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About Us




  • Beth Wilbur Van Mierlo, Executive Director

    Beth Wilbur Van Mierlo is an artist and an educator. She has dedicated her professional and adult life to promoting the importance of art and education. Beth has had the opportunity to work with a variety of community organizations facilitating insightful and productive connections through the arts. Over a decade ago, Beth founded Oak Street Studios, A Young People’s Art Institute, where she serves as director, curriculum developer, and instructor. In the spring of 2013, she co-founded Side x Side. Beth holds a BFA in Sculpture and Drawing from the University of Southern Maine. She lives with her husband and three children in Portland.

  • Kelly Hrenko, Ph.D., Director of Professional Development & Teacher Interns

    Associate Professor of Art Education at University of Southern Maine, Dr. Hrenko’s current scholarship is within the field of integrated arts and multimodal creative literacies. She uses her position as a teacher educator in the visual arts as a place where several intersections occur; between art and culture, community and school; and interdisciplinary education. She comes from the Midwest where she worked in public and Native American BIA schools, assisting K-12 teachers as they work to integrate the visual arts and Native cultures across curricula.

  • Gretchen Berg, Lead Teaching Artist & Curriculum Consultant

    Gretchen Berg is a teaching artist/educator with more than 30 years of experience. She is known for her collaborative approach, working with educators and students to integrate theater, dance, visual arts and classroom curriculum in New England schools, community centers and museums. She received the Maine Alliance for Art Education’s 2007 Bill Bonyun Award for her contribution to the arts in Maine schools. Gretchen has taught at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education (“Learning & Teaching about Diversity through Performance Art”), Bowdoin College, Bates College and the University of Southern Maine and holds an EdM Arts in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

  • Megan Pollino, Program Coordinator

    Megan Pollino is a Maine native and educator with experience working with students pre-K through high school. She has pursued her passion of hands-on, student focused and inquiry based program development through various placements as a Program Director, Visual Arts Instructor and most recently, middle school Special Education teacher. Megan holds a BFA in Art Education and a MS in Special Education from the University of Southern Maine. Megan lives in Kennebunk with her husband and daughter.

  • Perryn Anable Ferris, Director of Communications and Design

    Perryn has been a freelance web and graphic designer for almost two decades and has a background in software design and development. Since moving to Portland in 2002, she has co-founded an online magazine,, and has worked with many of Maine’s leading nonprofits and government organizations while working for Shoestring Agency in various roles including senior web designer, creative consultant and copy editor. She holds a BFA in oil painting from Boston University. Perryn enjoys living in downtown Portland with her husband and two daughters.

  • Anne Ackerman, Teaching Artist Coordinator

    Born in Corvallis, Oregon, Anne moved to Maine at an early age. Anne earned her BA in Art from the University of Southern Maine and returned to earn her BFA in Art Education with a studio concentration in photography. In 2011, Anne received the Art Education Discipline Award from USM for her approach to curriculum and her volunteer work with at-risk youth. As a photographer, Anne is interested in capturing the textures, lines and patterns of objects within nature and her environment. Anne’s studio work includes black and white photography, collage, mixed media and clay. Anne is a certified K-12 Visual Arts teacher.

  • Joel Ellis Brown, Photographer

    Joel is a lifelong Mainer who has lived in Portland for 26 years. She received her B.A. in Art from the University of Southern Maine and has worked as an artist and in other self-employed ventures as a landscape gardener, baker and seat weaver ever since.  Photography has been her main creative outlet for the past few years and she is delighted to be able to combine her love for the medium with her work for Side x Side.  She has a son in the 6th grade and loves spending her extra time on adventures with him.  In addition to taking photos and painting watercolors, she enjoys cooking and baking, hiking and camping, books and films, gardening and animals.