Natasha Mayers Awtt Portrait

Natasha Mayers

Artist, Educator : b. 1946

“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 50-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. This project is featured in Lucy Lippard’s book, The Lure of the Local. 
  • 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.
  • For the past 35 years she has created parade “floats” for the local Whitefield 4th of July parade.

Mayers has been a Touring Artist with the Maine Arts Commission Artist-in-Residency Program since 1975. She has supervised the painting of over 600 school and community murals from Maine to Nicaragua, encouraging creativity in students from nursery school to college and in diverse populations, including immigrants, refugees, prisoners, the homeless, and the “psychiatrically labeled.”

Mayers’s many honors and awards include:

  • Zorach Scholarship to the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (1976)
  • Individual Artist’s Fellowship from the Maine Arts Commission (1998)
  • Artists Projects: New Forms Award from New England Foundation for the Arts (1998)
  • Millennium Artist for the State of Ohio (National Endowment for the Arts program) (2000)
  • Maine Arts Commission 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” (2005)

Natasha founded ARRT! (the Artists’ Rapid Response Team) in 2012, an artists’ collective that has created over 400 banners, props and yard signs for progressive Maine organizations. She also co-founded and is editor-in-chief of The Maine Arts Journal: Union of Maine Visual Artists Quarterly.

Mayers was featured in a 2021 documentary, Natasha Mayers: An Un-Still Life, by Geoffrey Leighton and Anita Clearfield. The film presents “an artist who has remained true to her passion for over 50 years, . . . [taking] on social, economic and environmental justice issues with humor, irreverence and a keen aesthetic that enlightens while it entertains.” The film continues to be offered to schools and communities as “a tool to influence and energize . . . communit[ies] around issues that are important to them.”

When she is not out in the community, Mayers spends time in her home studio creating art that has been shown in numerous galleries, the Maine Jewish Museum and the Portland Museum of Art.  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.”

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