We need artists to help explain what is happening in this country, to tell the truth and reveal the lies, to be willing to say the emperor has no clothes, to create moral indignation, to envision alternatives, to reinvent language. We need artists to help us come together and share our voices and build community around powerful issues concerning our roles in the world and our planet’s survival. Compassion must be translated into action.
Natasha Mayers's work marries art and community. She studied sculpture but expected to teach high school social studies when she graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1967. After serving in the Peace Corps in Nigeria, she took a teaching job in Maine and began to study painting. A small sampling of her dozens of projects from the last 40-plus-years shows why she has been called the state's most committed activist-artist:
- In the late 1970s, Mayers worked with patients and Maine artists to paint murals and poetry in tunnels connecting buildings at the Augusta Mental Health Institute.
- During the 1994-95 school year, she helped her town's fourth and fifth graders paint its history on utility poles, cultivating a sense of place and intergenerational appreciation of the community.
- She organized "Warflowers: From Swords to Plowshares," a 2005–06 traveling exhibit by 44 Maine artists, launching discussion about how to convert our defense-based economy into a peace economy.
Since 1975, Mayers has supervised the painting of over 500 murals as a touring artist with the Maine Commission for the Arts. She is an artist-in-residence for Peace Action Maine and was a National Endowment for the Arts Millennium Artist in Portsmouth, Ohio.
In 2005, Mayers received the Arthur Hall Award "for an artist whose work, community service and commitment to their craft inspires others around them to reach to their highest potential." She has encouraged creativity in students from nursery school to college and in diverse populations, including immigrants, refugees, prisoners, the homeless, and the "psychiatrically labeled".
In her own painting, Mayers often explores themes of peace and social justice. By placing images of war on Maine's landscape in her "State of War" series, she effectively asks, How would we feel if it happened here?
"An empathetic response," says Mayers, "requires imagination."