Archive for April, 2017


In Today’s News

April 30, 2017

Dance Education Funding

John Morris, teaching artist

Up to $3000.00 grants are being offered to schools/districts who are interested in providing dance education for students in grades PK-12. The Maine Arts Commission Teaching Artist roster located at has 14 dance educators included. Contact one of them if you are a school interested in applying for the funding. The grant application deadline is May 16.

Read more about the opportunity in the article at


Spring Arts in Aroostook

April 30, 2017

Aroostook Centre Mall – until May 16


MAEA Honors Art Educators

April 29, 2017

Maine Art Education Association

Westbrook, Maine, April 2017 – On Friday, April 7 in the beautiful library of Westbrook MIddle School, the Maine Art Education Association (MAEA) honored seven of Maine’s art educators for excellent service to their profession, their schools and their communities. It was an evening filled with sincere praise and celebrated in typical fashion with custom-made ceramic vases, flowers and, of course, pineapples. Holly Houston, Recognitions Chair for the MAEA, began the evening talking about the “wonderfulness of art teachers” and with each award presented that wonderfulness became more apparent.

Rhonda Miller presented the 2017 Distinguished Art Educator Award for Pat Savigny-Higgins from Marshwood High School in South Berwick, describing Savigny-Higgins as an “art teacher down to her bones” who is known for her dedication to students. Savigny-Higgins responded with thanks especially to her students for challenging her. Citing that art is crucial now more ever, she urged support for the arts due to the “life lessons that happen in the art room.”

Jodi Thomas presented the 2017 Outstanding Service to the Profession Award to Jody Dube from Lewiston High School. Jody is responsible for guiding students through the creation of pottery that is sold to help fund the Store Next Door, with the mission of supporting homeless students. In this endeavor, stated Thomas, Dube teaches students their “skills have monetary value and can be harnessed to make a difference.” Dube stated he was honored and humbled and thanked all teachers who do what they do every day, saying “In these challenging times, it is an important mission to be able to help kids be who they were meant to be and not just a test score.”

Lisa Ingraham presented the 2017 Retired Art Educator Award to Frank Chin, a former middle school teacher in Skowhegan. After more than 30 years of teaching Ingraham wondered how many students have a deep understanding of the arts because of Chin’s dedicated career. Chin stated that the best thing about teaching art is when things come back to you. He read a letter from a former student who years after being in his classroom wrote to tell him that his kindness was transformative her her, urging him to to remember that while teaching may seem rewardless at times, “please make sure you know you make a difference.”

Lisa Ingraham also presented the award for 2017 Secondary Art Educator of the Year to Mandi Mitchell from Hermon High School, describing Mitchell as a “whirlwind of creative energy who infuses joy into all she does.” Mitchell expressed gratitude for the recognition and thanked her colleagues Ingraham and Suzanne Goulet who have been influential in her career.

Deb Arter introduced the award for 2017 Middle/Elementary Art Educator of the Year to Laura Devin of Woolwich Central School. Arter described Devin as a fierce advocate for the arts and her local program, who spent years in a waterless mobile classroom but now works in a facility that includes a kiln and a printing press. Devin, who accepted the award wrapped in a giant paper chain while wearing a tiara, stated that the arts offer creativity, collaboration, problem solving and critical thinking skills. Devin closed by saying, “Art is so important and we are so lucky to be able to bring it to kids.”

Kay Allison and Kate Cargile presented the 2017 Museum Art Educator of the Year Award to Anthony Shostak of the Bates College Museum of Art. Allison and Cargile spoke from their experience as nearby teachers at Lewiston Middle School, describing how Shostak makes the museum accessible to art students of all ages. They spoke of how Shostak is an asset not only to Bates but all the surrounding schools, especially citing his Thousand Words Project which emphasizes art and literacy connections. Shostak, from Lewiston originally, expressed pleasure at working with teachers and honoring students and their growth in the arts.

Finally, Matt Johnson presented the award for 2018 Maine Art Educator of the Year to his colleague, Deb Bickford of Westbrook High School. Bickford recalled others discouraging her from entering into the arts as a profession but she was determined to make her own way. Most importantly, stated Bickford, is the realization that the art classroom isn’t there to make artists but rather, “We help people learn how to learn. We just happen to do it with art.” Bickford invited seven current and former students to talk about what learning in the art room meant to them. The students expressed themes of the art room being a safe place of refuge but also a place to push you out of your comfort zone and expand your horizons. They spoke of the art room as a place to learn to make better decisions and art as fundamental to the human mind. They talked about how art classes offered valuable life lessons such as how to learn different ways to look at things, to self-evaluate through constructive criticism and to communicate effectively.

Suzanne Goulet also honored Deb Bickford as outgoing president of the Maine Art Education Association. Suzanne Goulet will serve as current president for the next two years.

The Maine Art Education Association is a statewide professional organization whose members are committed to excellence in visual arts education.


Eastern Division NAfME Conference

April 28, 2017

Recently in Atlantic City

Sue Barre and Argy Nestor presenting a session called Leading the Way to Proficiency Through the Arts

I had the opportunity to travel to Atlantic City, NJ for the Eastern Division NAfME conference earlier this month. The sessions were top notch, the networking opportunities were plentiful, and the performances were excellent.

Sue Barre, president of the Maine Music Educators Association and I provided a session on the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative and the work underway in Maine on proficiency based education. In addition, we served on a panel which was arranged for pre-service teachers called “Speed Interviewing – Refine Your Skills To Get a Great Job”. There were 25 pre-service students who participated and it was great listening to their answers. It made feel very hopeful about the future – we are in good hands. The participants were thoughtful, knowledgeable and prepared to step into the music classroom.

The USM Chamber Singers performed under the direction of Nicolas Alberto Dosman in the new convention hall and did a fantastic job!

My two favorite parts of the conference included the opportunity to connect with music educators and to attend the performances that included many Maine high school students.

Music educators and MALI Teacher Leaders Drew Albert, Maranacook and Ashley Albert, Brunswick High School

The following students participated in the band, orchestra, treble chorus or mixed chorus. On Saturday they performed at the old Atlantic City Convention Hall located on the boardwalk. It was amazing – I’m sure the opportunity won’t be forgotten very quickly! Congratulations students and Maine music teachers! GREAT concerts!

  • Ethan Boll, grade 11, Brunswick High School, Band Winds-Clarinet-Bb, Teacher: Michael Scarpone
  • Suzanna Butterfield, grade 12, North Yarmouth Academy, Mixed Chorus Vocal-Soprano II, Teacher: Nora Krainis
  • Mikayla Clifford, grade 12, Yarmouth High School, Treble Chorus Vocal-Alto I, Teacher: Rick Dustin
  • Grace Cowless, grade 12, Yarmouth High School, Band Winds-Bassoon Treble, Teacher: Joey Hendricks
  • Abigail Despress, grade 12, Maranacook Community High School, Chorus Vocal-Alto I, Teacher: Drew Albert
  • Hannah Flanigan, grade 12, Yarmouth High School, Orchestra Strings-Violin, Teacher: Rick Dustin
  • Xingshi (Justin) Guo, grade 12, North Yarmouth Academy, Mixed Chorus Vocal-Tenor II, Teacher: Nora Krainis
  • Amelia Hanley, grade 12, Bonny Eagle High School, Treble Chorus Vocal-Soprano I, Teacher: Allen Thomas
  • Hannah Hanson, grade 12, Lawrence High School, Mixed Chorus Vocal-Alto I, Teacher: Renee Misner
  • Elizabeth Hanson, grade 11, Yarmouth High School, Treble Chorus Vocal-Soprano II, Teacher: Richard Dustin
  • Caroline Isasi, grade 11, Greely High School, Band Winds-Clarinet-Bass, Teacher: Kevin Rollins
  • Claire Johnson, grade 11, Brunswick High School, Treble Chorus Vocal-Alto II, Teacher: Ashley Albert
  • Katherine Lind, grade 11, Bonny Eagle High School, Mixed Chorus Vocal-Soprano I, Teacher: Allen Thomas
  • Mia Love, grade 12, Bonny Eagle High School, Mixed Chorus Vocal-Soprano I, Teacher: Allen Thomas
  • Molly McGough, grade 11, Brunswick High School, Mixed Chorus Vocal-Soprano I, Teacher: Ashley Albert
  • Dylan Miller, grade 12, Edward Little High School, Mixed Chorus Vocal-Bass II, Teacher: Sarah Brooks
  • Alexander Misner, grade 12, Lawrence High School, Mixed Chorus Vocal-Bass I, Teacher: Renee Misner
  • Isabelle Morin, grade 11, Easton Jr./Sr. High School, Teacher: Pamela Kinsey
  • Elliott Nagler, grade 11, Brunswick High School, Mixed Chorus Vocal-Bass I, Teacher: Ashley Albert
  • Marisa Pierce, grade 11, Bonny Eagle High School, Mixed Chorus Vocal-Alto II, Teacher: Allen Thomas
  • Keith Prescott, grade 12, Falmouth High School, Band Winds-Flute, Teacher: Jake Sturtevant
  • Caleb Randall, grade 11, Sanford High School, Mixed Chorus Vocal-Bass I, Teacher: Jane Kirton
  • Taylor Robison, grade 12, Yarmouth High School, Orchestra Winds-Trumpet, Teacher: Rick Dustin
  • Elizabeth Roy, grade 11, Thornton Academy, Orchestra Strings-Viola, Teacher: Ann Wilkinson
  • Brian Sidders, grade 12, Greely High School, Mixed Chorus Vocal-Tenor I, Teacher: Sarah Bailey
  • Julia Silke, grade 11, Treble Voice Chorus Vocal-Soprano I, Teacher: Rebecca DeWan
  • Petra Smat, grade 12, Brunswick High School, Mixed Chorus Vocal-Alto II, Teacher: Ashley Albert
  • March Steiger, grade 11, Bonny Eagle High School, Mixed Chorus Vocal-Alto II, Teacher: Allen Thomas
  • Katherine-Helene Sullivan, grade 12, Cheverus High School, Orchestra Winds-French Horn, Teacher: Chris Humphrey
  • Genevieve Welch, grade 11, Wayneflete, Treble Voice Chorus Vocal-Soprano II, Teacher: Nick MacDonald
  • Jim Yu, grade 11, North Yarmouth Academy, Mixed Chorus Vocal-Tenor II, Teacher: Nora Kranis

USM Chamber Singers


Poetry Residency

April 27, 2017

South Berwick – Central School

This is being re-posted from with permission from Brian Evans-Jones. Brian can be reached at

This week I finished the biggest project I’ve yet worked on as a teaching artist: teaching poetry to 80 second-graders at Central School in South Berwick, ME.

The residency spanned 11 days of teaching, plus an evening Showcase event, from the end of March to the middle of April. The aims were two-fold. First, to teach the second graders some important things about how to write poetry. But behind that, the goal was to use the writing of poetry to increase their overall confidence in themselves as writers and users of language.

Over the first 9 days, I helped them to draft 7 different poems using different tools. We started with group poems composed of lines beginning with repeated phrases. At this stage I introduced them to the idea of writing discrete sentences on strips of paper (Sentence Strips) which they then assembled into a poem, not only to make writing easier than starting with a blank page, but also to get them thinking about poetic lines. The Sentence Strips were also perfect for our first lessons in rewriting, when we added words to our Strips to make them more descriptive, thought hard about what order of Strips made the most sense, and looked at where we could insert new Strips to expand our ideas.

Here are some of those Strip poems in process:

We kept on using the sentence strips for poems built around verbs (an animal performing a mixture of real and impossible actions) and then metaphors (transforming an ordinary classroom object into many different things). Along the way we practiced using rhyme effectively. The last poem was a Personal Poem on a topic special to them, and this they wrote without the Strips. Finally, they chose their favorite poem for sharing, and worked on intensively on revising and editing it. The poems were shared with parents at the Celebration Night, when the students also worked with their parents to write new poems using some of the techniques they’d learned.

Here are just some of the poems and accompanying art, ready for display at the Showcase night.

As an extra bonus, one of the parents (Deb Cram) made a montage video of almost all the students reading a line or two from their poems, which you can view here. The poems will also be published in a chapbook along with student artwork, and there will soon be an after school Creative Writing group to help keep the writing going! Phew—now I understand why I was exhilarated and exhausted when we finished…

The residency was funded by the Marshwood Education Foundation, which funds projects in the Marshwood School District. We hope that the residency may have demonstrated sufficient value for the District to fund future annual second grade poetry residencies, although with budget issues everywhere, who knows what will happen.

As a teaching artist, this was a huge undertaking, working with a large group of fairly young writers for 12 consecutive days. I was tremendously conscious of how much the second grade teachers were giving me, trusting me with their students for so long, and allowing me to disrupt their well-oiled routines! From my point of view, the residency, while challenging at times (it was my first time managing classes with up to 40 second graders at once), was a great success. Not only did the students write very many wonderful poems, but the majority of them also enthusiastically grasped the idea of revising their writing, which is so important for their school writing careers. I know that several students who had struggled with literacy and writing produced poems that surprised and delighted their teachers and themselves. It’s too soon to say definitively whether the residency will have a significant long-term effect on the cohort’s performance as writers and users of language, but the signs are good. And the poems are great.


Calling All Teacher Leaders

April 26, 2017

Regional VPA Teacher Leader Search

Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) – Phase VII

Join us for GREAT learning and networking opportunities! The Maine Arts Leadership Initiative invites YOU to be part of Phase VII. We are looking for teachers interested in leading and in taking a close look at effective teaching and learning in the arts.

Application at THIS LINK. Deadline: Friday, May 19, 2017.

Phase 1 Teacher Leaders, August 2011, Maine College of Art

If you are selected, you will be required to attend the summer institute, August 1, 2, and 3, 2017 at Thomas College. We will provide professional development and ask that you take what you’ve learned and share it with other educators in your region of Maine and beyond.

If interested, please submit a completed application by the Friday, May 19 deadline. Access the application by CLICKING HERE. Details are below.

Selected teacher leader responsibilities for the 2017-18 school year include:

  • Attend the 3-day Professional Development Summer Institute, August 1-3, 2017, Thomas College, Waterville. To prepare: Pre-reading assignments and responses are expected in google site. Each Teacher Leader determines individual plan for the school year/what the outcome of their learning will be and how to share with others. This enables teacher leaders to really take on the leadership role! (List of options available by contacting Argy Nestor at
  • Communicate using a google site
  • Possible Critical Friends Day as a follow-up to the summer institute
  • Continuation of Another Teacher’s Stories on the Maine Arts Ed blog
  • Attend retreat to reflect on the work of phase VII with MALI participants – Saturday, March 10, 2018

Maine Arts Leadership Initiative Background Information

Overall Description 

Phase 2 Teacher Leaders, August 2012, Maine College of Art

Mission: Committed to the development of Teacher Leaders to ensure deep understanding and meaningful implementation of high quality teaching, learning and assessment in the Arts for all students.

Since 2011 the initiative has been building capacity by training arts educators on the “what” and “how” of arts assessment so they can provide the leadership in Maine through professional development opportunities. The details of the initiative are at


  • Create and implement a statewide plan for teacher leadership in arts education. This includes professional development opportunities, locally, regionally and statewide, which will expand on the knowledge and skills of teachers to better prepare them to teach in a student-centered and proficiency-based learning environment.
  • Develop and implement standards-based high quality teaching and learning statewide for Visual and Performing Arts
  • Continue to build on expanding the team of arts educators and teaching artists representing all regions of Maine
  • Provide workshops and other professional development opportunities for educators

Phase 3, Critical Friends Day, 2013, Point Lookout, Northport

HISTORY – Phase I, II, III, IV, V, VI Summer 2011 to present

  • Eighty-one teacher leaders and four teaching artists leaders attended summer institutes on assessment, leadership, technology, creativity, proficiency-based standards-based and student-centered teaching and learning
  • Teacher leaders presented workshops at three statewide arts education conferences, USM, Portland, UMaine, Orono, and Point Lookout Conference Center with over 600 educators attending
  • Teacher leaders facilitated almost 100 regional workshops and 15 mega-regional sites across Maine
  • Another Arts Teacher’s Story series (78) on the Maine Arts Ed blog
  • Arts assessment graduate courses offered by New England Institute for
    Teacher Education
  • Nine arts education assessment webinars for Maine educators facilitated by Rob Westerberg and Catherine Ring – archived at
  • Video stories of seven teacher leaders that demonstrate a standards-based arts education classroom located on Maine ARTSEducation YouTube channel or at
  • Teacher Leader Resource Team development of items for resource bank
  • Maine Arts Assessment Resources website that contains a plethora of information

Phase 4, Summer Institute, 2014, USM Portland

Phase VII components

  • August 1, 2, 3, 2017: Professional Development Summer Institute for PK-12 teacher leaders (new and returning), teaching artists, and teaching artists leaders at Thomas College.
  • Each Teacher Leader determines individual plan to share their learning at the local, regional or statewide level.
  • Continuation of Another Teacher’s Story on the Maine Arts Ed blog
  • Winter Retreat: Saturday, March 10, 2018

For More Information

Phase 5, Critical Friends Day, 2015, USM Portland


If you have questions or would like more information please contact Argy Nestor at


MALI Teaching Artist Story – Tim Christensen

April 25, 2017

MALI Teaching Artists series

This is the eighth blog post of the Phase 6 Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) stories. And, this is the first one provided by a Teaching Artist Leader. This series includes a set of questions so you can learn a little bit about the Teaching Artists work.  CLICK HERE  for more information on MALI. CLICK HERE  for more information on the 81 Teacher Leaders plus 4 Teaching Artist Leaders.  CLICK HERE  for Arts education resources. CLICK HERE  for the MALI Resource Bank. Search in the “search archives” box on the bottom right side of this post for past teacher leader stories. There have been 78 posted to date. Thank you Tim for sharing your story!

You can view his beautiful artwork at

Tim Christensen works primarily in porcelain, with sgraffito. He has been teaching art and pottery since 2002. His favorite age group really depends on the project at hand, but generally, his favorite group is middle school. Tim loves collaborating with art teachers of any type, and enjoy the challenges and rewards of working in our public schools.

What do you like best about being a teaching artist?

I like that every day is a new day, with new kids and new challenges. I find that I can come into a classroom and work with the young artists unencumbered by any expectations on either of our parts. It allows the experience to be both fruitful and fun for everyone, and often can provide a new view on learning for both the teacher and student. I love helping students to discover their visual voice, and love inspiring them to say the things that they most need to say.

What do you believe are three keys to ANY successful visual and performing arts education?

Any endeavor must be challenging, engaging, and have clearly defined, achievable, parameters for success.

Have you found assessment to be helpful in your classes, workshops and residencies, and if so, how?

I very much like teaching in environments where assessments are used. I find that the students rely on rubrics, when available, as a basis I for formative self-assessment. I like that a rubric, used correctly, opens up a project for multiple pathways of showing success, and engages the students in customizing a project to best fit their interests.

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the Maine Arts Leadership initiative?

MALI has allowed me to learn about and discuss the latest ideas and science in education with the leaders in our field, and has given me a voice within my community. Before MALI, I didn’t know there even WAS a community.

What are you most proud of as an artist and/or a teaching artist?

As a TA, I am most proud of those moments where I see a student or teaching professional leap forward in their understanding of a student’s abilities and thoughts. As an artist, I am most proud of the hard work it has taken to develop my voice, AND develop an audience to hear it.

What gets in the way of doing a better job as a teaching artist?

There are only 24 hours in a day…..

What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances?

My entire life as an artist is due to hard work and determination. I know that sounds glib, but it is true. In 2007, I moved to the woods in Maine with a tent, some skills, and a stack of lumber, and literally built my life from clay, dirt, wood, and sweat. Everything I have accomplished since then has come from that basis, and still is derived from those 4 assets.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming a teaching artist or is just starting out?

Get out there and do it. Don’t wait for perfect conditions. Create acceptable conditions, and improve them as you can. Also, always assume that you are on the right path, and that there is a solution to every problem you encounter. Work every single day. Trust your thoughts and instincts, and work on ways of expressing those things that make it easier for others to understand you. Tell everyone who will listen about your ideas, and your passion. Lastly, if you don’t see a way forward, make one: not just for yourself, but to make the way easier for all those people who are not as confident of their feet as you are.

If you were given a $500,000.00 to do with whatever you please, what would it be?

I would be doing exactly what I am doing right now.

Imagine you are 94 years old. You’re looking back. Do you have any regrets?

I do, but not around the way I have spent my time, only in paths not taken, or too soon abandoned.


In Today’s News

April 24, 2017

Aaron Robinson

In the Portland Press Herald yesterday Bob Keyes wrote an article about the work of Aaron Robinson. I am so proud of Aaron and the work he has done over the years. He is a former student of mine. The following is an excerpt from the article which you can read entirely at

Maine composer Aaron Robinson was reminded of Bernstein’s words while listening to media reports in the aftermath of terrorist attacks in Paris in the fall of 2015 that killed 130 people and injured 400 more. “One of the people interviewed was quoted as saying, ‘We’ve become numb with sorrow,’ ” Robinson said. “When I heard ‘numb with sorrow,’ I was already creating in my head.”



Who Are They? Waterfall Arts – Part 5

April 24, 2017

The Waterfall Family

This is the fifth of five blog posts in a series about Waterfall Arts, located in Belfast, and are posted April 20-24. Information is provided for the Maine Arts Ed blog readers to learn about community organizations and institutions that provide educational opportunities in the arts. You will learn that they are partnering with other organizations and schools to extend learning opportunities, not supplant.

Waterfall Arts (WA) was founded in 2000 on a rustic site in Montville by a group of local artists. Seventeen years later now located in a repurposed old schoolhouse in Belfast, WA is a vibrant midcoast arts hub with over 6000 visitors per year, still committed to its mission “to create community in harmony with nature through the transformative power of the arts.” WA offers resources to artists and arts enthusiasts of all ages, including classes, exhibitions, events, open media-specific studios (clay, print, and photography), free/sliding scale arts after-school programs for 4th-12th graders, public art projects, long-term studio space, and short-term rental facilities. As the co-founders and those involved are dedicated to an accessible, environmentally-sustainable center, they have embarked on a campaign to transform their old building into a model of creative energy efficiency and ADA-compliance.  Waterfall Arts is located at 265 High Street in Belfast. Website:, contact: or call 207.338.2222.

Waterfall Arts, Belfast

It was our Facility Manager’s birthday recently. Which is an awesome thing since we love to celebrate birthdays here at Waterfall Arts. Not just any ol’ office b-day party with a store-bought cake and candles, but a party with singing, stories, baskets of trinkets and special treats. One of us bakes, another brings a card and we each share a little of our own world. Lou and her husband process huge batches of the most delicious maple syrup – we each get a jar in our birthday basket. We give souvenirs from our journeys or samples of our artistic endeavors. We all eat way too much chocolate… We’re not just a team, we’re a family.

What does it take to create this dream team? Some say diversity. Some say clear goals and strategy. A fearless leader/visionary. Individual commitment. The perfect product or idea. Certainly public interest, funding, and creative thinking. Sure, all of these contribute to creating the perfect team — and the Waterfall team can check all these boxes. In addition we have an amazing group of volunteers. An active Board of Directors, successful granting records, dedicated donors, fantastic artist educators and a talented staff. And the community that convinced Waterfall Arts to move to Belfast 10 years ago continues to jump into our innovative programs and services.

This is all great, right? But there is more.  As a non-profit organization, Waterfall’s team raises its entire budget every year. This funding — grants, business sponsors and private donations — determines our capabilities. It also means that staff positions are part-time and salaries are lower than other comparable jobs in the area. Volunteers are crucial to successful project management. Reliance on city, state and federal spending priorities affect our abilities to run certain programs. It can be quite a challenge to juggle bills, coordinate programs, and care for the building. And in the face of all of this, we keep going and growing because this team is also a family.

Staff and board getting creative during the annual retreat.

A total cliché but so very true here at Waterfall Arts. We surprise ourselves every time we open the doors to a new exhibition, workshop, artist talk, performance…WOW – we did it! And the best part, when we’re done with the to-do lists, the meetings, the calendar updates, the long nights painting walls and cleaning floors, writing grants and soliciting sponsorships, we get to start all over again to bring another amazing creative experience to our community.

The Waterfall family may not be united by genetics but we are related through our passions. We share a passion for the Arts, a passion to engage others in creative experiences, and a passion to make a difference in our community. And passion is what it takes to power a non-profit. To power any team to go beyond. It’s the gas in the engine.

I moved here about 5 years ago. Seeking out a community in the arts I found Waterfall Arts. I signed up to volunteer in the gallery and am still here, now President of the Board. Waterfall Arts is family to me. What we do is significant and makes a difference to the world around us and we enjoy being together doing it.

That is the perfect team.

Costumes happen more than once a year around here!

“How wonderful it is that nobody needs to wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” ~Anne Frank

This post was written by Karin Otto, Waterfall Arts Board Chair and volunteer Coordinator of Programs.


Who Are They? Waterfall Arts – Part 4

April 23, 2017


This is the fourth of five blog posts in a series about Waterfall Arts, located in Belfast, and are posted April 20-24. Information is provided for the Maine Arts Ed blog readers to learn about community organizations and institutions that provide educational opportunities in the arts. You will learn that they are partnering with other organizations and schools to extend learning opportunities, not supplant.

Waterfall Arts (WA) was founded in 2000 on a rustic site in Montville by a group of local artists. Seventeen years later now located in a repurposed old schoolhouse in Belfast, WA is a vibrant midcoast arts hub with over 6000 visitors per year, still committed to its mission “to create community in harmony with nature through the transformative power of the arts.” WA offers resources to artists and arts enthusiasts of all ages, including classes, exhibitions, events, open media-specific studios (clay, print, and photography), free/sliding scale arts after-school programs for 4th-12th graders, public art projects, long-term studio space, and short-term rental facilities. As the co-founders and those involved are dedicated to an accessible, environmentally-sustainable center, they have embarked on a campaign to transform their old building into a model of creative energy efficiency and ADA-compliance.  Waterfall Arts is located at 265 High Street in Belfast. Website:, contact: or call 207.338.2222.

Waterfall Arts, Belfast

Five years ago when I joined the Waterfall arts crew as facilities manager I was pretty confident that I had landed a comfy position at a quiet little community art center. For the first couple of months that seemed to be the case. Set up some tables here, fold up some chairs there, maybe set up the projector and tape down the wires. Mow the lawn now and then. Make sure the trash was taken out and the floors were swept…

The building itself is a grand old elementary school covering over 16,000 sq. ft. with classrooms (complete with chalkboards and coat “cubbies”) converted into over a dozen private studios and offices. Several common areas include what was once the cafeteria (and the fallout shelter!), now a 1200 sq ft performance space. Many locals come to Waterfall for an event and end up going room to room, nostalgically pointing out where they had class when it was the Anderson School.

Although almost a hundred years old, the building seemed solid and steady, just needing a bit of paint here or there, maybe a call to the oil burner tech if the heat went out – easy! The best part was that I got to spend my work day in the company of fellow artists (which by the way is still the best part for sure). But my sleepy little gig ended abruptly on a Sunday morning in February when I got a call that a pipe had burst in the third floor ladies room sometime during the night and the basement was flooded; the ceiling in the 2nd floor ladies room collapsed. The water had been shut off but the damage was extensive. And so began a repair and renovation project that lasted over a year and required all the skills I had managed to acquire – including calling in outside help. Things are not always as they seem and this old elementary school is no exception! The pipe that burst appeared solid and in good order, the galvanized surface looked much as it did the day it was installed, but inside the cast iron pipe had rusted until it was paper thin and finally burst. And the building has many such pipes.

My second year here the heating system failed. In the middle of winter – again, old metal had failed. One minute you got heat the next minute you got a problem! We managed to make it until spring when we began the involved process of installing a pump system to heat and cool the building and to trash the existing oil fired steam heat system. The new system was not operational until late in December though, and we had to heat the entire building for several weeks using a flotilla of electric space heaters. Several extra-cold nights I slept on the couch in the basement to keep an eye on things. Now in our third season with the heat pump system, I can say it is a great improvement over the old system. AC in the heat of summer sure is sweet!

Soon we will begin a major renovation project to -among other things- super insulate the building, install new windows and a solar array on the roof – all with the goal of attaining net zero energy usage. This building has had quite a life cycle!

The last couple of years have provided me with plenty of opportunity to use a lifetime of construction skills, not only in dealing with crisis situations but also in the construction of new studio spaces including a fully equipped printmaking studio and a photo darkroom.

You could say my cozy little job at Waterfall Arts ended with the flood of 2012 – with the realization that this dear old building that provides this community with a home for the arts was a needy old building that required much attention… but in turn gives back so much. And yes, I still set up tables, fold up chairs…

This post was written by Mike Fletcher, Waterfall Arts Facilities Manager and the coordinator of the life drawing program. Mike is a 1991 graduate of Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, Massachusetts, and later went on to study at the Art Students League where he monitored for the Russian realist painter Leonid Gervits. An active member of the Mid-Coast Maine arts community for over two decades Mike has performed with the Belfast Maskers, exhibited with Art Fellows and taught at Waterfall Arts. Mike’s most recent solo exhibition was at Aaurhus gallery, in 2012.

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