The Maine Jewish Museum is opening a pop-up gallery on Portland’s Munjoy Hill so it can continue to show art while its Congress Street building undergoes repairs to damage from a fire in May.

The museum has rented the office building-turned-gallery at 76 Washington Ave. for six months and plans to hold two exhibitions each month, said curator in residence Nancy Davidson. The first exhibitions, “What We Look At” by mother-daughter duo Jane Sutherland and Alex Sax and “Pieces of You” by Megan Nathanson, open Thursday.

“Gathering” by Clara Cohan Courtesy Nancy Davidson/Maine Jewish Museum

The May 21 fire, which started behind a wall in the museum’s worship area, was quickly extinguished by the building’s sprinkler system, but that, in turn, caused significant water damage.

“I was thinking it’s going to take an awful long time to get (the museum) back to its pristine look, and the rehab is going to take a long time. I thought we need to have a presence in downtown Portland, and we have artists who have been working very hard on their exhibitions,” Davidson said. “We’re very excited about it.”

“What We Look At” includes paintings in different mediums, portraits of women and handmade dolls by Sutherland and mixed-media sculptures and drawings and paintings by Sax.

The paintings and drawings focus on everyday objects, revealing the “often unnoticed richness of the world.” The exhibition also recognizes women’s activism and commemorates the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote. The exhibition was originally supposed to run this May and June at the Jewish Museum.

“Taking a Leap” by Meghan Nathanson Courtesy Nancy Davidson/Maine Jewish Museum

“Pieces of You” focuses on the artist’s interest in creating “new life” from previously discarded material. Nathanson explores freedom, body language and social justice in her interpretations of the world. She works mainly with mixed media, “transforming large, figurative pencil drawings into sculptural collage” with torn paper from repurposed calendars “massaged together with a polymer medium,” according to a news release.

Nathanson’s exhibition will also include a sculpture by Clara Cohan. “Gathering” depicts a range of human and animal figures carved from wood. “As each figure emerged, it became clear that these entities had a collective purpose. They were representatives of diverse cultures, ethnic groups, animal-spirits, young and old … all coming together,” Cohan said in the release. “I started this project long before the Coronavirus and the killing of George Floyd. And here it is and here we are. Is there a deeper reason that the GATHERING is happening?”

“Buttons,” by Jane Sutherland. Courtesy Nancy Davidson/Maine Jewish Museum

The gallery will be open to a maximum of five visitors at a time. All guests are required to wear masks and maintain a 6-foot distance from other groups. The space is open Thursday, Friday, Sunday and Monday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The gallery is open Tuesday and Wednesday by private appointment, which can be scheduled through Nancy Davidson at (207) 239-4774.


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