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Some 2023 Highlights

Winter solstice is a good time to slow down, reflect, and take stock. What better time to check in on the portrait gallery and, as always, find surprising developments.

Books and Media.

Ai-Jen Poo Awtt Portrait

Alicia Garza, Ai-jen Poo, and Bryan Stevenson were tapped by the Ford Foundation for their year-long video series #InequalityIs. Go to the Foundation website to hear their personal stories and reflections on inequality. Poo was also a Rockefeller Foundation resident this year; another great interview with her here.

Naomi Klein released an new book Doppelganger: A Trip into the Mirror World. Farrar, Straus, Giroux (“Can we create a politics of collective care and undertake a true reckoning with historical crimes? The result is a revelatory treatment of the way many of us think and feel now—and an intellectual adventure story for our times.”)

Nicole And Jonas Maines Awtt Portrait

Nicole Maines has been cast as Lisa in Yellowjackets (Showtime). She also appeared in an episode of The Flash and in the documentary series The Freedom to Exist with Elliot Page – A Soul of a Nation Presentation.

Chloe Maxmin. Building on the principles they introduced in their 2022 book Dirtbook Revival, Maxim and Canyon Woodward are networking with grassroots organizations across the country, “working towards an equitable and just democracy in rural America.” Check out their site Dirtroad Organizing to learn more about this inspiring, clear-headed approach to political organizing in rural America.

Bill McKibben never stops advocating passionately for this planet. Among his many startling essays this year was A Seismic Win for the Climate Went Almost Unnoticed. And, at age 82, James Hansen, the “father of global warming” was back in the news with a new study finding that climate change is accelerating faster than earlier predicted and calling for intensified efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.


Leah Penniman Awtt Portrait

Leah Penniman received the Heinz Award for the Economy “for her commitment to sharing regenerative farming best practices and land stewardship with Black, Indigenous and people of color and to addressing racism and injustice in the food system.” Penniman also released a new book Black Earth Wisdom: Soulful Conversations with Black Environmentalists in February 2023.

Straight-talking shrimper Diane Wilson won the coveted Goldman Environmental Prize. Learn more about Diane’s remarkable story by watching the 2023 prize ceremony.

Zoe Weil Awtt Portrait

Innovative educator Zoe Weil was the 2023 recipient of the Spirit of America Award, given each year by the Natiional Council for Social Studies. “The award honors persons who follow their conscience and act against current thinking in order to stand up for equity, freedom, and the American spirit of justice.” Former recipients include President Jimmy Carter, Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow, Marian Wright Edelman, Dolores Huerta, Ralph Nader, Rosa Parks, Fred Rogers, and Hiroshima atomic bomb survivor Masahiro Sasaki.

AWTT was also recognized this year for its outstanding contributions. Robert Shetterly was recognized by the Maine Education Asoociation as one of three winners of this year’s Ashley Bryan Arts and Humanities Award. And just last month Shetterly and AWTT Education Director Connie Carter were named the recipients of the 2024 Maine Art in Education award: Art Advocate of the Year. A recognition ceremonty is planned for March 2024.

New Portraits.

AWTT artist Robert Shetterly continues to meet fascinating American truth tellers, who motivate him to keep painting. This past year, six stunning new portraits were unveiled – now totalling 268!

Rachel Talbot Ross. A native of artist Robert Shetterly’s home state of Maine, Ross – and her parents before her – have broken through racial barriers to join the ranks of policy makers. Ross makes “good trouble” from within the state house.

Harriet Jacobs

Harriet Jacobs. One of the lesser-known heros of the abolitionist movement, Jacobs freed herself from slavery, becoming an educator in the movement and authoring Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. First Church in Cambridge (Massachusetts) hosted an exciting series of events in the spring of 2023 around the unveiling of Jacobs portrait.

Kali Rubaii. As an academic and cultural anthropologist, Dr. Rubaii’s profile is unique to the AWTT portrait gallery. Focusing her scientific lens on the “by-products” of America’s invasion of Iraq, she has organized the call for reparations – for the thousands of injured and displaced people and the country’s devasted infrastructure.

AWWT portrait of Noel Paul Stookey

John W. Jones. Like Harriet Jacobs, Jones was a self-liberated slave and champion of the abolitionisst movement. A man of deep faith, he tended to the burial of thousands of Confederate soldiers, including the son of his former slave owner.

Debbie Njai. For the younger generation of Black activists, the fight for civil rights isn’t always about the law, housing and jobs. Founder of Black People Who Hike, Njai brings the movement into the outdoors, reclaiming the enjoyment of nature for previously-excluded people.

Noel Paul Stookey is well-known for his break-out success in the 1960s with Peter, Paul and Mary, but there’s more…. Learn about his rich musical life and social activism over the past 50 years.


Daniel Ellsberg. A giant among American whistleblowers, Ellsberg said, ““We live in a country, thank God, where telling the truth to Congress is not treason.” May Ellsberg’s legacy live on.

Ady Barkan Awtt Portrait

Rob McCall. This long-time, beloved preacher in Blue Hill, Maine, said: “I don’t care what you believe, frankly. I don’t care if you believe that Christ was actually bodily resurrected from the condition of being clinically dead, or if you believe it’s all a silly myth. I don’t care what you believe. I care what you love. If you love the Creator and the creatures and your neighbor and yourself and your family and your enemy and the Earth and the Great Mystery, then what in the world do you need beliefs for? And if you don’t love these, what earthly good will beliefs do you anyway?”

Ady Barkan. Died on November 1, 2023, at age 39 after living with ALS for many years. Barkan modeled, for all of us, how to live a full, meaningful life.

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