Archive for October, 2020



October 31, 2020

I don’t think teachers need to dress up for Halloween – just use your SUPERPOWER!


The Forest Opera

October 30, 2020

This is a wonderful treat for the day before Halloween and a Friday!


Bates College Museum of Art

October 29, 2020

Ashley Bryan

In the October 18 edition of the Portland Press Herald I learned that Henry Isaacs and Donna Bartnoff Isaacs have donated several of Ashley Bryan’s paintings to the Bates College Museum of Art. They made a commitment years ago when they started collecting Ashley’s art that it would remain in Maine. Henry painted with Ashley on Little Cranberry Island for years and Donna was the teacher in the islands one-room school house where Ashley was a visiting artist. When the Isaacs’ decided to move to Vermont they knew they wanted to insure that some of Ashley’s paintings will remain in Maine where they were created. The Ashley Bryan Center on Little Cranberry Island donated Ashley’s personal papers, to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Over the next few months the center plans to donate other works to Bates as well as Bowdoin and Colby museums, Portland Museum of Art and Farnsworth Art Museum and the bulk of his puppets going to the College of the Atlantic.

Henry Isaacs and Donna Bartnoff Isaacs on the zoom session

On Thursday, October 22 the staff, Dan Mills, the museum’s director and Anthony Shostack, curator of education provided a zoom event. Ashley’s good friend and poet Nikki Giovanni shared stories and knowledge of Ashley’s work through their long friendship and many collaborations. It was a treat to have Henry and Donna on the zoom session. A much larger treat was Ashley Bryan himself. Ashley had COVID-19 in the spring while living in Texas. He recovered but for the first time he was unable to travel to his beloved Little Cranberry Island. Recently he broke his wrist but is recovering well. Now 97 years old he is hoping to be able to travel again to the island next summer.

Nikki Giovanni poet and collaborator with Ashley Bryant

The information below is from the Museum of Art Bates College website about the Ashley Bryan exhibit which opened on October 20. Unfortunately the museum is not open to the public at this time but the staff is providing an enormous amount of resources online specifically about the Ashley Bryan exhibit and many other resources as well.

Ashley Bryan surprise visit on the zoom session

Fortunately the museum recorded the zoom session and you can view it at <a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="http://" data-type="URL" data-id="<iframe width="560" height="315" src="; frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen>THIS LINK. In addition they will be creating a virtual tour of the exhibit which can be viewed on the museum website.

October 21, 2020 – March 20, 2021

African American artist Ashley Bryan is one of Maine’s cultural treasures. A noted painter, printmaker, illustrator, author, puppet maker, and storyteller, Bryan, who turned 97 on July 13, came to Maine as a member of the first class to attend Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 1946. He began to summer regularly in the Cranberry Isles, a group of islands off Mount Desert Island, in the late 1940s, and has lived on Little Cranberry Island year-round since the late 1980s. In 2019, Henry Isaacs and Donna Bartnoff Isaacs, longtime friends and neighbors of Bryan’s on Little Cranberry Island, donated over fifty works of art including paintings, drawings, and prints, and numerous other items including copies of his books. The core of this exhibition is drawn from this generous gift.

Ashley Bryan, #4 White Hollyhocks, n.d., acrylic on canvas, 32 x 28 in., Bates College Museum of Art, gift of Henry Isaacs and Donna Bartnoff Isaacs, 2019.2.2

Bryan’s passion for storytelling was fueled by trips to the public library as a child, where he read folktales, novels, biographies, and poetry. However, there were few opportunities to identify with African-Americans in the books he found. This is a problem he has been determined to address in his books ever since. Bryan has written and illustrated more than fifty books, many inspired by African folktales and Black American spirituals. These include award winning titles such as: Infinite Hope: A Black Artist’s Journey from World War II to Peace (2020); I Am Loved (2018), Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan (2016); Ashley Bryan: Words to My Life’s Song (2009); Beautiful Blackbird (2003); All Night, All Day: A Child’s First Book of African American Spirituals (1992), among many others. Illustrations from selected books, and a reading area are part of the exhibition.

Ashley Bryan, Family Circle (Self Portrait), ca. 1970, linocut on paper, 18 1/4 x 17 7/8 in. (framed), Bates College Museum of Art, gift of Henry Isaacs and Donna Bartnoff Isaacs, 2019.2.11

Like his book illustrations, Bryan’s paintings are varied in subject. Works from earlier in his career are often expressionistic and representational painted in a naturalistic palette, with subjects including family, friends, musicians, landscapes and gardens, and images painted while abroad. Later paintings share the brilliantly colorful palette of many of his book illustrations, and include lush and vivid gardens and scenic images from Little Cranberry Isle. In the artist’s words,

“I can’t remember a time when I have not been drawing and painting. In kindergarten, when I learned the alphabet and then drew the pictures for each letter, it was a wonderful experience because the teacher said I had published a book when I reached the end and sewed it together. Because of the encouragement I received as a child, in school and at home, I continued doing those books. I don’t know how much those experiences were actually behind what I’m doing now in a direct sense, but it was the spirit in which it was opened to me, that in which I really believed.”

Ashley Bryan was born in Harlem, New York, in 1923, and grew up in the Bronx during the Great Depression. His parents emigrated from Antigua in the Caribbean and settled in New York City after the First World War. When applying for scholarships to art schools as a 16-year old, he was told his portfolio was among the most impressive submitted, but he was denied acceptance, because “…it would be a waste to give a scholarship to a colored person.” He was accepted to Cooper Union School of Art and Engineering in 1940 where the application process was based solely on Bryan’s portfolio and “they did not see me.” Bryan was drafted into the segregated US Army while a student, and he was on Omaha Beach on D-Day in World War II. Bryan earned a BS cum laude from Columbia University, received a scholarship to attend the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and continued his studies at Université d’Aix-Marsaille, France, in the 1940s, and at the University of Freiburg, Germany on a Fulbright scholarship in the 1950s. He taught art at numerous institutions In New York and Philadelphia between 1960 and 1973, and taught at Dartmouth from 1974-88.

Ashley Bryan, [Untitled Collage from Beautiful Blackbird], n.d., paper collage, 20 1/2 x 28 in. (framed), Bates College Museum of Art, gift of Henry Isaacs and Donna Bartnoff Isaacs, 2019.2.4

The museum is deeply grateful to Henry Isaacs and Donna Bartnoff Isaacs for so generously donating their Ashley Bryan collection of art and books, and for sharing their knowledge and insights into Bryan’s work. With this gift as a wonderful foundation, the museum hopes to develop a significant collection of Bryan’s art, particularly his paintings, in Maine, the state he has been connected to for almost 75 years. Thank you to Henry and Donna for supporting the exhibition and its education/outreach programs for area schoolchildren.

The museum is also indebted to Merry White for lending a fine painting to the exhibition. A special thank you to Marcia and Daniel Minter, and Ashley Page, of Indigo Arts Alliance in Portland for collaborating with us on educational materials and activities from The Beautiful Blackbird Children’s Book Festival, which are included in the exhibition and part of the educational programming for area schoolchildren. A heartfelt thank you to Virginia Fowler and Nikki Giovanni for generously supporting the exhibition’s education programming. Thank you to Diverse BookFinder, and especially Krista M. Aronson, Professor of Psychology and Associate Dean of the Faculty, for advice and participation in programming.  

This exhibition and programming are funded in part by the Jane Costello Wellehan Endowment Fund.

I’ve blogged about Ashley Bryan several times in the past. Got to the side bar and type in Ashley Bryan in the search archives window and you can click on each of the links if you’d like to learn more. My favorite post from the past was the story about music teacher Kate Smith and I traveling to Little Cranberry to visit Ashley in his home and studio. It was a magical day! Read about it!


Institute for Arts Integration and STEAM

October 28, 2020

13 Strategies for Making Thinking Visible in the Classroom

For many educators focusing on the process and not the product has been a gradual change. The pandemic has forced this shift rapidly and educators are gracefully embracing it in many cases. This requires a growth mindset and ideas and suggestions from supportive colleagues. Susan Riley’s Institute for Arts Integration and STEAM has put together a comprehensive list of strategies that you can apply (in person and/or remotely) in your classroom environment that will make your students thinking visible.

Why make learning more visible you may wonder? Critical and creative thinking skills are an integral part of teaching and learning, always have been part of arts education. I’m glad that other educators have gotten on board with this in this 21st century. One key for developing and assessing critical and creating thinking skills is to making thinking more visible. If we can see the process students are using to analyze problems, make predictions and draw conclusions, teaching and guiding students thinking becomes easier.

I encourage you to take a look at the ideas Susan Riley suggestions below to support your teaching and students learning.

  1. Use Artful Thinking Routines
  2. Try Close Reading of an Art Composition
  3. Connect with Cooperative Poetry
  4. Explore Ekphrasis Poetry for Vivid Language
  5. Generate One Word Focal Points
  6. Develop Collaborative Narrative
  7. Sketch to Write
  8. Create an Art Recipe
  9. Design Haibun Poems
  10. Perform a Human Slideshow
  11. Build Summarizing Skills
  12. Composing a Soundtrack
  13. Produce Curriculum-Based Reader’s Theatre

Curriculum: Drawing

October 27, 2020

Essential part of learning

For years we’ve been talking about the value of arts integration and the value of connecting the arts to other content. This article was written in 2016 but it includes points that are valuable for understanding the value of a drawing curriculum and advocacy.

The title is Why is teaching kids to draw not a more important part of the curriculum? It was written by Ari Chand for The Conversation which is a publication supported by the University of Newcastle Australia.

Mr. Chand touches on many valuable points about the role and impact of learning to draw which include the following:

  • the role that drawing plays in cognitive development
  • supporting learning to write
  • thinking creatively
  • developing hand-eye coordination
  • sharpening analytic skills
  • conceptualizing ideas

The author promotes the importance of teaching drawing in art classes and the benefits to other subjects. High school students can use drawing skills in many ways including the following:

  • visual mapping
  • reflective thinking
  • organizing and presenting information
  • communication that cuts across language barriers

The author includes six developmental stages that are similar to Viktor Lowenfeld’s artistic developmental stages. (Lowenfeld’s ideas were included in many art teachers education during the post-war period.) Below are the stages included in this article.

Child Art Wikipedia
  1. Scribbling stage: ages 2-4
  2. Pre-schematic stage: ages 4-7
  3. Schematic stage: ages 7-9
  4. Realistic stage: ages 9-12
  5. Pseudo-naturalistic stage: ages 12-14
  6. Crisis of adolescence/ artistic decision: ages 14-17

Mr. Chand provides many ideas on the impact on the drawing curriculum and how drawing can help you think creatively. He has put together information on the impact on the medical field, science and technology and much more.

I suggest that you read the entire article yourself. As I said there is information that can influence and support a drawing curriculum as well as an article you may want to share with administrators, colleagues, parents, school board and most importantly your students!


Passamaquoddy People

October 26, 2020

Geo Neptune is a performance artist, educator, and basket maker who left Indian Township where he grew up to attend Dartmouth College in 2006. Geo returned to the Indian Township community in 2010 and has learned a great since. As a newly elected member of the Indian Township school board Neptune has plans to make a difference for young people.

One of the things that makes the Passamaquoddy unique, Neptune says, is that they don’t have a “migration or removal story.” The tribe, which numbers around 3,500 people, has “lived on the shores of these lakes and our ancestral river for 13,000 years.”

Geo plans to advocate for greater education on Passamaquoddy culture and language, which they feel have been deprioritized by faculty and administrators in recent years.

Read Geo’s strong and clear statements about what it’s been like for the Passamaquoddy people in this interview for them with Nico Lang.

Photo credit: Sipsis Peciptaq Elamoqessik


October 23, 2020


Hamilton is a story about hope, revolution, and love. The original cast of Hamilton singing “Helpless” will have you moving and smiling. How might you incorporate this into your curriculum this year? Let me count the ways!


Farnsworth Art Museum

October 22, 2020

Seeking Teaching Artists for online learning

Interested in teaching online with the Farnsworth Art Museum? The Education Department is seeking teaching artists and lecturers in the fields of visual art and traditional arts, literary arts, theater, dance, music and multidisciplinary / interdisciplinary fields, and art history. Let us know a bit about yourself, your discipline and teaching experience in the form link below. At this time, all programming is offered online via Zoom. 

Visit the Farnsworth Art Museum to learn more about offerings. Submit your proposal at this link. Questions? Email Jude Valentine at


Virtual Theatre Game Night

October 21, 2020

Maine high school students are invited to participate in a virtual theater game night. The Maine Thespians officers will lead participants in an interactive workshop at no cost. Mark your calendars and join teens from across the state – Sunday, October 25, 5:00 – 6:30 p.m. This event is provided by the Maine Educational Theater Association.

For more information CLICK HERE! To register CLICK HERE!


Grammy Music Educator Award

October 20, 2020

25 Semifinalists announced – Maine proud!

In the beginning of June 2020 the Music Educator Award presented by Recording Academy and Grammy Museum announced their quarterfinalists for 2021. I was proud to announce on the blog that three Maine music educators were named to the list of nearly 2,000 nominees!

  • CAROL CLARK – Gray-New Gloucester High School
  • PATRICK VOLKER – Scarborough High School
  • TRACY WILLIAMSON – Gorham Middle School 

As a follow up Tracy shared her Covid story posted on this blog that provided details on her teaching journey through the school year.

Tracy Williamson

Recently Tracy learned that she is one of 25 music teachers from 24 cities across 16 states to be named a semifinalist for the award given by the Recording Academy and GRAMMY Museum.


The finalists will be announced in December and Maine Arts Educators will be waiting to hear the outcome!

The Music Educator Award recognizes current educators who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the field of music education and who demonstrate a commitment to the broader cause of maintaining music education in the schools. The recipient will be recognized during GRAMMY Week 2021.

The award is open to current U.S. music teachers, and anyone can nominate a teacher — students, parents, friends, colleagues, community members, school deans, and administrators. Teachers are also able to nominate themselves, and nominated teachers are notified and invited to fill out an application.

Each year, one recipient is selected from 10 finalists and recognized for their remarkable impact on students’ lives. They will receive a $10,000 honorarium and matching grant for their school’s music program. The nine additional finalists will receive a $1,000 honorarium and matching grants. The remaining fifteen semifinalists will receive a $500 honorarium with matching school grants.

The matching grants provided to the schools are made possible by the generosity and support of the GRAMMY Museum’s Education Champion Ford Motor Company Fund. In addition, the American Choral Directors Association, National Association for Music Education, NAMM Foundation, and National Education Association support this program through outreach to their constituencies.

The finalists will be announced in December, and nominations for the 2022 Music Educator Award are now open. To nominate a music educator, or to find more information, please visit

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