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Art for Art's Sake

Watercolor pictures of sailboats and oil paintings of Italian gardens are transforming school walls to gallery walls in Maine.

Sixty-eight public schools in the state will receive original works of art by the landscape artist William Thon before the end of the fall semester.

The first school, Fred P. Hall Elementary School in Portland, received a watercolor painting of a sailboat on Nov. 14.

The artist, who died in 2000 at the age of 94 at his home in Port Clyde, Maine, left a portion of his artwork for the schools with the hope of inspiring students to love art.

"It was his own exposure to art in New York City as a child that began his lifelong journey as a successful artist and an art teacher," said James Houle, the legal counsel to the estate and a friend of Mr. Thon's.

The nationally known artist moved to Maine in 1940, painting many scenes from its coast.

The Portland Museum of Art, which is helping with the art distribution, plans to give artwork to every public school in the city of Portland and in Knox County, where the artist lived.

Works will also be given to the largest elementary and high schools in each of Maine's 16 counties.

Schools were asked to display the artwork in public but protected places, said Stacy Rodenberger, the coordinator of school programs for the museum.

The museum also plans to give the schools instructional materials related to the artist and his work so that students can learn more about the paintings hanging in their schools and what inspires someone to become an artist.

"We didn't want it to just hang in the administrative offices as decoration," Ms. Rodenberger said. "We wanted it to be a real educational tool, which I think was part of [Mr. Thon's] intent as well."

Both Mr. Houle and Ms. Rodenberger declined to comment on the monetary value of the donations, but comparable works have sold for $2,000 to $3,000 each, Mr. Houle said.

In addition to his gifts to schools, Mr. Thon donated a large portion of his estate, worth approximately $4 million, to the Portland Museum of Art.

"This was a man who was generous in virtually every manner you could think of and wanted to benefit the art world for both museums and students and teachers," Mr. Houle said.

—Olivia Doherty

Vol. 23, Issue 13, Page 3

Published in Print: November 26, 2003, as Take Note

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