lisa B.: Literally right down the hall. But for you to be here with us, after being a writer for our magazines for such a long time, that is actually a journey in and of itself.
Danielle Devine: Yes. I feel like I started writing for Maine Home+Design the year I moved to Maine, which was about five years ago. It’s been a lot of fun. It’s really nice to be in-house now, and getting to be a part of the staff and learn what you guys do here.
Dr. Lisa B.: You have an interesting background, because you didn’t initially realize that you wanted to go into magazines. You went in a very different direction at first.
Danielle Devine: Yes. It’s funny. When I was younger, I always was drawn to art. I would sketch when I felt low, and I would look at beautiful pictures just as a release. And my parents were very interested in me being involved in music. My brother was a natural musician, and they tried everything with me. Clarinet lessons, violin, piano, and I just was not talented in that way. It was actually my brother who stepped in and was like, “She’s not a musician. She’s an artist.”
So, art became very important to me. A big part of my life in high school. I even went so far as to make a portfolio for college. I applied to RISD, well, I wanted to apply to RISD and SCAD, but my parents weren’t ready to support that decision. So, I went to college and I majored in English and Art History.
And from there, I got a job in finance. When I was working in finance, it was great, because you make a lot of money in finance. But something was missing. I wanted to find a way to integrate art in my life, so I went back to school. I went to Parsons School of Design, and I studied design and architecture. In that program, I was lucky enough to work at several museums, learn about great architecture and design, industrial designers. And what I really wanted to do was become a curator, and so I had worked at The Met. I was offered a job at The Met, but the salary was just too low for me to make in New York City.
I was like, “What’s the next best thing I could do? Where could I make a little bit more money? How about publishing?” So, I applied for this position in publishing. Thought I’d only be there a couple of months, maybe a year. Save up enough money to be able to take a curatorial job or maybe a job at an auction house. But things moved along, and I ended up really loving working at this magazine, which was an art-based magazine, and ended up there for a really long time. Worked my way up from an assistant to an editor, which is as low as you can go, to managing editor.
It was really there that I started appreciating design more and architecture. From that art magazine, it was the Magazine Antiques, it’s still going, I launched with a couple other people a magazine called Modern, which just focused on design and architecture. So, that was a crazy life, living in New York and working in publishing. But yeah, it was quite a difference from wanting to be a curator to becoming an editor. Quite a shift.
Dr. Lisa B.: But in some way, it kind of wove together a lot of different threads of your life to that point.
Danielle Devine: Yes.
Dr. Lisa B.: I’m interested in why your parents were so excited to have you be a musician, and the art piece just didn’t quite resonate with them. I don’t know that you can answer a question about how your parents thought or felt.
Danielle Devine: I think because they saw … My brother was the oldest, and they saw how talented he was. They just assumed that I would probably share that talent. And as hard as I tried, I couldn’t. It just wasn’t me. Eventually, they did become supportive of my passion for the arts, especially once they knew I could make a career out of it somehow. But, I don’t know, they were both into real estate.
I was the first person, my brother ended up passing away my senior year of high school, so, I actually was the first person to graduate from college in my family. They had really high hopes, and they didn’t think studio art was going to bring me there. But they knew if I was an English major or something like that, I would be able to segue into something more professional. They were very excited when I got a job in finance, and not so excited when I left it.
Dr. Lisa B.: You know, it’s an interesting thing, because as you know, I have children who are ages 17, 22, and 24. You have children yourself who are quite a bit younger. But, you feel protective of them. You want what’s best for them. And in many ways, you see that the world can be a difficult place. So, it seems very practical, go into finance, go into real estate. Do something that makes a lot of sense. So, I would not have understood that until I had come to this place as a parent myself. That really, it is out of absolute love that you want your child to have this security, I guess.
Danielle Devine: I completely understand it now that I’m on the other side. But then, definitely a lot of teenage angst, and being very upset.
Dr. Lisa B.: And I also understand that piece, because it’s so interesting to have people around you say, “No, no. Do this. This is what you should do because it makes the most sense.” Where inside of you, you’re thinking or feeling, “No, it’s just not my swimming pool.”
Danielle Devine: Exactly.
Dr. Lisa B.: This is just not where I’m meant to be floating around.
Danielle Devine: Totally.
Dr. Lisa B.: But it takes a while to get to the place where you can actually jump out of that swimming pool and go to the pond.
Danielle Devine: It’s true. It’s very true. I feel very lucky I was able to do something with art that I wanted to do from such a young age. Right now, it’s just my dream. I get to look at beautiful things every day, and discover new things. I think the best part of this job is learning something new every day. It’s kind of just an extension of school a little bit. I never want to stop learning. As old as I get, I want to learn something, hopefully, new every day. It’s pretty cool.
Dr. Lisa B.: And that’s the other piece I think is interesting, is when you’re growing up and you’re in high school, nobody ever says, “Oh, you could work in the magazine business.”
Danielle Devine: No. I never thought that was an option.
Dr. Lisa B.: It’s not really until you’ve actually been out in the world a little while wandering around, that you finally say, “Oh, look. There’s people doing this kind of job that I think I would really enjoy. I didn’t even know that it existed before.” So, it’s not like you could’ve set a goal to go in that direction.
Danielle Devine: Yeah.
Dr. Lisa B.: Somehow you ended up here despite just that.
Danielle Devine: Yeah. It was a strange path, but it was great.
Dr. Lisa B.: In your job as the managing editor for Maine Home+Design, there’s a lot of coordination. There’s a lot of moving pieces. You’re working with architects, and interior designers, and writers, and photographers. And there’s really a lot of bringing people together to create a story about essentially what’s kind of a living, breathing work of art, someone’s home. Describe that process a little for me.
Danielle Devine: Well, it’s quite unique. I’ve been on the writer’s side and I’ve been on the managing side. And I think what’s so great about Maine Home+Design is, the publication I worked for in New York, we covered architecture obviously, and a lot of homes all over the world, and a lot of Manhattan apartments. But what makes Maine Home+Design so special and unique is the close interaction that we have with these interior designers, architects, and all the players, all the contractors, and really getting to know the owners, as well.
I noticed that as a freelancer, I thought I was really lucky to have such a close relationship with the story. When I wrote before, I looked at the pictures, I would maybe see the house, speak a little bit to the architect and the interior designer. Never actually got to speak to the owner. Very rarely.
And with our magazine, I think it’s so nice that we get this full story of everyone and how they play a part, and everyone gets their due credit in how this home was made. There’s always, and you don’t know it at first, but this lovely story always erupts. It’s quite special.
I love being able to work with our writers now, and see how their story is going to develop, and the relationships that they’re going to make. I think that’s what makes Maine Home+Design so unique, is the close relationships that we have. It’s unlike any other publication I’ve worked for.
Dr. Lisa B.: There’s also a lot of pride that people have in whatever piece of the puzzle is theirs. Talking to individuals who design kitchens, for example.
Danielle Devine: Yes.
Dr. Lisa B.: These are individuals who, their piece is very important, very special. They work closely with the architect. They work closely with the home owner. And it’s something that I personally wouldn’t have had as much knowledge of before starting to come in and work with the magazines. These little things that we can take for granted, there’s a lot of care that goes into them.
Danielle Devine: Yes. Every part of the house has a special player, I guess. Kitchen design in itself is fascinating to me. I feel like I’m learning more and more about it every day. And I think the thing is, not everyone realizes there’s certain people that come into play with designing an area of the house, that there is a kitchen designer that things out everything that you’re enjoying in that kitchen. And, it’s not just the aesthetics, but how everything’s going to work, which is very important in somewhere like a kitchen.
I think we try to work hard at giving everyone the credit that’s due. It’s not just, I mean, we have very lovely and talented architects and landscape architects and builders, but it’s the other people too, the contractors that really make the house a house. It really wouldn’t function the way it does without them. So, I think that’s something that is important that we acknowledge the big participants.
Dr. Lisa B.: And sometimes, even the smaller design pieces are so much more meaningful than we realize until we dig into it a little bit. My brother-in-law is a stonemason, and he and his brother and his father have all worked as stonemasons. They build these fireplaces that are amazing central pieces of people’s living spaces that really transform an entire house around it. But you wouldn’t necessarily know that was true until you saw a space with and without these fireplaces.
Danielle Devine: That’s funny you say that, fireplace. When we moved to Maine, we found a house with a fireplace, which in Manhattan is pretty rare. We were really excited about that. Now I go into these homes, and especially working at this magazine, and I see the fireplaces and some of them are just beyond gorgeous.
I think what’s really nice about Maine is that we have these natural elements, like beautiful stone and wood, that we can integrate into the house. I think a lot of the architects and builders and people that work on the houses here want to bring in the nature into the house. That’s quite unique, that we’re lucky enough to have these natural resources that we can add to the design.
Dr. Lisa B.: You have two children. And you also value the beauty of a home. I know that when I was growing up and my children were small, sometimes it was a difficult balance to keep the room around me, the house around me, just even standing up nevermind feeling beautiful. How do you balance that?
Danielle Devine: It’s quite unique in our house too, because my husband’s an architect, and obviously, I do what I do. And we really value a nicely designed home, and a neat home. We have a one year old and a six year old, so there’s a lot of cleaning up, teaching them how to clean up. But sometimes we just have to let it go. But, we try to do our best. Yeah, everything that’s in our house, we try to have it be somewhat meaningful. I mean, we have a lot of the plastic toys that most parents have and stuff like that, but we try to limit it. Everything that we own, we try to have some meaning to it.
Dr. Lisa B.: I’ve also noticed that a home space kind of grows and evolves with the family. When the children are young, things look a certain way. They get a little older, and things look a little different. Now obviously in my family, we have only the one child who is left at the house.
Danielle Devine: So, now you can buy really nice things.
Dr. Lisa B.: And we can buy much nicer things that we once were able to. And not only that, but generally, because my other kids are out of the house, everything kind of stays where you leave it, which is probably a stage that you have not reached yet.
Danielle Devine: That’s true. Yes, that is very true. We also have a young dog. What’s funny is, we both appreciate smart design, good design. When we got married, there were a few things that we wanted. We wanted a really nice couch and rocking chair and rug. The rug actually happened to be a Maine rug, Angela Adams rug. So we saved up all our money, got these pieces that we really wanted, like an Eames chair and this nice couch. And, they are both destroyed. But it’s worth it. We lived with pieces, we’re still living with them. It still has great design, but they just have some imperfections now.
Dr. Lisa B.: And I think you’ve said it, when you said you just kind of have to let go of some things.
Danielle Devine: Yeah.
Dr. Lisa B.: You could still really value the stuff, but you also really value the kids.
Danielle Devine: Yes. We do value the kids more than the stuff.
Dr. Lisa B.: When you moved to Maine five years ago, that must’ve been a pretty big leap as somebody from New York. What prompted that?
Danielle Devine: I had my first child in New York. I was working in publishing. Pretty much not seeing that child at all. I would actually keep her up late at night so I could have some time with her. And then, we made the most of our weekends. But, I didn’t grow up in Manhattan. I grew up in Florida and my husband grew up in Vermont. I just never imagined my life in the city. My husband’s family lives in Maine. His parents live in York and his sister lives in Portland. We would come and visit, and I was like, “I want this. This is what I want. I need to find a way to make this happen, because this place is amazing.”
My husband was like, “You’re nuts. We can’t do that. You’re in publishing, and I’m an architect. It just can’t happen.” I was like, “We’ll figure out a way.” So we both decided we would jump and do it. His architecture firm let him work remotely. And my magazine let me work remotely. And we made it work, because we really loved Maine. Then things just kind of fell into place eventually.
It was quite hard to make this work, but I’m really happy we could. Our lives are a lot less chaotic. We’re, I think, happier people, and we get to spend time with our kids. I think that’s such a big part of our lives right now, is being able to explore Maine with especially our six year old. Going on the trails with her, and she’s snowboarding now. So, we’re really trying to embrace everything Maine has to offer.
Dr. Lisa B.: You and I are stepping into these magazines at a very interesting time, because the Maine Home+Design is 11 years old. And the magazine that Susan Grisanti and Kevin Thomas put together is the original magazine for the entire Maine Media Collective, has this history behind it, this heritage. I know it’s only 10 years old, so it’s a strong statement.
Danielle Devine: It was the flagship magazine.
Dr. Lisa B.: Yeah. That’s a big deal. And Rebecca Falzano, who is just recently the editor in chief, she was here for probably 9 years out of those 11. You’ve come in as the managing editor for Maine Home+Design, and I’m stepping in as the editor in chief. And we have these wonderful things that are already in existence, and these wonderful teams that we’re working with, but it’s a little intimidating.
Danielle Devine: It is. But, I don’t know, it’s also so much fun. I think it is quite a change, but it’s a change that we were prepared for. I think good things are in store, and we have a lot of great ideas. I think we’re going to have a lot of fun figuring out what’s the next step for Maine Home+Design. We already have some great ideas, so we’re good.
Dr. Lisa B.: We are good. And you know what? I think you’re right. It is a lot of fun. It’s so interesting too, as we actually are in a new office space.
Danielle Devine: A beautiful office space.
Dr. Lisa B.: A beautiful office space. And all the things that were good, we’ve continued to carry through. And all these wonderful relationships that we have with people in the community, we’ve continued to build on those. So, it is a very exciting time. So, hoping to continue that rich, again, 10 year heritage. I think that’s not only possible, but entirely likely. I think it will be a lot of fun. So for people who are interested in learning more about design, architecture, art within the state of Maine, what do you recommend that they do, aside from reading the magazines?
Danielle Devine: First of all, pick up a copy of Maine Home+Design. But seriously, I think there’s so much just around you here. There’s a lot of great design. Obviously, going to the museum is a nice step. So, I would say to tap into all the resources we have here. I love going and popping into the galleries. That’s always a great way to learn about local artists. And we’re lucky enough in downtown that we have several galleries to stop into. Yeah, just look around you, and you’ll find some pretty awesome stuff.
Dr. Lisa B.: What are some of your favorite projects that you’ve looked at recently for the magazines?
Danielle Devine: Project wise, there are so many good ones coming up. We have our Kennebunk issue coming out. In that issue, we have actually a really smartly designed, budget conscious house. From looking at the pictures, you wouldn’t actually realize that, because it looks like a phenomenal, flat-roofed house. It looks very expensive to me. But the owners definitely had a budget, and the architects respected it, and they made this house that is just surrounded with windows. It’s two stories, and the roof is just beautiful. It’s a green roof, actually green. There’s plants growing on top of the roof. So, that’s coming up.
And then we’re doing this article on Sandy Pines, which is a campground that was actually several different campgrounds before. When I was younger, I visited the campground in one of its former ways. It doesn’t look anything like it now. It is completely gorgeous. It is well designed. Right now, they have these 12 tents, they’re doing four more. They’re called glamping tents. And so, the best of the best interior designers have each chosen a tent, and they have really made it their own. All of their design passion … Is that the word I’m trying to think of? Is integrated in there.
And they’ve also drawn what I was saying before about bringing Maine into an interior. They have done that. There’s a lot of local artists that are seen in these tents. There’s one tent that has a chandelier all made of oyster shells, which is kind of cool. It’s just something special, and I think it’s going to be a really fun read for everyone that looks at this issue.
Upcoming issues, we have some of the beautiful summer homes we think of when we think of Maine Home+Design. But what I like about our magazine is, we have those classic cottage style houses, but then we also have these modern, beautiful homes that just completely take advantage, in both ways, of the landscape. And I think there’s this synergy between the landscape and the building that I think is so unique in Maine. There’s a lot of good things in store. I don’t want to ruin it, but you guys are going to be pretty excited.
Dr. Lisa B.: And also, The Look Book, which was one of the first things that you worked on when you came in. That’s something that is recently out, and will be available, basically, for people to, I guess, drool over.
Danielle Devine: Yes.
Dr. Lisa B.: For the foreseeable future. Tell us about The Look Book.
Danielle Devine: So, The Look Book was one of the first things, it was one of my first tasks here at Maine Home+Design. It was so interesting for me to be able to go through the archives and pick out the best of the best. I mean, it’s great, because it divides … The Look Book essentially is, there’s an exterior section. There is a living room section. There’s a kitchen section. And there’s a bathroom section. Our goal is to show various design styles.
I just had so much fun pulling the magazines out, and flagging what I liked. Then going in to you and being like, “What do you think of these?” And going to Heidi and get everyone else’s opinion. And a lot of times, we agreed. We’re like, “This is going to make …” It really is important to show different design styles. I think we did that. And most importantly, I want someone to get it in the mail and just take it and get inspired by it, just flip through it and be like, “I think there’s a way of me incorporating this into my home.”
We all want to dream. Maybe we can’t do the renovation that we really want to do, but we can do simple changes that really make all the difference. That’s what I do right now with the two kids. I’m inspired by The Look Book. When I was putting it together, I was like, “This would actually really work well in our house, and we could make this change.” So, small changes go a long way. And I think The Look Book is really fun. It’s a fun, relaxing read.
Dr. Lisa B.: I think that’s an important point. Sometimes it’s easy to look at these magazines, not just ours but any lifestyle type magazine and think, “That’s so far beyond what I’m capable of accomplishing or affording.” But, they’re meant to be aspirational. We’re not here at Maine Home+Design, nor really at any publication, is anyone suggesting that you can accomplish what’s on our covers necessarily.
Danielle Devine: Exactly.
Dr. Lisa B.: But you can look at it and say, “Well, I like this aspect of the garden that the landscape architect has designed.” Or, “I like this interior design element that the interior designer has incorporated.” I think that’s kind of what makes all of this fun.
Danielle Devine: Yeah, it does. It definitely does. As you look through it too, you’ll become familiar with the architects, and the designers, and the kitchen designers in the area. And I think the fascinating part I found so far is that the way that they collaborate together. They have the most respect for each other.
When I was gathering these pictures and putting down who helped design the houses, I got to learn about their relationships a little bit. I think that’s really important when you’re designing a home. And there’s a reason why these houses look good, and I think it’s because the people that work together really respect each other here, in Maine especially. That’s quite unique.
Dr. Lisa B.: Danielle, I really appreciate your having this conversation with me. It’s been a lot of fun. That’s a word that keeps coming up for us.
Danielle Devine: Yes.
Dr. Lisa B.: Let’s use it again. I’ve been speaking with Danielle Devine, who is the new managing editor for Maine Home+Design magazine. Thank you.
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Dr. Lisa B.: Rachel Walls is the owner of the gallery Rachel Walls Fine Art, located in Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth. The gallery is currently exhibiting the artwork of Dahlov Ipcar. And Walls is also organizing exhibitions at the University of Cincinnati and Bates College, which will open this summer. Thanks for coming in today.
Rachel Walls: My pleasure.
Dr. Lisa B.: I love this story, because it intersects so strongly with Dahlov Ipcar. And I’ve known about Dahlov for a while, and the work that she did bringing her books back to life with Dean Lunt at Islandport. For you, it’s a very personal connection.
Rachel Walls: Yes. I’ve known Dahlov since I was eight years old.
Dr. Lisa B.: And she also became part of, not to jump into it, but I guess I will. You had something traumatic experiences in your life.
Rachel Walls: Well, I actually had a very traumatic brain injury and damage to my nervous system in a skiing accident in Jackson Hole back in 2010. I was treated in Boston at Mass General for my injuries, and then came up to Maine to recover. While I was convalescing, I was encouraged by one of my physicians to read children’s books that I had read previously, and also look at pictures of art. I was encouraged to do this because as a result of the trauma to my central nervous system, I was having a very difficult time reading and writing. In fact, I needed to learn how to read and write again.
I was advised that probably the easiest way to unlock the information that had already been collected by my brain over the years, was the actually reintroduce material that I had already been familiar with, and to reestablish the pathways for that information to function with the rest of my body in a coherent way, the way it had before my accident.
And so, I was at my parents home, and in my childhood bedroom. And had all of my first edition Dahlov Ipcar books. I was reading through those, and because I have worked in the arts and love books, I had several books, even dating back to high school and college about art in my bedroom where I was recovering. So, I looked through the pictures of those books.
And one of the things that I realized as I was going through all these books was that I had some first edition copies of Dahlov Ipcar books that were not signed. I actually was aware that she was having a book signing at the Portland Museum of Art later that month. So I did take the couple books that I had to the book signing. And then while I was there, she remembered me and asked me to stay and speak with her after the book signing. And I did, and then she invited me up to her farmhouse to visit her.
When I went up to her farmhouse, we discussed the fact that I was recovering from a traumatic brain injury, that I did not actually broadcast to a lot of people. At that point, Dahlov confided in me that she was actually losing her vision. And so, we actually began, at that point, meeting on almost a weekly, and then it would become a bi-weekly, or multiple times a week depending on the week, schedule of visits that would sometimes last a couple hours or several hours. And really, we spent a lot of that time speaking about what we were going through, because we didn’t want to speak openly about it with many other people.
That was really great, therapeutic, and bonding experience, I think for both of us. It was through that process that I shared with her one of the ideas that I had come up with during my recovery, which was actually to do an exhibition of her work, along with her parents. And that exhibition did actually happen in Boston in summer of 2015 at Samson, which is a gallery in the South End of Boston.
So unfortunately, it was during that exhibition that Tom Crotty, who had been representing Dahlov for many decades passed away somewhat unexpectedly. And so after his passing, Dahlov asked me if I would represent her. And so, it really has been an interesting journey, and one that ultimately brought me back to Maine. Because before my skiing accident, I was actually living out in Jackson Hole. I lived in Maine for the first 22 years of my life, and then moved out to Wyoming, and lived in Jackson Hole for the next 18, before coming back to Maine.
Dr. Lisa B.: It’s interesting to me that your gallery is at Fort Williams.
Rachel Walls: Why is that?
Dr. Lisa B.: Well, it’s interesting because I remember when the children’s museum was at Fort Williams, which had to be quite a few decades ago now.
Rachel Walls: Yes, I remember that.
Dr. Lisa B.: Yeah. And so, I remember it, and I was young, but it was this place of discovery, and learning, and piquing the imagination for me as a small child. So when you’re describing your gallery as being more than just a place where art is hung, it really goes along with that idea.
Rachel Walls: That’s actually part of why I chose Fort Williams. When I first came back to Maine and was looking for space, I was looking in Portland. It seemed to make sense. Portland, of course, is the center of everything cultural going on in the state. It is our biggest city. It is a cultural resource in and of itself. And there’s a lot of wonderful real estate here in downtown.
It was after the second purchase deal that I had in place did not work out, that it was actually my mother who suggested that I see if there were space available at Fort Williams. When she first suggested it to me, I immediately rejected that idea. And then it was about a month later, when I was on vacation in a hotel room waiting for my cousin to get married a few hours later to his now wife, that I had this epiphany that in fact, actually Cape Elizabeth and Fort Williams would be the perfect place. And for many of the reasons that you just said.
Fort Williams for me growing up, was a very central place. It was where we played outside. It was where we gathered as family, as friends, as schoolmates. It is a very big focal point in my life, when I think of community and friends and family. And also, adventure. The maritime history, and the military history, and the Maine history that is all right there focused on 99 acres right in Cape Elizabeth, is such a wonderful resource.
And so when I did decide that Cape Elizabeth would be a great place, I was very happy to find out that there was space available. And what it did was, I actually waited 10 months until all the space became available, and took over as much space in the old officer bachelor quarters, which is now the home of Rachel Walls Fine Art. And then, had to wait 10 months until the rest of the leases expired and I could take those over, as well.
So one of the things that has been really exciting for me is this idea that now that I’m coming back to Maine as an adult, one of the things that I have realized after being out in the world, is that the experience that I had growing up was exceptional. I appreciate very much the beauty of Maine, and have always appreciated that. But, what I don’t think I fully realized was the quality of life that we have here in Maine, and the educational opportunities that I was afforded by being a child who grew up in Maine, and even went to public schools.
When I was growing up, we had artists in residence visit my public school classrooms while I was in elementary and middle school. Dahlov Ipcar actually was one of the artists. She and Mimi Gregoire Carpenter came to my 3rd grade class and taught me and the rest of my classmates how to write and illustrate our own children’s book. And then we had performing artists and other visual artists come in over the years.
One of the things that I have really never forgotten was that when I was eight, Dahlov Ipcar, who was at the time my favorite children’s book author, because One Horse Farm was my favorite children’s book, that when she told me when I was eight years old that I was a gifted writer and I should really focus on that, that gave me the encouragement that I needed to really feel confident in my abilities as a writer. I think part of the reason that I was a published writer by the time I was 25 years old was because I was encouraged, not only by my parents and my teachers, but also someone that I really looked up to and admired as a professional in an industry that, as a child, thought I wanted to be in.
And one of the things that I am very excited to do now that I’m back in Maine, is to try and revive some of these programs that have been defunded and fallen off the radar of many here in Maine. I think it is very important to have these programs and to have this kind of outreach in our public schools, and even the private schools. And not just at the elementary school levels, but really at all levels. All ages, including adults can benefit from exposure to art and its various forms, and the creativity that comes from that exposure.
So, I really am hoping that one of the things that will be a lasting effect of the work that I’m doing is that we will be able to really demonstrate that these types of programs are beneficial, and that we need to have them back in Maine, across the state, statewide, at least in the elementary schools. But really, I would like to ultimately see at every age level, both in public and private schools.
I was very struck several years ago when I was in Manhattan having brunch with a classmate of mine from growing up in Cape Elizabeth. He is a very successful physician in Manhattan, and has had a lot of successes in his life. And when we got together, he was telling me that one of his favorite memories is from when we were in 6th grade, when Gretchen Berg made him Alexander in Alexander and the Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
And I was thinking to myself when he said that to me, “This is interesting. With everything that Will has accomplished, he’s going back to 6th grade and talking about the fact that he was selected by a performing artist who came into our classroom, to be the star of our class’s performance.” And that was something that really he held onto, and still talks about. And he even mentioned that he and his brothers when they get together, they talk about these experiences that we all had growing up with these artists coming in to our schools and into our lives.
And so, I think if both Will and I, as adults, can go back and pinpoint moments or events that happened as a result of programs like these that really have stayed with us and propelled us forward, that that’s something that shouldn’t be ignored. In fact, it’s something that we should really focus on, and take that information and try to enrich the lives of the future generations of Mainers.
There was two weeks ago, or three weeks ago now, the Brookings Institute released a study that the National Endowment of the Arts had conducted in Atlanta, that with at least three art educational experiences a year, elementary school students’ test scores went up drastically. And so, this is not just something that enriches the lives of people, but it literally helps enrich their minds. And so, programs like these are necessary because it really is something that enhances experiences of everyone, in terms of life and learning.
Dr. Lisa B.: How do you propose accomplishing this?
Rachel Walls: One of the things that I’ve been doing is, I’ve been working with public schools and doing a lot of outreach. This summer, Rachel Walls Fine Art was open seven days a week, eight hours a day. And we had a lot of people come in through the summer time and through the fall, that continued to be while the weather was nice, we had a lot of visitation. And then over the winter, what I’ve chosen to do is be by appointment, and to do a lot of outreach in the public schools, with me actually going there.
And then also, with them coming originally to the Portland Public Library to the exhibition that I had curated there in celebration of Dahlov’s 100th birthday, and in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Portland Public Library. And now, also continuing to bring students and also adults, I do a lot of alumni groups, and art groups, and adult living community groups, as well. But bringing these groups into Rachel Walls Fine Art and letting them experience the art and also different programs.
That’s one thing that I’m doing. I’m also doing, coming up into the spring and into the summer, an afterschool program, and also a summer program. Then the other things that I’m doing are really trying to create programs at institutions like Bates College. One of the things that will be happening this summer is that there will be an exhibition in Lewiston at the Olin Arts Center at Bates College Art Museum focusing on Dahlov. And they will have that exhibition running from June ’til October. And they will do a lot of outreach in the Lewiston Auburn area.
What I’m hoping that we can do as a result of a lot of this outreach is, really come up with some information about what works and what doesn’t. I think that will be an evolving and dynamic process. I think that with everything related to education and experience, you have to have that flexibility. I don’t know exactly how it will manifest, but I do think that a lot of the outreach and the programs that I’m doing, and a lot of the partnerships that I’m trying to do will continue to, hopefully, manifest those opportunities.
Dr. Lisa B.: You said that you previously were more in the writing and publishing field. Now you’re clearly right in the middle of the fine arts field. How did that change?
Rachel Walls: Well, it hasn’t changed, actually. When I was in media and publishing, I worked for a media company called Western Interiors and Design. They had a media company that owned a magazine, but they also had brand extensions. And several of the brand extensions that they had were exhibitions and design conferences. I was the director of the Western Interiors Design and Home Show in San Francisco, the Southwest Design Conference in Santa Fe, the Western Design Conference in Cody, Wyoming, the LA Design Conference in Los Angeles, and we had other exhibitions across the country in addition to the design exhibitions.
We also partnered with several institutions, cultural institutions and museums, and collaborated on exhibitions related to that, and also home tours. Home tours like, for instance, in Santa Fe I worked on home tours of Georgia O’Keeffe’s two residences at Abiquiu and the Ghost Ranch. So, there has actually, even with my media experience, been a lot of work with fine art. It’s really been at the intersection of fine art and design, I would say.
Dr. Lisa B.: How did growing up in Cape Elizabeth and your education at Bates influence you in the direction of arts and writing?
Rachel Walls: Well, I would say that really several things. I had very engaged and active parents that participated in a lot of my educational experiences and homework. So, that was something that was very important. And we also, I grew up in an environment where we had art in our home. We read a lot of books. We visited museums. We spend a lot of time engaging with those things. So while I was learning, those were the types of things that were incorporated in my learning.
And to that end, the public schools in Cape Elizabeth, at least while I was growing up, I don’t have children, so I’m not as aware of what parents now might say, or what students there might say, but when I was growing up, it was very focused on arts. Visual arts, performing arts, and the experience that one would have with those. And then, actually when I was in high school, I went to school in Portland, actually. That was an amazing experience for me.
Cape Elizabeth was a great environment to grow up in, but I think actually going to high school in Portland was actually even more opening for me, in terms of art and access, probably because of the foundation that I had in Cape Elizabeth. But it was really actually I would say, the liberal arts that were the thing that I was most focused on.
And one of the things that I really enjoyed about going to high school in Portland was that I was able to take Ancient Greek, Latin, French, and German. One of the things that I did while I was in high school was I read the Odyssey in Ancient Greek, and the Iliad in Latin. And we went and we looked at a lot of artifacts. Red Chaniford, who was a professor at Bowdoin at the time, also was kind of moonlighting as a high school teacher. He was fabulous at taking us to museums and having symposiums, and really kind of priming me for the experience that I would then have at Bates.
At Bates College, I had a really wonderful experience where they had just actually created a new major, which was called American Cultural Studies. I was one of the first 50 graduates of that program. One of the things that I cannot say enough about is how that interdisciplinary program really allowed me to engage with art and history in a way that I have really an understanding of cultural history and how it impacts visual art, creativity, music, dance, all of these performing arts. And really, I would say that exposure to such a liberal education and a platform at Bates where they really encouraged us to experience things that we hadn’t experienced, was very much a part of my development and my appreciation for the arts.
I had several professors there who were very instrumental in this process. But one of them was actually a music professor that I had. She taught a lot of ethno-musicology classes. But she would take us on field trips to Boston and New York and to Portland, and we would actually do interviews with artists and musicians. It was really through that process that I realized that I wanted to be a cultural historian. And I think that put me on the path that really set the trajectory for me to become involved in arts.
When I first moved to Jackson Hole after living in New York City for a while, I worked at the National Museum of Wildlife Art. That also proved to be a great foundation for me to experience something in a different way, because before moving there, I didn’t realize that wildlife art was a genre. But I do think because of the experiences I had in Cape Elizabeth, in Portland, in Lewiston, in New York before moving to Jackson Hole, really helped me understand that this was an amazing opportunity for me to expand my thinking and the way that I thought about art and subject matter and a lot of different things related to preconceptions I had about what art was, or what it could be.
So, I think that more than anything, one of the recurring threads from all my educational experiences was this idea that everything is really about perspective. And there is not one answer that is correct. It really is just what, unless you’re talking about science or math, there really is no one truth. It’s really just about perspective. I think that all of those experiences that I had educationally really reinforced that, and brought me around to this idea that we really need to be very aware of perspective and discuss that, and talk about that, and really understand how that impacts the way we perceive things, or how others perceive things, and how that really creates a bigger picture.
Dr. Lisa B.: I’ve been speaking with Rachel Walls, who is the owner of the gallery Rachel Walls Fine Art, located in Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth. I really appreciate the work that you’re doing, and I wish you all the best as you continue with your hope to get arts more thoroughly integrated into the schools throughout the state of Maine. And also, I wish you all the best in your upcoming exhibits.
Rachel Walls: Thank you, Lisa.
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Dr. Lisa B.: You have been listening to Love Maine Radio. Show number 345. Our guests have included Danielle Devine and Rachel Walls. For more information on our guests and extended interviews, visit LoveMaineRadio.com. Love Maine Radio is downloadable for free on iTunes.
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This is Dr. Lisa Belisle. Thank you for sharing this part of your day with me. May you have a bountiful life.
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