This weekend, while hockey fans trekked to Worcester, Mass., to watch Maine’s Black Bears make the Frozen Four, student art supporters trekked to Norumbega Hall in downtown Bangor.
Inside, fourth-grader Cory Elowe darted between partitions covered with artwork, looking for his watercolor. “It’s supposed to be here, but I can’t find it,” he said.
Then he spotted it, in the middle of the Dover-Foxcroft display, and a grin spread over his face that he just couldn’t shake.
In pale colors, with an unexpected perspective, the painting showed cars lined up outside his school in SAD 68.
“I like to paint and I like to just move the brush along the paper,” Elowe said. “I like how you can make something that follows your hand. I like feeling the clay, and I like to look at my paintings after they’re done.”
Then the 9-year-old tripped off to find his mom, Heather. He led her to his painting and she stood behind him looking, her chin resting on top of his head.
“Goodness gracious, Corey, that does look familiar,” she said.
Outside, it was a brilliant spring day, the streets filled with people. A cluster of balloons marked the Harlow Street entrance to Norumbega Hall, where the Penobscot Room was filled with student art selected by art teachers.
Nearly 50 schools and 500 students were represented in the two-week exhibition organized by Art in the Heart, an association of art teachers in central and northern Maine.
A spring tradition for more than 25 years, the regional art show moved downtown from the Bangor Mall this year. As a result, a happy realization came at Saturday’s closing reception: Support for the show is large, enthusiastic and geographically broad.
“In the past, at the mall, we never had any way of knowing how many people had seen it,” said Esther Taylor, who has taught art in Orono for 28 years. “Today we know a lot of people traveled here just to see the show.”
Art teacher Ruth McAtee filled a school bus with 26 Woodland Elementary pupils for the 2 1/2-hour drive to Bangor from Baileyville. The Saturday morning caravan included several cars full of parents.
One of the school’s artists was Annastasia Parks, 7, who talked about her energetic, hilarious drawing, “Skeleton Scared of Skunks.”
“He looked like he was scared of something,” she said of the skeleton, “so I decided to make some skunks.”
Everywhere you walked, there were pieces good enough to make you stop. A computer-generated image by Schenck High School’s Matthew Gagnon. Portraits by Mike Stover and Courtney Reynolds, students at Hermon. Holly Mushero’s sensuous line drawing of trees and rocks.
Foxcroft Academy sophomore Lindsay Waller still seemed surprised by her painting of a cat on a leafy porch. The assignment, a lesson in monochromatic color, allowed her to use only black, white, and one other color.
“I didn’t think I would be able to do it,” the young woman said. “I thought one color wouldn’t be enough.”
Her art teacher, Christeen Edgecomb-Mudgett, was moving Saturday but took a break to stop by the show.
In one corner of the room, The Swing Set, a band with members from Old Town and Bangor, belted out tunes that bounced off the concrete floor. Small children carried paper cups full of Cheez-It crackers and clustered around an activity table stacked with rubber stamps, ink pads and paper.
Around the room, tiny metallic stars stuck to a handful of pieces identified those that will be shown at schools around the state this year, part of a traveling exhibition organized by the University of Maine.
“This is the state tournament for art,” said Mary Golob, a Foxcroft Academy art teacher. “It’s the very best of what comes out of this area, and I’m thrilled by the number of parents who have driven in today.”
Sean Flanigan, an Orono senior who’s headed to art school in Maryland, roamed the exhibition with a camera, taking pictures to show friends who didn’t make it and marveling at the accomplishments of peers he has never met.
He credited his teacher, Esther Taylor, for working hard to inspire a love of art in her classes. She stood across the room, talking with students and marveling at the turnout with other art teachers, all of them as pleased as a pack of tournament-winning hockey coaches.
“She wants to see us do well,” Flanigan said. “She wants us to have a passion and see that art has to do with what’s happening around us all the time.”