Senior College’s ninth annual Festival of Art, a non-juried exhibit, is scheduled for Thursday through Sunday, May 12 through 15 at the University of Maine’s Hutchinson Center, 80 Belmont Ave./Route 3. The artists are both amateur and professional and live across the state of Maine.

Last year, the popular festival had 153 artists age 55 and older with almost 1,200 visitors from Maine and eight states. This year’s Festival of Art features work from 169 artists, and Senior College also is sponsoring an art exhibit from the students of RSU-20, K-12, in the Conference Room in the new wing at the Hutchinson Center. Their art teachers have chosen works from all the schools.

The entire festival is free to the artists and for the public. The featured artist will be Rainy Brooks, with her oil painting on canvas, “Acadia.” A preview mini-exhibit is on view at the law firm of Lee Woodward, 56 Main St.

Senior College’s special invited guest is Nancy Hamilton of Port Clyde, widow of esteemed artist Robert Hamilton. At 2 p.m. Saturday, May 14, she will present a personal overview of his work, joined by a panel of experts to explain why his work is important. Robert Hamilton earned his degree in painting in 1939 from the Rhode Island School of Design. He then earned a Distinguished Flying Cross in World War II as a captain and P47 bomber pilot with 100 missions. In 1948, he returned to RISD to teach painting and drawing and married Nancy. He taught art for 34 years, before retiring to Port Clyde. A prolific artist, he painted nearly every day for 55 years, largely ignoring self promotion. He was an influential, modernist painter in New England in the last half of the 20th century —an idiosyncratic genius highly respected for improvisation, but relatively unknown today. Hamilton’s friend and neighbor, Andrew Wyeth, called him “a real painter.”

Hamilton’s sophisticated, yet humorous, innovations are like no one else’s  — “the nth whoopee of sight,” according to Richard Merkin, renowned bon vivant and illustrator for The New Yorker. Hamilton painted quirky interpretations of animals, kids, friends, air corps buddies, faculty, performers, admired painters and other notables. Even his last works, when he was nearly blind, are amazingly fresh, funny and youthful. He was especially influenced by Max Beckmann and the jazz greats. He said that painting had to be like jazz improvisation and that “The picture makes itself. When I’m finished, I don’t know how the hell I did it.”

The Festival of Art presentation will serve as prelude to a new exhibit titled “Robert Hamilton — The Last Paintings” that will open Saturday, May 28 and run through July 10 at the Center for Contemporary Art in Rockport, as well as a new book and website on his work.

The Festival of Art will open Thursday, May 12 with a meet-the-artists reception from 6 to 8 p.m. On Friday, May 13, exhibit hours will be 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Anne Spencer of Stockton Springs will offer a watercolor demo from noon to 2 p.m. From 3 to 5 p.m., there will be a panel discussion on How to Market and Promote Your Artwork. Panelists include Dagney Ernest of VillageSoup; Thierry Bonneville of Bonneville Communications; and Karin Wilkes, owner and operator of the Courthouse Gallery in Ellsworth. From 7 to 9 p.m., Kings Jazz will headline a special performing arts concert co-sponsored by the UMaine Hutchinson Center.

On Saturday, May 14, exhibit hours will be  9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The RSU 20 Student Show’s reception in new wing will run from 10 a.m. to noon. The keynote Art of Robert Hamilton presentation is set for 1 to 3 p.m. In addition to special guest presenter Nancy Hamilton, the event will include moderator David Estey and panelists Suzette McAvoy, Richard Kane, Eric Hopkins, William Irvine and George Lloyd.

On Sunday, May 15, exhibit hours will be noon to 3 p.m. The Senior College exhibit is curated by the Festival of Arts Committee.

VillageSoup Art/Entertainment Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email to dernest@villagesoup.com.