Category Archives: 2017

For 23 years enjoying ‘being in the middle of things’

In 1979 Margaret (Peggy) Black was freshly arrived in St. George, having married a local man, Ed Black, who she had met a year earlier in Connecticut (where she was born and raised). “I remember coming into town and being shown around a little bit and seeing the town office and thinking, ‘That would be such a fun place to work—you’d be right in the middle of things!’” Fifteen years later, in 1994, when she was hired to work for the town, she got a chance to find out if she was right.

“You really are in the middle of things here,” Black confirms as she reflects on her impending retirement after 23 years on the job. “I’ve loved it!”

Now the town’s Office Manager, Black began her career at the town office under the mentorship of Barbara Hupper, working “out front” and waiting on the counter. “That was my favorite part of the whole job, being out front seeing people, helping them find things or do things they needed to do. I enjoyed the interaction. Most of the time it was positive and it was fun and you’d go home feeling good about what you had done during the day. I enjoyed the challenge of figuring out how to find what they were looking for, how to make something happen. I’m not very outgoing, but I enjoy people, I like helping people. The job was perfect for me.”

While Black says she liked her stay-at-home time raising three boys and doing the bookkeeping for her husband’s seafood business (she also worked for several years as an aide and secretary at the St. George School), working in town government has been especially rewarding. “There are a lot of different aspects of town government—and you’re always learning about something new.” She cites such things as the frequent changes in regulations and laws regarding things like vital records, various types of taxes and voter registration.

Details, Black admits, are something she has always particularly enjoyed sorting out. “I like organizing. Growing up I always liked math and things that were logical. My favorite saying here is that, ‘It is all here somewhere.’ If it is numbers you know you are going to be able to find it somewhere. It may take you a while, but you’ll be able to find it.”

In the beginning of her time at the town office, although there was one lone computer on the back table, most record keeping was hand written. So, for example, doing the “cash ups” at the end of the day—reconciling the cash drawer with the receipt book—or issuing tax bills and then tracking collections were time-consuming activities. “Now we have computers for everything,” Black points out with a touch of amazement at the transformation. “I really appreciate the efficiency of the computers.”

Another big change came with the expansion of the town office to include the new fire station, meeting hall and adjacent office space. “The expansion was an exciting time. We added a lot of space,” Black says, adding wryly, “which now, of course is completely filled up.”

But with all the changes in technology and physical plant she has seen, there are several important things that Black says she is glad that haven’t changed.

One is the character of this community. “I think this is a great small town. It’s friendly and people are so willing to help each other. I love to see the way people come together to help out. I feel so fortunate to have been able to live here. There is such a close feeling.”

Another is the team spirit of the people with whom she works. “I may be the Office Manager, but I’ve never been comfortable with being ‘the boss.’ I have liked working with everyone, the group. Everyone helps everyone else. I have looked forward to coming to work every day. I’m going to miss that.”

But Black acknowledges that she looks forward to retirement, too. “I’d like to be able to visit people I haven’t been able to visit in a long time.” And, she adds with a smile, “I’d like to have the time to do things like clearing out my attic.”

Still, she reflects, “I was never really happy until I went to work. I’ll be glad for more free time, but I’ll be looking for something to do after I retire, something where I can be useful—and have some fun.”—JW

PHOTO: Julie Wortman

The story behind ‘Jackson’s Hill,’ Tenants Harbor

[Ed. note: This is the first in a series of monthly history columns prepared by John M. Falla. Falla, who grew up in St. George, has long been interested in local history. Until recently he served as St. George’s Town Manager. The St. George Dragon is very pleased to welcome him as part of our editorial team!]

Captions of pictures from the St. George Chronicles of 1932, taken from the hill in front of the town office looking westerly towards the Baptist Church, say the views were taken from “Jackson’s Hill.” [The Chronicles was a census of the inhabitants of the town, along with an historical sketch and a complete business directory prepared by Joseph T. Simmons and Mabelle Andrews Rose.] Growing up in this neighborhood I never heard it referred to as Jackson’s Hill and figured it was an old name that had stopped being used–like Herring Gut being the old name for Port Clyde.  It was about 25 years ago  that I stumbled across some information about the Jackson family and thus learned the origin of “Jackson’s Hill.”

Samuel H. Jackson and his wife, Elizabeth, came to Tenants Harbor from the Belfast area in the mid-1850s.  He purchased about a one-quarter acre of land from Eunice Stearns, wife of Dr. Charles Stearns, and widow of William Henderson.  [Note: The Henderson family owned quite a bit of the Tenants Harbor village area and did not start to “sell off” their land into house lots until the mid-19th century.]  This property is presently owned by Mike and Joanna Monroe and has since the late 1800s been the site of residential and commercial use—George E. Allen ran a store there from the 1890s to 1905 when he sold the property to John Morris, who lived there and also had a store, ice house, dance hall, etc.

Samuel H. Jackson was known to most as Harry Jackson.  He was a sailmaker by occupation and during the shipbuilding boom of the 1860s and 1870s he amassed quite an estate of shares in local vessels.  In 1856 he was a 1/32 owner of only one vessel, the one-year-old Susan Emily.  In 1883, the year prior to his death, he was part owner in 26 schooners.  His largest shares–1/8 part each–were in the two vessels Four Sisters and Susan Ross.

The Jacksons were parents to seven children, four of whom grew to adulthood.  The two oldest children, George W. and Mary Elinor “Nellie,” were born in Belfast.  Shortly after Nellie’s birth, the family moved to Tenants Harbor.  The 1860 census of St. George shows the Jacksons in Tenants Harbor.  The 1870 and 1880 censuses show the Jacksons at the same location, Jackson’s Hill, with Harry’s mother still boarding with them, and children George, Nellie, Edwin and Roland still at home.  In 1880 George is working as a sail maker and his brother Edwin is working at the sail loft over Long’s store on Front Street.

It appears that after Harry Jackson’s death in 1884, his widow and three adult children–Edwin, Roland and Mary Elinor–lived in Waldoboro for a short period, being there when they sold the homestead to George E. Allen. They returned by 1900, renting a place on Church Hill in Tenants Harbor. A 1983 letter from Herbert Davis of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., says that “…I spent many hours in the presence of Mary Elinor Jackson to my immense advantage and education in life and its philosophy.  I lived in the ‘Glidden’ house, by Bickmore Creek, now known as Ripley Creek, and she and her brothers lived next door uphill toward the church in 1914, 1915 and 1916.”  Mary Elinor Jackson is best known to many residents and visitors of the town as the person to whom the town’s library is dedicated. [By the way–the Glidden house is the one next to the Creek and is currently owned by Jane Derbyshire.]
—John M. Falla

The Robin


The scarlet orange robin’s breast
Shines in the early morning sun
She bounces around, looking for worms for her young
Pecking the soft grass-covered ground
A worm just large enough has been found.

—Drawing and poem by Lydia Myers, 6th grade student at St. George School

An art form where ‘Color is King’

Last year, Spruce Head tapestry artist Morris David Dorenfeld, received a Maine Artist Fellowship awarded by the Maine Arts Commission. This prestigious merit-based award recognizes artistic excellence and is intended to advance the careers of Maine artists. For Dorenfeld, this recognition helped to bring to prominence his unique style of creating paintings by weaving them. Although tapestry weaving dates back thousands of years to ancient Egypt, modern tapestry-making became popular after World War I, when weavers and artists began collaborating to design and make them. According to master tapestry weaver, Patricia Armour of New Zealand, currently there are only about 1,000 tapestry weavers in the world and only a handful of those create tapestries that may be deemed “fine art.” Dorenfeld ranks among them.

Born and raised in Chicago, Ill., Dorenfeld discovered his love of color and painting as a young boy. A single-minded pursuit of fine art eventually led him to the Chicago Art Institute where he studied painting. Influenced by his love of brilliant color, Dorenfeld engaged in Color Field painting, which is a form of abstraction that began in New York City during the 1940s. This style employs a large field of flat solid color in either geometric or non-geometric designs, where color itself is the subject of the artwork. As Dorenfeld puts it, “Color is King!” In fact, he sees the use of vivid colors in his work as an affirmation of life and as an outward expression of his innermost being. “I want to show what’s inside me by showing my heart and soul,” he says.

Although Dorenfeld aspired to be a painter of fine art in his youth, it was many years before he found the medium that truly became a natural form of expression for him: tapestry weaving. In the early 1960s he worked as an artist and a waiter in Provincetown, Mass., and then went on to design vinyl wall covering at the General Rubber and Tire Company in New Hampshire. While there, he discovered a large 18th-century loom that was stored in the attic of the barn on his property. Although Dorenfeld never assembled and used the loom, which he still owns today, the notion of weaving rather than painting his art began to formulate. After moving to St. George in 1978, Dorenfeld took lessons in weaving from Shirley Russell Barlow in Martinsville. He fell in love with the process and adopted this medium to create his paintings on a vertical loom which he acquired from a school in Finland. Vertical looms are traditionally used for tapestry weaving because they allow the artist to better conceive the image during the weaving process. And, for Dorenfeld, the small vertical loom fits nicely into his modest living space.

“You’re building the canvas while you’re weaving a painting,” Dorenfeld explains. However, “there’s a freedom in painting that you don’t have in weaving because it is difficult to go back and repair your mistakes.” Therefore, he begins a tapestry painting by first designing it with arranged pieces of colored paper that are then diagrammed onto graph paper. It’s a deliberate and tedious process that leads to masterful work. Weaving a tapestry not only demands skill and patience, but also physical strength.  Dorenfeld experiences the joy of creating “from the mandatory time it takes setting up the loom, the long solitary hours of concentration and patience as the weaving takes shape, to the thrill of discovery upon removing the finished piece from the loom.”

Over the past 40 years, Dorenfeld’s tapestries have been exhibited in notable fine art venues including the Center for Maine Contemporary Art, ICON Gallery in Brunswick, Maine, the Patina Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Galeria Mesa in Arizona, and the Governor’s Mansion (Blaine House) in Augusta. One of his tapestries, too, hangs in the entrance foyer of the Jackson Memorial Library in Tenants Harbor. His work may also be viewed at the Caldbeck Gallery in Rockland and on his website:

—Katharine A. Cartwright

PHOTOS: Katharine A. Cartwright


We have been members of the St. George Grange at Wiley’s Corner since we moved here in 1992. I have been volunteering at WindowDressers, the nonprofit based in Rockland, since 2012.

There are a good number of homes in St. George that have received the low cost heat/energy-saving window inserts since 2010, but many more that have not. The St. George Grange is serving as a coordinator this season for the community, with the actual community “build” occurring in October. You may know that one reason the inserts are so affordable is that the cost only pays for the supplies needed. All other work is done by volunteers, many of whom are current or past customers.  Having a community build in St. George will make your few volunteering hours far more convenient, though we also welcome you to come to our workshops at Lincoln Street Center in Rockland.

However, Window Dressers hopes to FINISH measuring homes all over the state in June, so NOW is the time to check in and sign up.

The best way to sign up is to go to and click on the sign-up button, but you can phone Barbara Anderson at 372-6242 or 975-5967 if you are not comfortable using the internet.  You can also phone Window Dressers at 596-3073.

At the Grange suppers (second Saturday each month starting May 13) we will be making information about Window Dressers and a sign-up opportunity available to the community.  The Grange members are looking forward to this opportunity to provide such a service to the community, and we hope to hear from you and/or see you at a Grange supper to sign up very soon.

Barbara Anderson
St. George Grange member and Window Dressers volunteer

Where in St. George…?




Do you know where this is? Email your answer to The first correct answer wins a free business card-sized ad in The Dragon.

Kate Hewlett identified the windmill and lighthouse on Wallston Road  in the May 11 issue.



PHOTO: Betsy Welch

Hegar to speak at 7th annual ‘Boots on the Ground’ event

Knox Museum marks its 7th annual Memorial Day weekend event, Boots on the Ground, with a very special presentation by U.S. Air Force veteran and Air National Guard pilot—and author of Shoot Like A Girl: One Woman’s Dramatic Fight in Afghanistan and on the Home Front—Mary Jennings (M.J.) Hegar on Saturday, May 27, at 11 am. Shoot Like A Girl is soon to be a major motion picture with Angelina Jolie set to star in the role of Major Hegar.
The program will be held under the big tent at Montpelier, the big white house at the turn to St. George in Thomaston. In addition to Major Hegar’s talk there will be musters and music, lunch, special activities for children, and tours of Montpelier. Admission is free, and all are welcome to attend. The event is sponsored by Walmart Foundation, Camden National Bank, Beverly and David Worthington and Brooks Trap Mill.

Major Hegar served three tours in Afghanistan flying Combat Search and Rescue as well as Medevac missions. On her third tour to Afghanistan on July 29th, 2009, she was shot down on a Medevac mission and sustained wounds resulting in her being awarded the Purple Heart.  Her actions on this mission saved the lives of her crew and patients, earning her the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor Device, and making her just the sixth woman in history to receive the DFC (the first was Amelia Earhart), and only the second ever to receive it with the Valor Device.

Major Hegar was named one of Foreign Policy Magazine’s 100 Leading Global Thinkers, and one of Newsweek’s 125 Women of Impact. Senator John McCain tells us that “Major Mary Jennings Hegar has established her warrior credentials, joining an elite group of American service members who have bravely served our nation in combat. In Shoot Like A Girl, Major Hegar shares her remarkable experience on the front lines both overseas and at home–from exchanging fire with the Taliban and saving her comrades in Afghanistan, to fighting to open all combat positions to women in the military. Shoot Like A Girl is a must-read about an American patriot whose courage and determination will have a lasting impact on the future of our Armed Forces and the nation.”  Copies of Shoot Like A Girl will be available for sale at the event, and signed by the author.

In addition to Major Hegar’s talk, music will be provided by Midcoast Community Band, directed by Joanne Parker. Fish chowder and strawberry shortcake will be provided by Jim Barstow and Tenants Harbor Masons, with hot dogs and hamburgers being served by U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Army vets. Free tours of Montpelier including Knox Museum’s special 2017 exhibition “Maine Women in the Military: From the American Revolution to the Global War on Terror” will be available between 1 and 3 pm. And Bill Komulainen of Camden plans to display his authentically kitted-out 1943 WW II-era Jeep on the property, weather permitting.

The event will go on rain or shine. Visitors are encouraged to carpool, to dress for changeable weather, and to bring lawn chairs if possible. Some seating will be provided. A reminder that, due to the historical nature of the building, Montpelier is not at present handicapped accessible.

For more information contact Knox Museum at 354-8062 or, or visit the Museum’s new website at

‘Bring back the fish!’

As this issue of The Dragon appears, many people in midcoast Maine are eagerly awaiting the spring run of alewives, the herring-like anadromous fish (meaning they move from fresh water to salt water) that are what St. George Conservation Commission member Les Hyde refers to as a “keystone species.” “Keystone” because alewives eat plankton, produce a lot of eggs and are an oily fish that are high in nutrients for other fish. As Hyde puts it, “If you don’t have alewives, there are a lot of other fish you don’t have, too.” Fish like Atlantic salmon, cod and hake.

While the alewife runs in Damariscotta Mills and Warren are the most notable ones in the midcoast, until the late 1980s, there was also a significant native run of alewives into the marsh in Tenants Harbor. The fish followed a route from the harbor into Ripley Creek, under a stone bridge on Route 131 and on up the outlet stream from the marsh and over the dam into the marsh itself. Then the state Department of Transportation (DOT) replaced the stone bridge with a new metal culvert. The problem was that the culvert was positioned too high above the creek for the town’s native alewives to navigate their way back to the marsh to spawn. Unlike salmon, alewives don’t leap. “They can swim flatwise,” Hyde notes, “so they don’t need much water to swim, but they do not leap.”

An effort to restore the alewife population was first spearheaded nearly 10 years ago by St. George resident John Shea, resulting in the state’s restocking of the marsh with alewives over the course of 2009 to 2013. The hope was that these fish would spawn here, leave their fry in the marsh over the course of the summer and then these young fish would leave (moving through the metal culvert with the flow of water out of the marsh) to spend the next four years at sea. The hope was that by the time they were ready to return to spawn, a new alewife-friendly culvert would be in place to welcome them.

The DOT installed the new culvert in.the fall of 2015. Hyde says that is when Alison England and her science students at the newly independent St. George School gave the effort to bring the alewives back a badly needed shot in the arm.

“When we withdrew from the regional school unit, many of the staff met regularly over the summer to articulate a collective mission and vision for our school,” England recalls. “It was a very empowering process to talk with one another about our ideas of what education could look like, and about the kind of school we wanted to be here in St George. Those ideas included having our students feel connected to their community in the sense of both people and place. We also wanted them to develop a sense of stewardship of the natural resources that make St George such a special place. To me, bringing that vision to life meant engaging students in place-based science projects that are meaningful to the community and that help solve problems. So I went to the Conservation Commission to ask how our students could help the Commission.”

The answer, Hyde says, was to help the Commission determine, now that there was a new fish-friendly culvert in place, whether conditions were right for the return of the alewives. England embraced the project as an opportunity for her students to engage in “citizen science,” a model of volunteerism where community members play a role in science research and see themselves as contributors to solving authentic community issues. “My hope,” says England, “was that doing a community-based project like this would help our students see science in a more practical and tangible way.”

One of the most important questions that needed answering was whether the flow of water out of the marsh was sufficient to allow fish passage into the marsh. Another was whether there had been changes to the marsh since the last runs. Finally, as May approached in 2016, there was the question of where were the offspring of the stocked alewives?

“We combined science and math classes and worked on site practicing our methods, then collecting our ‘official’ data that we would communicate to the Conservation Commission,” England explains. “As we gained momentum in understanding the nature of our questions about whether the water flow would be adequate and whether the site conditions were optimal, students started forming their own questions and would suddenly appear while I was teaching other classes and ask if they could grab a pair of waders and go check on something they were wondering about—like the height of the water in the culvert during a particular part of the tide cycle or if they could use a GoPro camera to see if fish were coming into the culvert. Students even borrowed the waders over the weekend to check the water conditions and the culvert.”

As the students wrote in the “Abstract” section of their report to the commission, “Early in the season water flows were adequate to provide passage up into the marsh, especially with flood tides (spring tides) early in May. Alewives in neighboring midcoast communities began heavy migrations upstream the third week of May (May 15-21) after a cool, yet dry start to the month.”

It wasn’t until May 25th that the students saw alewives in the Tenants Harbor culvert. The problem, the students’ report noted, was that “by then, water flow from the marsh outlet was inadequate to bring them farther upstream. As of May 25th, average heights of high tides do not provide adequate water flow beyond the upstream end of the culvert, given the lack of flow from the marsh.”

Based on interviews with community members who were familiar with the conditions in the marsh before the metal culvert was installed, the students found that “the water levels of the marsh are nearly two feet lower than during historical runs of alewives.” In addition, “the habitat of the outlet stream is different today than in the past. The water is not as deep as before and does not have deeper pools of water that alewives could ‘rest’ in before going into the marsh. The habitat on Ripley Creek is different than when alewives ran. Today there is no water that is pooled either by a man-made structure or rocked pools for alewives to ‘rest’ as the tide goes out.”

Based on their findings the students made several recommendations to the Conservation Commission for how to improve conditions for the alewives. This past March the Commission brought a number of biologists to the project site to determine which of the recommendations should be pursued. “One of the recommendations was to raise the water level in the marsh,” Hyde noted, “but that would require restoring the old dam and the biologists said ‘We are into stream restoration now, not dam restoration.’ The students also recommended creating small resting pools in Ripley Creek and the outlet stream to help the alewives get up into the marsh, which we all agreed would be a good approach.”

So developing an engineering plan for the stream restoration—Hyde is hopeful the Nature Conservancy will prepare this—and finding funds to implement it is now firmly on the Commission’s agenda as the necessary next steps to bringing the alewives back to Tenants Harbor. “We’re calling our effort stream restoration, restoring the ecosystem to what it was,” Hyde says. “That’s our goal. Bring back the fish! That stretch of stream from the culvert to the marsh is also pretty ideal habitat for smelt, so when that engineering is done it will be done with alewives in mind but also with smelt in mind.”

As for the effect of the alewife project on her students, England points to what may seem like the most intangible aspect of their impressive “citizen science” research activities, but which to her is the most important one—the excitement the students felt when alewives were first sighted in the culvert. “While two students were out one day, they found an alewife wedged in a glass jar, halfway through the culvert. That really got us all excited that maybe, despite such dry conditions, that alewives could be returning. When alewives were actually seen swimming in the culvert it was like we had wished them back. It was on the day of our last observation of stream flow, as we literally measured zero flow! It seemed unbelievable that they were really there. In the morning, as we took turns tip-toeing over to view the culvert, several students at a time, community members began pulling into the parking area or pulling over on the road. A day or so later, the Conservation Commission, with their special permit, allowed students to net and carry alewives into the marsh to spawn. When students can literally say they helped alewives back into the marsh, that makes a lasting impact!”—JW

(“Report to the Conservation Commission from the St. George School Eighth Grade Class, June 1, 2016” is posted on the town’s website ( Click on the “Documents” section and scroll down to the Conservation Commission heading.)

PHOTOS: Alison England


Dear Editor,
As you may know, with the exception of our sailing instructors, the workforce of St. George Sailing is all-volunteer.  Members of the Board of Directors pitch in to do everything including accounting, fundraising, registration, boat hauling and maintenance, daily management, and much more.  With the support of so many in St. George, we are proud to have established St. George Sailing as a contributing member of the community.  But to keep our organization operating smoothly, we need help.

If you value St. George Sailing and would be willing to contribute some time to help out, please let us know.  We could really use some additional hands and can tailor the tasks to suit your skills and the time you have available.  As examples, we’d love for others to take on any of these tasks:

· Coordinate St. George Sailing participation in St. George Days (this year, Saturday, July 15)
· Coordinate participation in the Red Jacket Regatta (this year, Sunday July 16)
· Coordinate Parents on the Water day for each sailing session.
· Volunteer to bring refreshments to the Awards Ceremony and/or sell St. George Sailing merchandise

If none of these seems right for you, we have plenty of other ideas, and we are ready to give you all the help you need to get started!  You don’t need to be a current or former sailing parent and you don’t need to live in St. George full time—all you need is an interest in keeping St. George Sailing available as a resource for the children of the area!
Many thanks,

Kate Bourne
St. George Community Sailing Foundation
PO Box 435
Tenants Harbor, ME 04860

Wet paint on the Weskeag!

The Kelpie Gallery announces a call for artist submissions for “Wet Paint on the Weskeag!,” the 4th annual juried Wet Paint benefit auction for the Georges River Land Trust. During the weekend of the event, selected artists will paint en plein air on properties protected by the Land Trust. Artists will create works on Friday, August 11 or Saturday, August 12, which will then be previewed at the gallery on Sunday, August 13 during a cocktail reception and auctioned off that evening. Proceeds from artwork sold will be split 50/50 with the artists and the Georges River Land Trust.

For the past three years, artists have painted along the Weskeag River and Marsh to create the works for this event. Through the Land Trust’s “Bridging 2 Rivers” initiative, over 1,000 acres of land between the Weskeag and Georges Rivers are now protected, and this year the artists are invited to explore more of these areas.

Interested artists are invited to submit by email two images of original plein air paintings in any medium for juried consideration to participate in this year’s “Wet Paint on the Weskeag!” Please include at least one in the medium that will be used for the event. All entries must arrive by the deadline of Monday, May 15th. Application information and details can be found online at Please call 207-691-0392 or 207-691-3416, or email with questions or for more information.

An artist who explores the relationship of art and word

“Geraniums” by DiTa Ondek

In April of 2017, Tenants Harbor artist and poet DiTa Ondek participated in the inaugural exhibit of “Artword: Ekphrasis at the PMA,” a weekly series at the Portland Museum of Art intended to celebrate the relationship between poetry and visual art.  Ekphrastic poems are written in response to works of visual art, and illuminate what the eye might not see. Therefore, the art and poetry illuminate one another. At the exhibit, DiTa and other Maine poets were featured reading their original ekphrastic poetry aloud in the galleries where paintings were on display.

Born and raised in Southport, Conn., DiTa’s artistic journey in both poetry and visual art began with her interest in foreign language, which she studied at Marietta College in Ohio for three years. During that time, her primary creative outlet was writing poetry. However, her interests soon turned to teaching, and she transferred to Central Connecticut State University where she completed a degree in Education followed by a Masters Degree in Elementary Education at the University of Bridgeport, Conn. After completing her education, DiTa enjoyed a 20-year career as an elementary school teacher in Fairfield, Conn.

It was during her years as a teacher and poet that DiTa’s interest in the visual arts emerged. In 1985 she took up watercolor painting. Influenced by her training in foreign languages, she painted a series of portraits of ethnic peoples. This led to her first solo show in New York. Furthering her interest in the visual arts, DiTa served as an assistant to a post-modernist photographer in the 1990s.  The two met regularly with other post-modernists for lively discussion about the arts, which deepened DiTa’s understanding of fine art and design.

By the time she retired from teaching and moved to Portland, Maine in 1998, DiTa was ready for a new career. Her background in language, poetry and art laid the foundation for her next enterprise as a website designer. Self-taught in that field, she began a new company, DiTa Group LLC, that became a viable business and remains so today.

About six years ago, DiTa developed a deeper desire to spend more time painting. She enrolled in an adult education class on acrylic painting taught by Deb Arter at Gardiner High School.  There she developed a passion for the medium and has since completed many different series based on themes such as Monhegan Island, farm animals, cupcakes, birds and florals. DiTa describes herself as a “colorist” in both poetry and painting. “My work is a connection to the everyday: evocative colors, unexpected patterns of light or the sublime quality of ordinary subjects. I work to create a vibrant painting.”

Her ability to conceptualize is the common link to DiTa’s engagement in foreign language, poetry writing, painting and web design. Last year she decided to investigate encaustics, painting with wax, which led to a show of encaustic assemblages with ekphrastic poetry at the Granite Gallery in Tenants Harbor.  Her encaustic bird paintings were accompanied by a chapbook, “A Goldfinch’s Winter Garden.” Perhaps another common link may be her desire to share with others through each of these disciplines. As a visual artist, DiTa expresses a concern that “everyone should be able to own original art, and my art should be accessible to everyone.” Therefore, her prices are affordable and her works have broad appeal.

DiTa Ondek

Although DiTa has lived in various Maine communities flipping houses over the past 20 years, she feels most at home in St. George, where she feels a warm welcome she says never before experienced. Appreciative of this “inclusive, diverse community that supports the arts,” as she puts it, DiTa’s creativity is nourished by the many other local artists that have welcomed and encouraged her. Therefore, she is slowly retiring from her web design company in order to exclusively write poetry and paint.

DiTa’s series of acrylic paintings of vintage cars is presently on display at the Atlantic Motor Company in Wiscasset. Her new series, entitled “Laundry,” will be exhibited at the Port Clyde Art Gallery this summer. And her encaustic paintings that explore a mashup of Victorian dress and abstract expressionism will be featured at the Granite Gallery from August 17th to 23rd.  Additional works may be seen on her website:
—Katharine A. Cartwright

PHOTOS: Katharine A. Cartwright