Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category


Who Are They?: Celebration Barn – Part 5

April 28, 2016


This blog post is part of a series called Who Are They? where 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. Please consider ways in which you can collaborate to provide excellent arts education for all learners.

This is the last of 5 blog posts about Celebration Barn which is located at 190 Stock Farm Rd, South Paris, ME. Thanks to Ian Bannon for providing the posts.

Celebration Barn Theater has a long history of producing new work that is crafted, innovative, and wildly alive. In the 70’s and 80’s the Barn’s founder, Tony Montanaro, trained and directed ensembles of touring performers in addition to helping individual artists create compelling works that are uniquely their own.

he Last Hurrah at Camp Maine Photo by Davin Currie

he Last Hurrah at Camp Maine
Photo by Davin Currie

The tradition continues with Amanda Huotari at the helm as Celebration Barn’s Artistic and Executive Director. Last summer, NYC’s Jeff Wirth wrote and directed The Last Hurrah at Camp Maine, a comic summer camp reunion. Celebration Barn’s property played the role of the oldest summer camp in the state as the story unfolded all over the grounds and all around the audience.

Those of you who participated in the performance experienced firsthand the power of Jeff Wirth’s unique brand of interactive theater. It was met with such rave reviews from our audience that we have invited Jeff back to the Barn this summer to teach and present his latest creation: StoryBox.

StoryBox-1024x753The StoryBox itself is a multi-tech stage designed specifically for interactive performances- where live performance seamlessly integrates with improvisational lighting, soundscapes, and video streaming.

Jeff will bring together an ensemble of interactive performers during a week-long intensive training at Celebration Barn. The ensemble members will emerge as, “‘quintuple threat’ performers, combining skills in acting, dramatic improvisation, story structure, social psychology, and technology.”

Inter-actors employ these skills to empower the audience members, referred to as spect-actors, to play and direct the action of each scene. Audience members are invited to engage in whatever way they are most comfortable. They may choose to participate or sit back and enjoy the show as usual.

We can’t wait to see what Jeff–and all of you spect-actors–have in store for us this summer!

For more information about Celebration Barn Theater workshops, visit their by CLICKING HERE.


Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Holly Leighton

April 27, 2016

Teacher Leader series


This is the eighth blog post of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Phase 5  Teacher Leader stories. This series contains a set of questions so you can learn a little bit about the work they are doing as Maine arts educators. CLICK HERE for more information on MALI. CLICK HERE for more information on the 73 of the MALI Teacher Leaders. CLICK HERE for Arts education resources. Search in the “search archives” box on the bottom right side of this post for past stories. There have been 67 posted to date.

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 8.42.57 PMHolly Leighton has been an elementary art teacher at the Ella P. Burr School in Lincoln for 17 years seeing 400+ students weekly. This year she moved to the district’s high school, Mattanawcook Academy, where she is the art teacher with 92 art students from grades 9-12. (RSU 67) Holly’s main responsibilities are teaching six 70 minute classes and covering the visual art standards.

What do you like best about being a visual art educator?

I love working with the students and watching their confidence in their art abilities grow. When I have a student that feels they “just aren’t good in art” I make it my mission to help them find their strengths and show them their growth as they go. When they begin to show pride in their art, embrace new media eagerly, and start thinking outside the box, I feel I have done my job well. It is very fulfilling and makes me feel proud to hopefully be making a difference in student’s lives.

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

I believe it requires teachers that are knowledgeable and passionate about teaching the arts and understands and loves working with students of all ages. I believe there has to be support from the administration, school board, and community. I believe we have to build strong art programs and continually advocate for them.

How have you found assessment to be helpful in your classroom?

I like to use formative assessments to track student’s growth and guide my teaching. I like to make sure each student knows where they are and where they need to go next in their learning. I have students do self-reflections on their artwork using the critical analysis process. I feel it makes students really think about their art, gives it importance, and makes them proud of what they have done.

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the arts assessment initiative?

Confidence! I was very unsure about how effectively I was using assessments in my classroom. After attending the conference in the fall I realized many of the others felt the same and we are on the right track. I learned so much from the others, creative resources for assessing in the arts, confidence in using my voice, and that we all have good ideas and need to share them. I have become a much more confident teacher.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I am proud of whom I have become through my years of teaching and this has happened because of the many dedicated colleagues that have mentored and encouraged me on my way. I consider myself a good teacher that cares about the students and really wants them to succeed in life.

What gets in the way of becoming a better teacher or doing a better job as a teacher?

For me it is time. Teachers are expected to spend so much time on new initiatives, trying new programs to improve the way we do things, meetings, and duties. We need to have time set aside on early release and workshop days to work on curriculum and standards, reflect on our teaching, and the multitude of other things that have to be done to keep our programs running effectively.

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

I have always tried to find ways to bring the students to the arts and artists to the classroom. We have had authors, illustrators, drama and dances teachers, and musicians come preform and/or teach in the classrooms. We have had multiple field trips to the Portland Museum of Art, Colby Art Museum and University of Maine Museum of Art. With help from my arts colleagues, I arrange these events at little or no cost to the district through grant opportunities and foundations. It is a lot of work and sometimes seems to just happen to others. I do it because I feel it is important for students in our rural area to experience the arts first hand.

Look into your crystal ball: what advice would you give to teachers?

Reach out and network with others. Join state and national organizations and be an active member. There is a wealth of resources out there to help with funding for field trips to the arts, to bring working artist to your schools and professional development opportunities for yourself.

If you were given $500,000 dollars to do whatever you please, what would it be?

I would go on vacation and travel to all the places here and overseas that I have wanted to see. I would pay off our home and fix up our family’s summer camp on the lake. With the rest I would fund a ceramics studio for our art program.

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

No. I use to have regrets, but finally realized that choices I have made have led me to be who I am today, my family, friends and work ethic. I believe the choices we make in the past lead us in different directions and where I had ended up at this point in my life, I couldn’t be happier.



CRMS Teaching Artist and Art Teacher Unite

April 25, 2016

Where art and science meet

Completed piece

Completed piece

Not to long ago I had a delightful visit at the Camden-Rockport Middle School. Middle school art educator Kristen Andersen had invited me to learn more about a collaborative teaching unit that she had undertaken with teaching artist Tim Christensen. I met Kristen many years ago and have visited her classroom on occasion. (I love it when teachers contact me to visit and learn what they are up to. So, please contact me if you’d like to share. It gives me the opportunity to share what you are doing so others can learn from you)! I met Tim at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts five years ago where he was facilitating a clay workshop at the Maine Art Education Association conference. Tim is a full-time artist and in addition does school residency’s.

IMG_2055Tim and Kristen put their heads together to develop this unit. They are working with the Farnsworth Art Museum’s Stories of the Land and It’s People program. In Tim’s personal work as an artist, he is documenting the habitat of animals and microcosms that are living today that will become extinct, some in our lifetime. The way he explained it is we know that the wooly mammoth existed during the Pleistocene epoch. The mammoth was identified as an extinct species of elephant by Georges Cuvier in 1796. So, we know the mammoth existed but we are unsure of its habitat. In order to preserve this information of the animals and microcosms living today Tim has taken it upon himself to document their habitats on pottery. Animals live here and they have systems that support them – its about the interactions and relationships. And, we know that pottery has told stories for hundreds of years.

IMG_2056Ninety grade 7 students are participating in this undertaking along with the science teacher Patty Crawford and Language Arts teacher Katie Urey. In fact, the artwork has been created during several of Patty’s classes. (Kristen is on multiple teams so her schedule doesn’t coincide with all of Patty’s classes). The work directly relates to the grade 7 science curriculum and students are writing haiku poems in Katie’s classes.

IMG_2040Each student is responsible for 3 clay tiles about 2″x4″. They started by drawing a name out of a hat of an organism and researched it. The tiles were underglazed black on raw clay. The drawings are being carved on one tile to create various shades and textures by using a variety of marks (lines, crosshatching, stipples to name a few). The technique is called sgraffito on porcelain. A second tile has the facts that they learned about their animal and the third has their haiku poem. Each tile has two small holes at the top which will be used to hang the tiles on copper rods that will be hanging between wooden braces. It will be like an abacus. The exhibit will be an educational tool so others can read and learn and try to match up the fact tiles with the image tiles.

IMG_2039The connected unit has been supported by principal Jamie Stone who moved to Camden-Rockport Middle School from an expeditionary school in Baltimore. They’ve connected with the Coastal Mountains Land Trust who is very excited about the work. They set up locations and field trips so the students could visit a location where their organism actually exists. This study is providing an opportunity for students to become stewards of the land (in their back yard). On the field trip many of the students actually saw them. The land trust plans to exhibit the traveling show on location this summer.

IMG_2079This unit is a great example of how the expertise of both the art educator and teaching artist are critical. Tim’s expertise as an artist as well as his knowledge of the science helps elevate this unit to a higher level of teaching and learning.

When visiting classrooms and schools Tim’s role is to supplement the teacher’s knowledge in the area of pottery and all of the components of ceramics that accompany it. In addition, he supports young people who are considering being an artist and show interest in expressing themselves visually. Tim is a role model and a living example that anyone can be a full-time artist if the field is chosen. He wants students to know that “they can have a rich full life and be heard if they develop their artistic skills”, said Tim.

Kristen finds that the Camden-Rockport Middle School art curriculum is enhanced by the artists that she invites into the school. Kristen has done at least one major installation every year for several years and it is not viewed as an extra but an important part of the students’ education. The installation creates a collaborative atmosphere for the entire school.

Tim and Kristen

Tim and Kristen

The artwork will be on display for the community to view on Thursday, April 28, 5:30 to 7:30 PM for Arts Alive Night being held at the Camden-Rockport Middle School.





Arts Alive Night

April 22, 2016

Camden Rockport Middle SchoolArt Alive Night Invite 3 (1) copy


Focus on the Process

April 20, 2016

Teachers as learners

Thanks to dancer Erma Colvin who provided this blog post.

IMG_0318In today’s world so much focus is put on the final product as opposed to the process. Dance schools now go to dance competitions. All sports are rated by how well they do in competition. Schools are rated by the standardized tests their students take.  There seems to be a competition for almost every thing we do in life.

For the past decade, I have had the amazing opportunity to work with middle school students at the Camden-Rockport Middle School in Camden. I do not know who has learned more from this experience, the students or myself. Yet again, the final product is of utmost importance. We work tirelessly for three months to produce 3 performances of an exceptional musical. So, for me, the process has become equally as important as the final product. My partner in crime, Dan O’Connell, the most dedicated parent volunteer I have ever met, spent every Saturday putting together the materials that the tech kids would need during the following week to construct the set. Incidentally, his middle school daughter is now a freshman in college.

IMG_0319The photos included are of Ursula, the sea witch in “The Little Mermaid Jr.”. The director, Allysa Anderson came up with the concept. I developed the plan, and the schematics. Students put in their thoughts to complete the project. The Ursula character consisted of a box 30 inches square and 6 ft. high. It was on wheels. The person playing Ursula stood on a platform inside the box. The eight tentacles were attached to the box on all four sides and were operated by 8 students dressed fully in black. Three tech crew moved the box from the back.

After I gave Dan the dimensions of the box, he carefully cut out all the pieces and labelled them as a kit. It would have been much faster for him to just build the box, then and there. However, that was not the goal of our tech crew program. The following week, we met with the tech kids for our two hour sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  There is nothing more exciting than seeing a middle school student, boy or girl, with a portable drill in their hand. Every week, they eagerly awaited their assignments and put together the pieces that Dan and I had made on the previous Saturday. The process of seeing their creation come to life on stage will never be forgotten. I watched them as they created the tentacles by adding purple glitter after I had cut and sewn all eight. They were thrilled to paint the box black and fought over who were going to be the Ursula handlers.

2016 mermaid shannon

Photo taken by Ellen Curtis

The role of a middle school tech adviser is unique. The students are old enough to be creative, to design sets, costumes and props, like King Triton’s crown that I left totally to three 6th graders and it was exquisite. They are physically capable of sawing, drilling, sewing and painting. The final product is so important but I cherish the long hours we spend with the kids in the old, decrepit MET basement section of CRMS, our home. There, the magic of the process takes place.


Calling Teaching Artist Leaders

April 16, 2016

Leadership role

Maine Arts Leadership Initiative, Phase VI

Visual and Performing Arts Teaching Artist Leader Application


Join us for a GREAT opportunity! The Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) invites YOU to be part of Phase VI. For the past five years, MALI has worked with visual and performing arts educators from Maine schools to become leaders in developing arts education in their districts. As the initiative enters Phase VI, MALI has grown to include 73 teacher leaders. For the last two years, teaching artists have been included in our summer institute.

Teaching Artist John Morris leads the MALI teacher leaders in some stretching

Teaching Artist John Morris leads the MALI teacher leaders in some stretching

This year, we are looking for teaching artists who are interested in being leaders and helping to develop teaching and learning in the arts. This is an opportunity for you to participate in professional development and networking, as well as to have a voice in the direction of arts education in the state of Maine.

If you are selected, you will be required to attend our summer institute, August 10, 11, and 12, 2016. We will provide professional development workshops and support for you to develop your own workshop related to your area of arts expertise. We will then ask that you take what you’ve learned and share it with other teaching artists, educators and community members in your region and beyond.

If interested, please send a completed application by the Friday, May 6, 2016 deadline to Argy Nestor at ASAP. Details are below.

Selected Teacher Artist Leader responsibilities for the 2016-17 school year include:

  • Communicate by wiki
  • Attend the three-day Summer Institute, August 10-12, 2016, USM, Portland
  • Present your draft workshop and receive feedback, at an all-day event, date and location to be determined
  • Present the finished workshop in your region
  • Present a workshop at a mega-regional workshop site that will be coordinated by the MALI leadership team
  • Attend a retreat to reflect on the work of Phase VI with teacher leaders and the leadership team to be held winter/spring 2017

To access the teaching artist leader application please CLICK HERE. If you have any questions please contact Argy Nestor, Director of Arts Education, Maine Arts Commission.


In Today’s News

April 16, 2016

Clay mural artist in residency

photo 5Randy Fein just completed a clay mural with 187 fifth graders at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School entitled “Exploration”. The mural was unveiled as part of the school’s Science Discovery Night.

photo 3Each student created a 6 inch tile that became part of the mural which has become a permanent artwork in the school. Fein is on the Maine Arts Commission Teaching Artist roster located at THIS LINK. She said she is a life long amateur astronomer inspired by her Dad.

Read the entire article describing the work in the Times Record at THIS LINK.

photo 2

photo 1

photo 4


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