DAMARISCOTTA, Maine — A new exhibit in Damariscotta is on a mission to honor female veterans this Memorial Day Weekend and beyond.
The "Proudly She Served" show will be at The Peace Gallery at 112 Main Street through October. The Peace Gallery opened one year ago to showcase artwork from paintings to pottery made by veterans from across the country.
Director and co-founder Bernie DeLisle served in the Vietnam War. He said a lot of veterans organizations are closed to the general public. The goal of this gallery is to create more of a connection between the community and veterans.
"This is an attempt to blend community and the veterans through the art and through other programs. We’ve let the space be used for community meditations, yoga. We’ve had meditations here, book signings," Bernie said.
"Proudly She Served" features artwork from five women veterans. Two of them from Maine were at the gallery on Monday. Gigi Delisle served in the U.S. Navy and currently lives in Boothbay. Kelsey Towle is from Fort Fairfield originally. She served in the Maine National Guard and currently lives in Newcastle.
"For me, I think it’s nice as a conversation starter," Towle said about her artwork. "I know a lot of people especially who don’t have ties to the military might have a hard time finding common ground or just being able to relate."
Towle studied art at the University of Southern Maine before she was deployed in the Sahara Desert in Africa for six months in 2018. She said that experience, and her return home, gave her a deeper appreciation for Maine.
"The lens that I look and appreciate what I get to experience in Maine now has changed," Towle said. "It has intensified after seeing where other people have to live. They don’t get a choice."
For Gigi, her desire to enlist came after the September 11 attacks in 2001. She said she was working as a florist at the time. She actually discovered her passion for arts—watercolors, specifically—while at college studying architecture.
"It’s kind of a similar feeling of freedom while getting back into the creative flow," Gigi said, noting she has been busy raising two children and didn't have a lot of time for art in the past few years. "In the military, you're doing your job and your mission."
Gigi said she thinks art can act as an equalizer among all people.
"Beauty is accessible to everybody, no matter your belief. It’s really cool to connect in that way. It is a way of uniting."
The Peace Gallery is a nonprofit that Bernie said relies primarily on volunteers and community support. You can find out how to get involved here.