Archive for the ‘Community’ Category

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Arts Education Month

March 2, 2021

YAHOOOOO and Happy Arts Education Month!

I know this March is a bit different than other years but we as visual and performing arts educators still have important work to do – celebrating and raising up the voices of our students in the arts. The creative minds of arts educators are serving you well, as you plan and implement a way to recognize the accomplishments of your students in the arts. CONGRATULATIONS and THANK YOU to all the educators who provide an excellent arts education and access to it for learners of all ages. I know that you are proud of your students and I encourage you to take advantage of this month designated to celebrate arts education. Whether you do it in a small or large way, please let me know about the work you are doing so I can include your story on this blog. Your good ideas should be shared so others can learn from you! I appreciate your ongoing commitment to providing THE BEST visual and performing arts education!

Take advantage of Arts Education Month to engage others in the conversation of why a quality arts education is essential for all students. Use the Commissioner of Education Pender Makin’s message, posted on this blog yesterday, to help others understand what we know to be important.

If you’re looking for resources each of the national professional organizations below have a plethora of information on their websites. Check them out and consider becoming members to support their good work.

NAEA

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The National Art Education Association has been celebrating Youth Art Month since the 1960’s. Check out what NAEA has to offer on the topic. The purpose of YAM is to emphasize the value to children from participating in visual art education. 

CFAE

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The Council for Art Education provides tons of resources to help you plan. They have ideas on their site that teachers and students are engaged in across the country. The ideas range from school based to community, both large and small. You can sign up for their free newsletter and receive information on a regular basis.

NAfME

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The National Association for Music Education has been recognizing Music in Our Schools Month since 1985. The idea started in 1973. You can learn what NAfME has to offer on MIOSM by CLICKING HEREThe purpose of MIOSM is to raise awareness of the importance of music education for all children – and to remind citizens that schools is where all children should have access to music.

EDTA

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The Educational Theatre Association and the International Thespian Society and the American Alliance for Theatre & Education (AATE) all provide resources for theater educators. Their resources are directed towards Thespians, schools, and educators. The purpose is to raise public awareness of the impact of theatre education and draw attention to the need for more access to quality programs for all students.

NDEO

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The National Dance Education Organization celebrates the artistic and academic achievements of exceptional students through the National Honor Society for Dance Arts (NAHSDA) by teaming up with the US Department of Education during March. Learn more about their advocacy work by CLICKING HERE.

As you’re contemplating your March celebration checking out a blog post from the past with more resources. CLICK HERE

AFTA

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Americans for the Arts envisions a country where everyone has access to—and takes part in—high quality and lifelong learning experiences in the arts, both in school and in the community. Their arts education council represents a cross section of the country so all voices are represented. The Americans for the Arts website has a plethora of resources on arts education. Check them out by CLICKING HERE.

ARTS ADVOCACY DAY

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We know that arts-rich schools benefit everyone. It is our responsibility to help others who may not understand this statement. Arts Education month provides that opportunity and in the near future the Maine Alliance for Arts Education will be sharing a video of Arts Education Advocacy Day that took place on February 17, 2021.

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Office of the Secretary of State

February 28, 2021

Shenna Bellows

Many people believe that we shouldn’t dedicate one day or one month to something as important as Black History. That may be true but I also note that there are a lot of educators and organizations that take the time to recognize, learn and celebrate the history of black people during February each year. The month sheds light on the importance of what black people have done throughout history. The events of the past year have moved us to a different place and hopefully we are making progress in learning, understanding, and truth and will continue to do so every month. I’m not in the position to measure and nor is it our jobs as educators to do so but it is our responsibility to recognize where we are and incorporate an understanding into our curricula.

Painting of Frederick Douglass by Rob Shetterly, Americans Who Tell the Truth

Shenna Bellows was elected in December by the Maine Legislature to be the 50th Secretary of State. Shenna is the first woman to hold the position and she brings to it a wealth of experience and understanding. Earlier in February Shenna was the guest on a webinar sponsored by Midcoast Women. They provide opportunities for women in the midcoast to find and strengthen their individual and collective voices. Shenna said that when she was a young girl she started carrying a copy of the US Constitution in her pocket, she was so enthralled with it.

Shenna contacted Maine painter Rob Shetterly and invited him to display some of his Amercans Who Tell the Truth AWTT paintings in her Augusta office in recognition of Black History Month. If you’re not familiar with Rob’s paintings he has created over 250 paintings of Americans who are “Truth Tellers”. The portraits and narratives highlight citizens who courageously address issues of social, environmental, and economic fairness. AWTT offers resources to inspire a new generation of engaged Americans who will act for the common good, our communities, and the Earth.

Painting of John Lewis by Rob Shetterly, Americans to Tell the Truth

Message from Rob

The exhibit in the Office of the Secretary of State is about the people and the art and the history of the United States. The intent of the portraits is several fold: by painting historical figures as vividly as I would a contemporary person, I’m trying to convey that each one is in a sense as alive right now as they were in their era. The issues of racism and  Constitutional values are still urgent, what they had to say is as relevant now as it was then. And the importance of a good portrait is that it can honor the person as  words sometimes fail to do. Partly that’s because of the time necessary, the commitment, to create a living person. That is, if I say the name Frederick Douglass to you it elicits a different response than if I show you a portrait which conveys his character and courage. I think this year because of Black Live Matter and Covid, we are realizing how deeply entwined racism is in our history and culture. The portraits are of people who need now as much as ever to be our teachers. It’s important to choose teachers who tell us the most truth. The office of the Secretary of State are where laws are meant to be enforced equitably. The portraits acknowledge the struggle of the past and the present to rout out racist law.

Painting of Frances Perkins by Rob Shetterly, Americans Who Tell the Truth

Shenna has the portraits of Frederick Douglass, John Lewis, Frances Perkins and Sojourner Truth in her office. You might be wondering why Shenna wanted these paintings in her office. Shenna was kind enough to share her reasons along with answering several questions that provide the Maine Arts Education blog readers Shenna’s thoughts on ‘truth tellers’ and the messages that the paintings portray.

What inspired you to want to hang AWTT portraits in your  office?

When I served in the Maine Senate, I sat at a desk with a portrait of President Lincoln behind  me. That portrait inspired my work in the Maine Senate, but I was also mindful that in the Legislature, we were surrounded by portraits of white men, and I thought that sent the wrong message about who can lead, especially to children who came to tour the State House. When  it came time to decorate the office of Secretary of State, I wanted portraits of those great heroes who have shaped social justice and especially voting rights. As the first female Secretary of State, I wanted to be sure women were included.

What message do you want to communicate with the AWTT paintings in your office?

The Office of Secretary of State is committed to racial and social justice, and we’re taking the lessons learned from some of the great heroes of civil rights to carry their work forward. I also want to send a message that some of the greatest heroes in advancing justice in our country have been women and African Americans.

Painting of Sojourner Truth by Rob Shetterly, Americans Who Tell the Truth

Why did you choose the ones she did? Are there any personal stories that connect you specifically to these portraits?

The portraits I chose are my some of my own heroes. When I was a kid growing up in Hancock, I had a copy of the Bill of Rights on my bedroom wall. I was committed to the ideals laid out in that document, but it’s taken me a lifetime to continue to learn some of our country’s hard history. In 2003, I went to work for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Washington, DC, and I was assigned to work on building a national campaign to engage activists in calling for reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act.  That was the beginning of my professional work to advance voting rights, and it also marked the beginning of my deeper learning and inquiry into the work of heroes like Hon. John Lewis, Frederick Douglas and Sojourner Truth. In 2009, when I was at the ACLU of Maine where I was Executive Director, the Frances Perkins Center gave me an award as a future woman leader. I received a glass hat modeled in the shape of the one Frances Perkins wore and a copy of her biography. Her work inspired me when I went on to chair the Labor and Housing Committee in the Legislature.

What inspires you to take action?

My parents inspired me first. We were poor. I grew up without electricity or running water until the fifth grade. But my mom ran for the planning board to save a bald eagle’s nest and won. My dad protested the nuclear arms race and helped create our town’s recycling center. My parents demonstrated the importance of acting upon one’s values to make a difference. People who choose justice and truth sometimes at great personal cost inspire me to act.

What gives you  courage?

Love and friendship give me courage. When I’m embarking on something that is very difficult, I look to the people I love and respect and the hard choices they have sometimes made to advance justice, and that gives me courage.

If you were to choose a “truth-teller” for an AWTT portrait, who would it be?

Chief Clarissa Sabattis, Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians. I met her through the Holocaust and Human Rights Center where we collaborated on a project to lift up Maine’s black and brown heroes. I then watched her present to the Maine State Legislature on amendments to the Indian Land Claims Settlement Act. She is an amazing leader.

How does being Maine’s Secretary of State enable you to advance the cause of justice?

The Maine Secretary of State oversees Maine State Archives, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and the Bureau of Corporations, Elections and Commissions. With Maine State Archives, we can lift up the history of traditionally marginalized communities and restore access to archival documents to Maine’s Wabanaki tribes. With the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, we can reform the laws surrounding license suspension to ensure we’re not criminalizing poverty. We can also advance credentialing and licensing at the BMV to ensure equal access, especially for immigrant and refugee communities, people experiencing homelessness and other vulnerable communities. At the Division of Elections, we can work to reform our voting laws to make voting as convenient, accessible and secure as possible for all Mainers. At every level of the Department, as Secretary of State, I can promote representation in hiring and appointments and inclusion and equity in our policies and service to the public.

This is one of two blog posts about the AWTT paintings on display at this time in the Capitol Complex.

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Ya Gotta See This

February 26, 2021

Natasha Mayers Story

Over the last four years filmmakers Anita Clearfield and Geoffrey Leighton captured the story of Whitefield artist Natasha Mayers beautifully. Last evening almost 150 people, from all over Maine and way beyond, gathered online for the premiere of Natasha Mayers: an Un-Still Life. After viewing the 34 minute film folks joined Natasha, Anita and Geoffrey on zoom for the opportunity to celebrate and ask questions with the three of them! The film is delightful and so was the gathering! Kudos to all involved in organizing the happening.

It is always fun to see who participates in online events and especially wonderful to see among the attendees a few old friends – Nancy Salmon, Corliss Chastain, Christine Higgins, Elizabeth Watson, Deb Fahy, Rob Shetterly, and Catherine Ring. Educational and community tools are being developed to accompany the film by Kal Elmore, Nancy Harris Frohlich, Catherine Ring and myself. Natasha Mayers and Rob Shetterly will be providing the keynote at the spring Maine Art Education Association conference on April 3. More information will be provided in the future about this annual event, this year being held online.

CHAT BOX COMMENTS

Below are just some of the comments from the Zoom chat box. They provide an idea of how much participants enjoyed and appreciated the work that Anita and Geoffrey did, how well Natasha’s story is captured and how important her story is to the state of Maine.

  • Wicked awesome! Natasha and filmmakers fantastic job for a Maine Artist Icon!
  • Natasha, Geoff and Anita well done on all levels! There were so many great parts to think about. Loved the idea of incorporating war symbols with Maine symbols. Was moved by the story and the art around the buoys. The filmmaking was outstanding!
  • Great Film! Natasha you’re  inspiring. You have such great way of encouraging non-artists, I enjoyed seeing that. Important work!
  • Natasha, you are so beautiful and bring joy and pride to your Whitefield peeps!  Kudos to the filmmakers for the insights, the humor and fantastic graphics!
  • The amazing thing to me was how many more examples of Natasha’s work could have been included. It must have been very challenging to decide what to leave out.
  • I am so happy to be here and to have seen this amazing film about you!  I love it, I love you! Keep the faith and we will meet one of these days.
  • That was a beautiful film all! You are amazing Natasha! I loved all your work and sharing art with so many.
  • Bravo Natasha! Your work is an accessible voice of love and passion!
  • The visual effects are incredible…how did you do them? Too big a question, I know…but Bravo…perfect for the subject and artiste extraordinaire! The film work beautifully matched Natasha’s amazing work! 
  • Bravo for one of the most joyful films I’ve seen about one of the greatest most fun activist artists I’ve ever had the  pleasure to know. Great going Geoff and Anita!!
  • Courage Forward – you are it, Natasha.

Humor. Anger. Love. Outrage. Grief. Hear Natasha’s inspirational call to activism! The good news is that if you weren’t able to attend the premiere last evening you can access it at THIS LINK on Vimeo for FREE until Sunday evening. This film is so honest, thought provoking, creative, and humorous! It provides so much food for thought and it lands at just the right moment when we’re trying to make sense of the world. After March 25 the film will be available once again at no cost. I encourage you to make some popcorn tonight after your week at school, curl up on the couch, watch the film, and consider how you might use this in your classroom.

Now, more than ever, people want to see truthful, creative role models like Natasha Mayers, who Maine Senator George Mitchell called a “state treasure.” Natasha Mayers: an Un-Still Life presents an artist who has remained true to her passion for over 50 years, following Natasha as she takes on social, economic, and environmental justice issues with humor, irreverence, and a keen aesthetic that enlightens while it entertains. Using a non-traditional approach, the film’s animation and special effects reflect Mayers’ own art-style.

I’ll provide updates in future blog posts about the ongoing opportunities that will take place across the state. If you’re interested in learning more please email me at meartsed@gmail.com.

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Wabanaki Reach

February 25, 2021

Wellness Gatherings

Laughter is Good Medicine! As you may remember, since 2013 we have held annual Wabanaki Wellness Gatherings in or near tribal communities for Wabanaki people and friends to learn, celebrate, and engage in activities around a particular theme.While we were not able to gather safely in 2020, we connected through Zoom instead recording scenes from our favorite play, Indian Radio Days: An Evolving Bingo Experience by LeAnne Howe and the late Roxy Gordon.We have performed staged readings of this play at many of our Wellness Gatherings over the years where everyone has a great time performing, working backstage, and enjoying it from the crowd. It is engaging, hilarious, and educational, teaching a bit about American history.We hope you can see how much fun we had and view our video production of Indian Radio Days on our YouTube channel from February 19, 2021 – March 7, 2021 and also join us for a webinar panel discussion with the actors on March 4, 2021 via Zoom. 
It is sure to be lively!Panel Discussion Registration click here: Indian Radio Days – Panel Discussion View the film online now through Sunday, March 7th: https://youtu.be/Lzps6N-qyo8For more information contact: Heather Augustine · heather.augustine78@gmail.com · 207-295-3510Wabanaki REACH
http://www.mainewabanakireach.org/
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Speak Your Voice

February 22, 2021

Maine Art Education Association Spring Art Exhibit

MAEA members are invited to submit artwork for consideration in the upcoming Speak Your Voice exhibition, hosted by the Master of Arts in Teaching Program at MECA! Have you expressed yourself through a work of art this year? Join us! Are you inspired to make art during what remains of our vacation? Share with us! SPEAK YOUR VOICE!

Registration Window:  March 1 – March 15, 2021

Online Exhibit: April 15 – May 9, 2021 FOR MORE INFORMATION CONCERNING Speak Your Voice, please contact Samara Yandell at syandell@biddefordshools.me

Submission is open to any art educator in the State of Maine who is a member of MAEA. Artists who have work accepted will have their websites and pieces promoted through MECA’s and MAEA’s social media channels. (#MAEASpeakYourVoice). As long as all submission requirements are met, anyone submitting who is an active MAEA member will have one piece chosen for the exhibit. 

Please review the Guidelines at http://www.meca.edu/maea before submitting. You will receive a confirmation email after submitting.


Artists have the option of selling their work for a 70% commission. A link will be posted for viewers to make purchases through the MAEA website, with 30% of the proceeds going to benefit Maine College of Art. For works of art sold during the MECA MAT exhibit, once payment method is confirmed we will contact the artist with the buyer’s contact information to arrange delivery of the work. MAEA will distribute the payment to the artist less the commission for MECA. 

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Teaching Artists Residencies During Covid

February 20, 2021

Possible and yes, happening!

In December 2020 Martha Piscuskas, director of Arts Education at the Maine Arts Commission (MAC), moderated a discussion with teaching artists and a middle schooler called School Arts Residencies During COVID? Yes We Can! Included in the discussion were teaching artists: Bridget Matros, Alicia Phelps, Tim Christensen, and Dana Lagawiec with student Theo Forcier, Mt. Ararat Middle School. They discussed keys to success for remote school artist residencies and what they’re doing during the pandemic to further connections and learning opportunities for Maine learners.

The webinar was recorded and archived on YouTube and can be viewed below. The video opens with Martha sharing a land acknowledgment. Bridget Matros (starts at 4:30) is the Kids & Family Outreach Manager at Waterfall Arts and she is in the middle of a residency in Brunswick provided by the well established Arts Are Elementary program. She shares the set up in how she is teaching multiple learners in more than one space at one time. Alicia Phelps (starts at 12:00) teaches piano and voice and is Director of Community Partnerships and Special Programs at the community music center in Yarmouth, 317 Main. She is a recipient of a MAC grant. Tim is a ceramic artist (starts at 22:00) and became a Teaching Artist Leader with MAC’s Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) in Phase 6, 2016-17. Dana (starts at 31:15) does creative theater and became a Teaching Artist Leader with MALI Phase 7, 2017-18. The session finishes with circus artist MALI Phase 6, 2016-17 MALI Teaching Artist Brigid Rankowski monitoring questions. During the summer of 2020 MALI transformed into Maine Arts Education Partners in Leadership (MAEPL). Tim, Dana, Bridget, and Brigid are on the Maine Arts Commission Teaching Artist Roster.

RESOURCES FROM THE WEBINAR

MAC has the following education specific grants available with a deadline of April 1, 2021. Learn more by clicking on the grant title. Arts LearningCreative AgingDance Education. If you have any questions please contact Martha at Martha.Piscuskas@maine.gov.

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Former President Visits Portland

February 19, 2021

Barack Obama converses with Telling Room students

On January 26 former President Barack Obama participated in a zoom conversation with 26 students from Portland’s Telling Room’s Young Writers & Leaders program, an after-school creative writing and leadership program for international and multicultural students. For security reasons the virtual conversation was kept quiet but fortunately the conversation was videotaped and you can see the edited version below that was released this week to the media.

President Obama talked with the students about his recently published memoir, “A Promised Land.” Each student received a copy and were clearly thrilled for the opportunity to ask the President some questions and hear from him about writing and other topics. He talked a little about his play list and admits that he can’t listen while writing because he starts singing and moving. His final advice to the group was to “reach out to those who are doing what they want to be doing and ask them to teach you”.

The relationships with the Obama family has been going on for some time. Co-founder of the Telling Room, Sara Corbett is friends with Michelle Obama and helped with the President’s memoir. You can read the entire article in The Portland Press Herald, published on February 18th.

Telling Room’s Young Writers & Leaders program, an after-school creative writing and leadership program for international and multicultural students. 

Telling Room Mission

At the Telling Room, we empower youth through writing and share their voices with the world. Focused on young writers ages 6 to 18, we seek to build confidence, strengthen literacy skills, and provide real audiences for our students. We believe that the power of creative expression can change our communities and prepare our youth for future success.

One the years The Telling Room has been a recipient of Arts Learning Grants provided by the Maine Arts Commission. Their story has been shared on this blog in the past. Learn more about available funding for arts education on the Maine Arts Commission website.

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Works in Progress

February 18, 2021

Thornton Academy Dance

Emma Campbell, dance teacher at Thornton Academy has shared the amazing virtual performances created by her students. One choreographer student said: “I wanted to create a dance that would help lift everyone’s spirits”. I’d say, her goal was achieved! Emma says: “My students are desperately craving performances.” As I viewed the video I could feel the students emotions, their commitment to dance and their skills are evident. I invite you to support these students by viewing the video that includes a variety of dances. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

My favorite dance is called Never Grow Up. From the dancers: “Our piece is about going through different stages to where we are now. To achieve this for the project, we each embodied the mindset of a different phase in our life to show the growth we have each gone through.”

It’s simple to ‘buy’ your FREE ticket – CLICK HERE – it will take you to the streaming site. You will be asked to add your email address (so you can get the streaming link) and phone number but don’t worry, NO credit card. If you’re wondering what the Thornton dance studio classroom looks like, you’ll see a peek of that also. This is only available until February 21 so don’t hesitate!

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Congrats David Greenham

February 15, 2021

Maine Arts Commission appoints David Greenham as Interim Executive Director


AUGUSTA, MAINE–At its meeting on January 26, the Maine Arts Commission voted to appoint David Greenham of Gardiner as the interim Executive Director of the Maine Arts Commission for a term of at least two years. 

Greenham, 60, replaces Julie Richard, who served as Executive Director for eight years before accepting a new position in Arizona in December. 

“I’m honored and surprised at this turn of events,” said Greenham, who had served two years as the Commission’s chair. “I know the Maine Arts Commission well and am excited to work with the wonderful staff at the Commission and with the field of so many creative individuals and organizations.” 

David Greenham

Greenham has spent the past decade working for the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine, and for the past two years as the Associate Director. He led the HHRC’s award-winning educational programs, and also created numerous exhibits and events. Since 2009 Greenham has also been a lecturer in Drama at the University of Maine at Augusta. Prior to his work for the HHRC, Greenham led The Theater At Monmouth for 14 years and has been active in the arts community of Maine since coming to the state in 1985.

“For the past two years, David has led with a commitment to process, transparency and inclusion,” said Cynthia Orcutt, the Vice Chair of the Maine Arts Commission.  “His love for the arts, for artists, creatives and makers throughout the state of Maine drives his passion. The Board is thrilled David will now focus his efforts on directing the work of Commission staff and partners as they strengthen and support arts, artisans and culture.” 

Greenham assumes the leadership role as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hit arts organizations and individual artists particularly hard. Arts venues were among the first to shutter last March and will likely be among the last to open in the aftermath of the public health crisis. During the leadership transition, Julie Horn, the Arts Commission’s Director of Visual Arts, was appointed to serve as the Assistant Director of the agency. 

“We are elated that David will play a major role in our agency’s development over the next two years,” Horn said. “His commitment to the arts in Maine is unquestionable, and as Chair he always inspired us to find imaginative ways to meet the needs of the arts and culture community.”

The Maine Arts Commission staff will first focus on COVID relief and helping the field recover for this long and challenging pandemic. While the loss of life and the loss of livelihood have been the central detriment, Greenham said he still finds hope in the way that so many artists and organizations have found creative ways to share their work. “I know we’ll use these experiences to emerge with new strength and determination to celebrate,” Greenham said. “The arts will lead the emotional recovery from COVID.”

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an Un-Still Life

February 12, 2021

Film Premiere

We are thrilled to announce the film premiere of 
Natasha Mayers: an Un-Still Life
Thursday, February 25, 2021, 7:00–8:30 p.m.
Virtual, via Vimeo & Zoom Video Q&A
Tickets available through 
Eventbrite–FREE for all and all are welcome!

Artist. Trickster. Activist. Natasha Mayers: an Un-Still Life follows Maine’s “most committed activist artist” in her quest to engage with the questions that face people-of-conscience today. 

Humor. Anger. Love. Outrage. Grief. Hear Natasha’s inspirational call to activism; join her and filmmakers Anita Clearfield and Geoffrey Leighton at the virtual film premiere!

Now, more than ever, people want to see truthful, creative role models like Natasha Mayers, who Maine Senator George Mitchell called a “state treasure.” Natasha Mayers: an Un-Still Life presents an artist who has remained true to her passion for over 50 years, following Natasha as she takes on social, economic, and environmental justice issues with humor, irreverence, and a keen aesthetic that enlightens while it entertains. Using a non-traditional approach, the film’s animation and special effects reflect Mayers’ own art-style. 

Once the film has premiered, those of you who contributed to the Indiegogo campaign will receive your premiums — Thank you for your patience!
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