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UMFK's Blake Library Art Gallery exhibit celebrates Down Syndrome awareness month

September 30, 2005

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Fort Kent Artist Erika Theile with one of her paintings on display this month in the Blake Library Gallery at the University of Maine at Fort Kent.

In recognition of October as National Down Syndrome Awareness month, the University of Maine at Fort Kent Blake Library Art Gallery is displaying an exhibit of oil paintings by Fort Kent artist Erika Thiele through October 30.

Thiele, who was born with Down Syndrome, first discovered her special talent as a senior at Fort Kent Community High School in an art class taught by Priscilla Daigle. She has also taken private lessons from local artist Gert Thibodeau and classes through the adult education program at M.S.A.D. 27.

The collection features more than a dozen oil paintings of beautiful landscapes and flowers that she has been working on over several years.

Among her favorite works are renditions of Monet and Van Gogh, classic landscapes and impressionist art, as well as seasonal scenes and still life images of flowers and vases.

Theile has exhibited her paintings throughout the state, including shows in Augusta, Waterville, Bethel and Bath. She has been recognized by both Cary Medical Center in Caribou and the Aroostook Medical Center in Presque Isle as an "artist of the month."

In the last several years, Thiele's works have also begun drawing national recognition from such groups as the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) in New York City.

The NDSS selected two of her paintings as the cover prints for invitations to the annual Professional Women's Luncheon Series in New York City and Los Angeles.

Thiele's art work has strengthened her own self-confidence and pride in her abilities and serves as a model for what people with disabilities can accomplish when given a chance.

The exhibitions have created great interest in Thiele's work, and as a result, she has sold several paintings in recent years. Individuals interested in purchasing a painting should contact Thiele at 834-3820.

She is also a talented poetry writer, having had several pieces of her work published in national magazines.

Thiele is the daughter of Edeltraut Thiele and Dr. Eberhard Thiele of Fort Kent.

The exhibit can be viewed during regular library hours through October 30.

National Down Syndrome Awareness month, celebrated in October, aims to educate and make aware to the community the risks, symptoms and treatments for Down Syndrome. According to the National Down Syndrome Society in America, there are approximately 350,000 people with Down Syndrome.