The Workshop

The Workshop

The Workshop is a space for all visitors to engage with the PMA’s collection and special exhibitions in hands-on and interactive ways. Research shows that this kind of playful mindset leads to lasting learning for both adults and children. Here at the PMA, we believe that visitors of all ages deserve the chance to exercise their creative minds and explore art through active participation. Projects rotate three times a year, with each installation presenting a new creative challenge and a gallery full of incredible solutions created by visitors like you.

Current Installation:

This summer kicks off a multiphase project to reinterpret the Winslow Homer Studio and its tours, reenergizing the program for new visitors and giving longtime members a great reason to come back. To create the most engaging tour possible, The PMA wants your help. What interests you the most about the Winslow Homer Studio? Are there special tours that you’ve always wanted to do?

The PMA invites you to visit The Workshop in the Lower Ground Floor, enjoy the interactive installation, and share your thoughts through the survey that you’ll find there. Your voice is an important part of this process. The revitalized Winslow Homer Studio debuts in April 2020, just in time for Mythmakers: The Art of Winslow Homer and Frederic Remington, which opens July 1, 2020. Also supporting this endeavor will be a summer fellow from Colby College, generously funded by the Lunder Homer Education Endowment, who will assist in research around Homer’s primary source documents.

To learn about the Winslow Homer Studio or to book a 2019 tour, visit

Previous Installations:

Objects in Space showed that Isamu Noguchi, like many artists, believed that sculpture had the ability to transform spaces. Adding an art object to an environment changes the way we experience that place. Objects that draw our attention to scale can make us feel tall, small, strong, or vulnerable. Color, line, shadow, and movement can capture and direct our attention around a space. Some environments even overwhelm our senses or prompt strong emotional responses: joy, calm, longing, or anger. In this way, sculpture invites us to not only consider how we see an object, but how we experience the object, its environment, and ourselves in that moment.
In this room, you are invited to explore these concepts for yourself. Look closely at the arrangements in the space. Study them from far away, then get closer. Change your perspective – observe them from one angle, then another. Walk around to see the arrangements from different angles – stand up, sit down, tilt your head. Use the materials on the tables to record your observations. How does your presence change the sculpture and how does it change you?

When you return to the galleries, or walk out into the city, consider the sculptures you pass. How do they impact the spaces around them?
Share your creation with us.
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From April 6- August 20, 2018, Architecture invited visitors to take on an architectural design challenge: making their own museum. Prompt cards containing specific architectural challenges—the size and shape of the site, the surrounding vernacular, and the intended use of the space—encouraged participants to think more boardly about the range of decisions architects make when creating a new space. A display shared how the architects of the PMA's 3 buildings handled these challenges, tying the activity to the museum and inviting visitors to explore these ideas in the galleries.

From December 8, 2017 to March 11, 2018, This is Maine connected visitors to the 2018 Portland Museum of Art Biennial as well as artwork throughout the galleries, This is Maine emphasizes the impact our sense of place can have on our creative pursuits. The PMA is filled with artists' renderings of this state. Together, these works chronicle more than just the peculiarities of Maine's geography. They tell you about the experience of being in a specific place, at a specific moment. They hint at the back-and-forth between our environment and our emotions. In this Workshop installation, we're asking visitors to think of Maine as a map, and contribute points on that map that, to them, evoke a specific feeling. It could be a little coffee shop, a giant pothole, serene blueberry patches, or the crashing waves. The collection of these points will present the ever changing landscape of our state, ripe with meaning and memories.

From August 18 to December 3, 2017, The Workshop's Storytelling Objects crowdsourced writing and drawings in response to four everyday objects: an apple, a toy car, a seashell, and a mirror. We asked visitors to reflect on these objects and contribute their own perspective based on life stories and past experiences. Collectively, these responses made clear the power of symbolism and hidden meaning in objects that can be found in art throughout the PMA galleries.

From April 30 to August 18, 2017, inspired by the PMA's Summer of Sculpture, The Workshop's Make a Sculpture That... encouraged you to create sculpture of every variety. Visitors spun a wheel for a challenge to create sculpture inspired by a select idea using hand-crafted, magnetic wooden blocks. Whether they spent 20 minutes on one elaborate creation or tested out five different challenges, they discovered all the ways in which creating a sculpture requires a different approach from painting on canvas or drawing a picture. Instead of working with the illusion of space, scale, and light, sculptors contend with balance, symmetry, pattern, and shadow in three dimensions instead of two. After experimenting with sculpture, visitors were inspired to return to the galleries to find these ideas at work in three centuries of sculpture.   

From February 4 through April 28, 2017, The Workshop featured an installation called Cut, Copy, Paste. Inspired by the museum-wide reinstallation of the PMA collection in February 2017, it continued the theme of looking at old favorites in new ways. Hundreds of visitors selected a small detail from one of the painting which intrigued them and copied it onto a paper tile. These individual copies were pasted together on the back wall, creating an evolving collaborative version of the work of art. As the project continued, participants recreated each section over and over, leaving stacks of paper tiles layered up to 24 pages deep. No copy was a perfect replica—each tile was an artifact of someone’s looking, thinking, and exploring. Each one introduced us to some facet of the work that we might never have seen if we were looking alone.

From October 20 through December 31, 2016, The Workshop took its cue from our book-themed special exhibitions, Of Whales in Paint: Rockwell Kent’s Moby-Dick, Unbound: Tim Rollins and K.O.S., and The Art Books of Henri Matisse. Over the course of two months, visitors illustrated hundreds of pages from Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, almost completing the entire epic. Some visitors discovered and drew attention to the tome’s more odd phrases—“Give it up, Sub-Subs!”—while others remixed the 19th-century classic for their own purposes. Sweet, satirical, political, or adorable, each page was a unique, personal, and contemporary response to this global phenomenon.

At any time, visitors could explore bound volumes of their fellow visitors’ creations as well as the most recent 250 pages of the book stretched across the back wall of The Workshop. Behind the pages was an imaginative sea-inspired paper mural, created by members of the PMA’s 2016 Homer High School Fellows—Arikah Conant, Joliet Morrill, and Elle Spurr—using contributions created by visitors during PMA Family Days.

From July 15, 2016 through October 14, 2016, The Workshop featured an installation titled A Bird in the Hand. Birds have inspired artists working in all media with their colors, patterns, textures, and personalities. Inspired by Christopher Patch’s Migration—on view in the Modern Menagerie installation—visitors created a flock of flying bird sculptures. In the Workshop, however, they had only two materials: paper for shape and washi tape for pattern.

From April 15, 2016 through July 9, 2016, The Workshop featured an installation titled Inspired by the Everyday. It took its cue from artists throughout the museum who have transformed the objects and places they encounter into something extraordinary: Duncan Hewitt’s Forks or Porch Mattress in the summer 2016 exhibition Duncan Hewitt: Turning Strange, Christopher Patch’s Migration in the ongoing installation Modern Menagerie, Leo J. Dee’s elegant Small Drapery Study in the spring 2016 exhibition Masterworks on Paper: Highlights from the Portland Museum of Art. Visitors to The Workshop took an everyday occurrence—a coffee spill—and transformed it into a cat, a map, an abstract drawing, an interstellar scene, or whatever else their imagination inspired. Here are just a few of the thousands of creations that visitors shared:

From January 22, 2016 through April 10, 2016, The Workshop featured an installation titled Coloring the Landscape, in which visitors explored the power of color to establish a mood, define a place, direct your eye, and convey a message. We transformed one of our most iconic landscape paintings, Winslow Homer’s Weatherbeaten, into a coloring book page, and asked visitors to test out the implications of color for themselves. Adults and children alike created almost 2,000 versions of this painting. More than 200 of these were framed and hung on the back wall of the gallery so that visitors could see how the image morphed as it moved from sunny seaside to soft monochrome, fiery sunset to Pop-art pink and teal.

Thank you to our sponsors

Installation materials are supported in part by Lila Hunt Davies and The Roy A. Hunt Foundation

Your Museum, Reimagined is a multiyear project based around improved access, and will fundamentally change the way the public interacts with the PMA, its collection, its programs, and more. 

Learn more about Your Museum, Reimagined by clicking the links below:

Collection Catalogue

The Collection Online

Peggy L. Osher Art Study and Collection Committee Conference Room

The Workshop

Modern Menagerie