With an art degree that has taken her from Washington, D.C., to Portland, where she worked as director in fine art galleries and conducted one-woman shows, Maine artist Marsha Donahue now is settled in Millinocket where she turned her art studio into North Light Gallery.
It was when she was in Portland several years ago and having one of those one-woman shows that she realized “every other year, I would have to dedicate almost my entire year painting 25 paintings for a show.”
“I began to feel like I was spending all of my time with my art, just trying to make money,” she told me, “and I felt soulless; dedicating all of that gift to making money.”
So Donahue made a change in her life and decided to participate in Portland’s Lighthouses on Parade project, where artists are invited to submit designs for work to be placed throughout the city.
Her sponsors were Newman’s Own and Camp Sunshine, organizations that offer free camping experiences for ill children.
“Then I got really involved in giving artwork to different charity auctions,” Donahue said.
Every year, she contributes to fundraisers for the Boys and Girls Club and Kids First, both in Portland.
Kids First, she explained, is an organization that works to help “put children first” when parents are going through a divorce.
“Having gone through a divorce, I thought that was important,” she said.
Since relocating to this area, Donahue has contributed to the Maine Discovery Museum auctions and has been casting about for another charity to support.
She recently spoke with Millinocket native Michael Crowley, president and chief philanthropy officer of Healthcare Charities.
Donahue explained to Crowley that she got involved with charities to help “make my own feelings about my own gift feel better. And I could see the wheels spinning there. He wanted to know what type of charity I was interested in.”
Having taught a couple years at Hyde School in Bath and having worked with youth groups at Allen Avenue Unitarian Universalist Church in Portland, Donahue recognized she really had “a commitment to kids. I really like teenagers,”
It was then Crowley told Donahue about the mental health and substance abuse services for teens offered at The Acadia Hospital in Bangor.
Donahue was given a tour of the facility and met several staff members, from administrators to doctors and therapists.
“It’s hard to call it a hospital,” Donahue said of Acadia.
“It’s a community of people who are struggling to connect, and [Acadia] helps and saves a lot of lives.”
During conversations with staff who act as spokespersons for the hospital, Donahue said she told them “where I have come from, and why I am interested in this facility.”
“Part of their mission is to take a little bit of the stigma off having emotional problems.
“I have dealt with depression over the years and have learned to manage it, but I realize the importance of not only de-mything the shame of that, but also making it easier for people to deal with those problems and manage their lives properly.
“I am endorsing that direction they are trying to take.”
Donahue’s endorsement is taking an unusual form; one that should be appealing to people who favor the work of Maine artists.
Donahue is offering to donate a percentage of the sales of any of her work that is sold through Acadia Hospital to help support its youth programs.
She will contribute 10 percent of the sale of any of her originals, ranging in price from $250 to $3,500, and 50 percent of the sale of any of her prints, ranging from $40 to $325 to The Acadia Hospital.
Anyone who contacts her as a result of visiting her website, www.artnorthlight.com through Acadia Hospital just needs to use the phrase “Support Youth Wellness” and the donation will apply. Donahue will send a check to Acadia Hospital and include the purchaser’s name in the gift.
Donahue’s first offering, “Breakup in Bangor,” was painted during an ice-out in the spring from Route 9 across the Penobscot River.
The original, which is still available, is a 28-by-36-inch oil on canvas for $3,500, with $350 benefiting the hospital. The prints of this image are in two sizes: 16 by 20 inches and 22 by 30 inches.
Development director Lynda Rohman wrote me that “we are very grateful for Marsha’s interest in supporting The Acadia Hospital.”
“Marsha shared [that] her motivation to donate a percentage of her sales to ‘Support Youth Wellness’ was driven by her gratitude for the people who have helped her along the way, with hope this offer will support our youth programming at Acadia.
“This is a wonderful opportunity, and we look forward to furthering our relationship.”
For information about this fundraiser, visit Donahue’s website or visit www.acadiahospital.org, scroll down and click on “Buy a painting of Maine and help Acadia Hospital.”
Joni Averill, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402; firstname.lastname@example.org; 990-8288.