Maine Art Gallery will open its annual Members Show with a 5 to 7 p.m. reception Thursday, Oct. 27. The long back wall in the back of the gallery at 15 Warren St. will feature a tribute to William Shevis of Camden, who died just about a year ago.

Shevis was a founding member of Maine Art Gallery (1954), as well as Maine Coast Artists, now the Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockport (1951/52) and Maine Coast Craftsmen (1947). He also was an incorporator (1949/1950) and instructor Haystack Mountain School of Crafts; and a member of national print societies, showing with the Philadelphia Print Club, the Library of Congress, Boston Print Society, the Carnegie Institute and private press clubs, national and international.  His work has been shown in group shows and solo exhibitions in museums and galleries around the country; and many of his prints are in the collection of the Portland Museum. He did many commissions private and public, as varied as murals for a Holiday Inn in North Carolina to St. Philips Church in Auburn.

At 14, Shevis came over from Scotland, where he had grown up in an orphanage One of his teachers in high school helped get him a scholarship to Mass Art in Boston, where he met his wife, Stell.

“For some reason, all the girls were called by their first names, but the guys were known by their last names. So we were always Stell and Shevis. We were both on the NYA, (National Youth Administration, part of the WPA.) and were paid 25 cents an hour for most anything we might do, so we each did a portrait of the other and were married¬† a year after graduation,” Stell Shevis of Camden recalled.

The couple did many different kinds of designing including greeting cards, book jackets, posters and fabrics; and always managed to make a living at art work, raising four children as well. They moved to Maine in 1945, having saved enough to buy a small house and 12 acres in Belmont for $1800.

“With a large vegetable garden, hens, goats, and a pig, we really lived off the land,” Stell said.

They bought an old Washington press for printing wood and linocut blocks on silk scarves, and linen handkerchiefs, as well as prints on paper for framing. Then they found a secondhand Kelsey Press which, when electrified, speeded up the process for producing postcards and calendars. Greta von Nessen, a New York agent with a showroom on Fifth Avenue, discovered the couple and their little business began to flourish.

“Then suddenly one night, July 3, 1964, we were wakened by the frantic barking of our dog to find the house and barn in flames, and were barely able to escape with our lives,” said Stell.

They started all over again in a large home on Elm Street/Route 1 in Camden, now the Blackberry Inn. They eventually built their home on the lot right next door, some 30 years ago. In recent years, Shevis was legally blind and could no longer see to work, but he enjoyed telling stories, many of which he put into small self-published books. The Maine State Library has copies of all his books, which are mostly about the couple’s adventures in Maine and Mexico, where they spent many winters.

“When macular generation finally got so bad he could no longer work, and his hearing failed, he was ready to go. He just stopped eating, went to sleep peacefully for a few days and quietly passed away in his home with family by his side, peacefully in his sleep,” said Stell, a member of the Lively Ladies art group.

Shevis’ art will share the MAG back wall with that of Stephen Howard, another late gallery artist, through Nov. 20. Maine Art Gallery is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call 882-7511 or visit maineartgallery.org.

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