Archive for the ‘Food for thought’ Category

h1

Seeing Mercer, Maine

January 24, 2023

Poem for thought

Wesley McNair served as Maine’s Poet Laureate, 2011-15, during which he had two initiatives. He successfully brought poetry to all regions of Maine and made it accessible to people from all walks of life. Mr. McNair has been writing poetry for 40 plus years, authored 20 books, had a poem included in Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac, and has received several awards, recognition, and support for his writing. Mr. McNair has a slow and steady voice that draws the listener with hopes of not missing a word. His slight of humor and gentle smile is engaging.

I was fortunate while at the Maine Arts Commission to work with Mr. McNair in the Poetry Out Loud program. High school students who participated in Poetry Out Loud had the opportunity to spend time with him, engage in conversation and be inspired by his readings. I was inspired alongside them and now I listen to a poem being read each morning. Poem-a-Day is a program of the Academy of American Poets and makes it easy and fun to access poetry. The poems that I connect with are stashed away for future reading.

I read one of Mr. McNair’s latest poems (below) recently and knew that I wanted to share it with you, the readers of my blog. Mr. McNair lives in Mercer, Maine, population 640.

Wesley McNair

Seeing Mercer, Maine

By Wes McNair

Beyond the meadow
on Route 2, the semis
go right by,
hauling their long
echoes into the trees.
They want nothing to do
with this road buckling downhill
toward the Grange and Shaw
Library, Open 1-5 P.M. SAT,
and you may wonder
why I’ve brought you here,
too. It’s not SAT,
and apart from summer, the big
event in town’s the bog
water staggering down the falls.
Would it matter if I told you
people live here – the old
man from the coast who built
the lobster shack
in a hayfield;
the couple with the sign
that says Cosmetics
and Landfill; the woman
so shy about her enlarged leg
she hangs her clothes
outdoors at night? Walk down this road
awhile. What you see here in daytime –
a kind of darkness that comes
from too much light –
you’ll need to adjust
your eyes for. The outsized
hominess of that TV dish,
for instance, leaning
against its cupboard
of clapboard. The rightness
of the lobsterman’s shack –
do you find it, tilted
there on the sidehill,
the whitecaps of daisies
just cresting beside it
in the light wind?

h1

GRACE

January 17, 2023

Offers hope

Recently I had the pleasure of visiting a wonderful community visual art program that was established in 2019. It was well underway when the pandemic disrupted life as we knew it. It stumbled along during the pandemic gathering outside at the town gazebo and today it is thriving. The program is called GRACE and takes place in Brown Hall Community Center in Bucksport, Maine. The GRACE program provides free creative arts opportunities to seniors and other underserved populations. Participants are invited to explore and experiment through using a variety of materials to create art. No previous experience is necessary.

Several years ago Catherine Ring worked with the GRACE program in Hardwick, Vermont where she was living and working at the time. The philosophy: “Be yourself and do it your own way” connects very well with arts educators, artists and others in the creative world. The open studio idea has become a space for participants to meet, experiment and play with materials. They meet to make art and to connect socially. I was excited to learn more about the program that Catherine’s leadership brought to Bucksport. Periodically Catherine or other participants ‘teach’ a technique, offer guidance and facilitate depending on the wishes of the group. They share their ideas and art work, and provide feedback to each other.

Charlotte Bridges working on her linoleum prints

The GRACE program started as part of Lighthouse Arts & Education which was located in Bucksport at the time. Funding was provided through a grant from the Maine Community Foundation. Since then it has morphed into its own non-profit. Participants are not only nourishing their own creative needs but connecting with community. GRACE has exhibit space within Brown Hall Community Center and in 2021 worked with the Buck Memorial Library in town to create a collaborative mural for their newly renovated space.

The space where they meet is inviting and filled with books, resources and art supplies to encourage and support participants ideas and creative processes. I really enjoyed seeing the art on display and left very inspired. If you’re interested in learning more please contact Catherine Ring at THIS LINK.

The GRACE program offers so much and all are invited to participate. Board member and artist Charlotte Bridges who goes by Cha, started making art at age 55 said it best: “I love that they understand what we needed. I want to be guided and have a chance to play and experiment. I can’t stand to have people tell me how to do every step. We all get so much from each other.” Another participant, Linda Wagner said: We all benefit from each other. The feeling of being lifted up.

Zentangles made by GRACE participants

h1

MLK Day

January 16, 2023

Martin Luther King Jr.

Today marks the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. This day has been recognized as a federal holiday for 37 years. His actual birthday is January 15, 1929. Martin Luther King Jr. had a clear and nonviolent voice for activism in the Civil Rights Movement. The movement protested racial discrimination in federal and state law. Sadly, King was assassinated at the age of 39. Makes me wonder what impact this man could have made if he had the chance to have a longer life.

Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the portrait subjects that Maine Artist Robert Shetterly has painted as part of Americans Who Tell the Truth. I really like the portrait that Rob painted of King (below) which includes King’s words:

Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon… which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it … It is a sword that heals.”

Shetterly says, “without activism, hope is merely sentimental. Portraits of Racial Justice, Shetterly’s homage to transformative game-changers and status-quo fighters, provides the inspiration necessary to spark social change.”

OTHER CIVIL RIGHTS LEADERS

On this day it’s important to remember that there were many other civil right activists and leaders. Each of them (below) are linked to the page on the Americans Who Tell the Truth website so you can learn more about the individual through their biography, and see their portrait that Rob painted of them.

Claudette Colvin

Thanks to music educator Jenni Null who shared this resource on how teachers can make this work a part of teaching and learning. I’m sure all of you have stories that remind us that this work is ongoing and not just a ‘one-off’. Thank you educators for your critical role.

The New Ways Teachers Are Talking About Martin Luther King Jr. – TIME

h1

Maine Teacher of the Year

January 10, 2023

Nominate a deserving teacher

Now more than ever we need to celebrate all of the good work teachers are doing. Teachers know better than anyone what goes on in classrooms. If you’ve been wondering how to honor a colleague this is one way. Consider nominating them for the Maine Teacher of the Year. This program has developed over the years to elevate teachers.

Matt Bernstein, 2023 Maine Teacher of the Year, Casco Bay High School

Nominations are being accepted for the 2023 county teachers of the year until February 4 at 5:00 p.m. Applications are accepted from colleagues, students, parents, community members and organizations. The eligibility criteria is located at THIS LINK. Learn more about the program and the 2023 Maine Teacher of the Year, Matt Bernstein, at THIS LINK.

h1

Inspiration

January 2, 2023

And, Happy Holidays and New Year to you!

I’ve been going to write this post for several days and finally I’ve carved out enough time to do so. My apology for the delay in wishing you the best of holiday greetings! I love this story…

I’ve read a lot of heartfelt stories during this holiday season. They come to me by email from multiple sources. Many times they include a story that is somehow connected to at least one of the arts. Our senses are awakened and ignited by the arts so its no wonder that holiday stories often are founded in the arts. The following interesting story came through my Twitter feed. The first time I saw it I skimmed it quickly and when it came round again I focused in and read the details. Perhaps you read it as well.

Hannah Dale is a British artist who established Wrendale Designs in 2014. On her website you can find her art used on calendars, socks, journals, and mugs. She created a fun rendition of a deer that is part of a luxury Christmas card collection. Its so exclusive its not on the website. This is very interesting since now the world has seen it.

Painted by artist Hannah Dale

If you’re not familiar with the story…

The oldest child of Prince William and Princess Kate is 9 year old Prince George. He was inspired by Dale’s design and created his own rendition using water colors. It popped up on Dale’s twitter feed on Christmas Day. She was surprised and delighted.

I enjoyed reading Hannah Dale’s comments about the young artist. “He has inherited a “very promising family talent”, taking after his grandfather King Charles who is known to have a great love of painting.” I do wonder if he and George W. Bush have ever discussed painting? Of course when we hear the ‘natural talent’ comment it makes some of us cringe. I had to smile when I went on to read more of what she said. “Yes there is family talent for painting and art,” Hannah said. “I always say to people when they ask me, how do you get so good at painting? It is absolutely all about practice. That’s why it’s so nice to see. The more you do it the better you get. If you adopt a love of painting and art at that age, I do think it’s a wonderful thing whether it becomes a career or just an escape. It’s a fantastic ability for anybody and I would always encourage it in any child.”

Painted by 9 year old artist Prince George

We all know that one of the secrets to success in creating is providing excellent arts education programs taught by qualified arts educators for learners of all ages. I remember one time hearing retired music educator Paul Greenstone say “if we miss the developmental stages of learning music it might be impossible to catch up.” If this doesn’t point out why it is critical to have excellent arts education at all grade levels, PK-12, little does.

Hannah Dale went on to say: “He has a good eye for colour. I think that’s always tricky with watercolour but he’s got some good shading and tone in there. I think having a love of animals and love of nature is obviously something that’s maybe captured his attention. That inspires me very much. It’s a real privilege to inspire any child to want to draw or paint. It was a really lovely compliment.” Sounds like no better compliment for the young artist and likewise for the artist whose work inspired young Prince George.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if this experience could impact arts education world-wide? Perhaps at your local level – share this story with your colleagues, administration, community members, and your students. I look forward to learning more about Prince George’s art in the future.

h1

Samantha Smith Challenge

December 20, 2022

Opportunity for middle and high school

The Samantha Smith Challenge 2022-2023 (SSC) is now available on the Americans Who Tell the Truth (AWTT) website (www.americanswhotellthetruth.org). As always, AWTT offers this challenge as an opportunity for middle and high school students to use the creative arts to build a bridge between the classroom and the world as they seek truth, share hope, examine and act upon issues critical to the common good.

In the words of a former SSC participant,

“Hope is power, power is hope. The Samantha Smith Challenge helped me feel powerful and hopeful.” 

We believe that engaged and passionate students learn more. As AWTT looks at the past year and the months ahead, we recognize more than ever the importance of seeking truth and sharing a message of hope, just as Samantha Smith did forty years ago.

This year SSC students will begin by examining what it means to be a Truth Teller, identify important community and world issues, understand them, and make a compelling argument in an effective and creative medium to move people to work for the common good. This year’s SSC is about the importance of truth and sharing ways to be hopeful about the future.

AWTT portrait subjects seek truth and find creative responses to challenges. Their courage and engagement give us hope.  Check out Mary Bonauto, Steven Donziger, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, Kelsey Juliana, Bill McKibben, Stephen Ritz, and Dawn Wooten to see how a quest for truth grounded in hope fuels work for the common good. 

As in past years, the directions for participating in the SSC are on the AWTT website. (www.americanswhotellthetruth.org/programs/education/samantha-smith-challenge/

Rob Shetterly, artist and AWTT founder

If you have questions, please contact Education Director Connie Carter at connieamericanswhotellthetruth.org. You may sign up between December 1 and February 1. This year’s SSC is expanding beyond Maine. As AWTT navigates that expansion they hope to connect schools across real and perceived boundaries to share their work for the common good. AWTT founder and artist Robert Shetterly and Connie will also be available to support students on their creative journeys of truth seeking. 

The SSC Celebration will be on Wednesday, May 24, 2023 — a time to celebrate and share the creative journeys for truth and messages of hope from all participating students. Please contact Connie at connie@americanswhotellthetruth.org if you have questions or concerns. AWTT looks forward to working with you and your students on this year’s SSC. 

h1

Reading the Sunday Paper

December 13, 2022

Moved by articles

I enjoy sitting down by the wood stove on sunny Sunday’s to read the Maine Sunday Telegram. For a brief moment I like holding on to the real paper. During the rest of the week I catch the news online. Some articles encourage me to pause and reflect on a topic I’m familiar with and other times I learn something new. A recent Sunday was no exception but I did find a few more human interest type stories. Love that! All of them relate to education in some way and I’m certain that the stories about Amy and Jessica (below) made several teachers proud. As well they should be! Nothing compares to knowing that one of your former students is experiencing enormous success! I’d suggest finding the articles online but realize that can be tricky if you don’t have a subscription.

Amy Goodness and the Mill Studio Arts

Five years ago Amy Goodness of Saco opened Mill Studio Arts in Biddeford. Amy is an artist with a studio in the old textile mill. She paints on canvas, having loved creating since elementary school. She’s a graduate of Thornton Academy in Saco, ME and Maine College of Art & Design in Portland, ME. As many artists Amy knows that it can be lonely working in a studio all by oneself. Since art was her favorite class in school she decided to create a space for young artists to come and create with others. This has helped Amy’s life be a little less lonely. She started by offering weekend and summer vacation time slots for young people. The program has expanded to offering classes each day and she has a team of teachers who help. She said: “It is joy. You can feel the energy in the room, and its’s so fun. I feel like that just fills me up.” Sounds like it would be a really fun place for me to visit. Perhaps a road trip to Mill Studio Arts will be in my future.

Christmas Through the Ages

Fifteen years ago in the town of North Anson the public library needed funding to update their automated catalog. They came up with a unique idea for a fundraiser; selling tickets for a historical tour showcasing “Christmas Through the Ages”. Volunteers dressed in period clothing and toured ticket buyers the opportunity to see five homes. After five years they passed the idea on to the Kingfield Historical Society which then passed it to the historical societies of Phillips and Farmington. Farmington passed it onto Winthrop where it was held this year. The Winthrop Historical Society sang songs, offered food, and taught lessons about various eras of Christmas, from the Moravian celebrations of the 1740s to the postwar Christmases of the 1950s. Everyone enjoyed themselves and participants were happy to learn about their community in a hands-on way.

2007 Gorham High School graduate performs on Broadway

Jessica Ernest regularly performs as part of the ensemble in “Chicago” on Broadway. She is the understudy and has performed in the star role of Roxie Hart. It’s pretty exciting not only for Jessica but her parents. Jessica is from Gorham and when she was in elementary school she started performing in school musicals and community productions. She played Snow White as a demanding diva in a show called “Mother Goose, Inc.” Later in life she performed on cruise ships and as a Las Vegas showgirl. She’s worked hard to get to where she is now. Ernest was given two days notice that she would perform the star role of “Chicago”. Interestingly enough she hadn’t actually played the role with the other members of the cast, she only practiced with the stage manager and for her roommates. She was cast in 2017, now 33 years old and is doing 8 shows a week. The article mentions Jessica’s elementary music teacher, Janelle Doak, who was impressed by a ‘show-stopping number’ way back in elementary school called “I Want it All”. How fun it must be for Janelle, who is teaching at Great Falls Elementary School in Gorham, to see where Jessica is at this time.

Below: Photo credit Julieta-Cervantes – Jessica Ernest on state in “Chicago”.

Little change since Sandy Hook, 10 years ago, December 14

The last piece I’ll share is a sad one. All I know about the writer, Irv Williams, is that he is a grandparent of three children ages 4 to 8. I’m sure the topic is near to his heart because of his grandchildren. The piece is about Sandy Hook which took place 10 years ago. Twenty children and six teachers lost their lives that day. The children, if living today, could be starting their college applications. The teachers were the following ages when they died: 26, 30, 47, 29, 52, and 56. We can only guess where they’d be today. Through Mr. Wiliams lens “it seems that little has changed”. I can understand why he might see it that way since school shootings continue and mass shootings outside of schools in the US continue. I understand that he is referring to laws and policy’s and that our countries leaders are not effectively working together to put safety measures in place to protect children and adults. I do see many changes in schools to protect children and teachers. I believe that school systems, in most cases, are doing their part. Is it enough? I’m not sure that there is ever ‘enough’ that can be done to make schools totally safe. The reality of schools includes hundreds of variables. Something that is effective to help and support making schools safer isn’t the same for all school communities. On my visits to schools during a 15 year period many safety precautions have been put in place. Many of you reading this are well aware of the precautions.

The statistics are staggering:

  • 398 schools shootings since 2000
  • 321 people are shot in the US each day, 22 of them are young children and teens, 5 of them die
  • that’s one entire kindergarten class every week

I vividly recall my visit to an elementary school in southern Maine. Within 15 minutes of my arrival to a kindergarten art classroom there was a planned lock down drill. The teacher quickly filled me in on what was about to happen. The alarm sounded and we quickly and quietly moved into the ‘art closet’, the door closed and locked behind us and the only light was the one from the teachers laptop. The children huddled closely to the light source because they trusted their teacher to keep them safe. Their little bodies were alive with tiny movements. In a whispering calm and reassuring voice the teacher helped them through that scary moment with kindness. My visit was within a year of the massacre at Sandy Hook. Tears come to my eyes just thinking of that experience.

In December was the 10 year anniversary of Sandy Hook. Mr. Williams’s article helped me to pause and remember the twenty children and six teachers whose lives were lost that day. I know that schools and teachers are continuously working to make schools safer. I appreciate and applaud those efforts. It’s past time for the leaders in our country to put their differences aside and do what is right for all children and teachers. I am hopeful!

h1

Doing What is Right

December 3, 2022

On and on and on

There are always challenges as a teacher but I’m hearing “I’ve turned the corner”, “I feel like we’re in a different place with Covid so I can get on with teaching”, “there are other issues that drag me down in teaching but I can focus on my student’s needs more now”.

What I admire about teachers, now more than ever, is that teachers have a strong moral compass that guides them to do what is right for all learners. No, not just the ones who are ‘traditional students’ who will succeed no matter how much a teacher focuses on them, but for ALL students.

During this time of year the students who are challenged are struggling for several different reasons. The weather is colder and they may not go home to a warm home. Parents shouldn’t have to pick between heating their home, putting gas in their vehicle to get to work or to feed their families but some are. According to the Maine Department of Education website, “on average, 1 in 4 children in Maine is at risk for hunger, and 37% of them do not qualify for public assistance”. As teachers we can’t solve that problem but we can insure that students feel supported at school for who they are as learners.

THANK YOU, ESPECIALLY DURING THIS HOLIDAY SEASON, FOR SUPPORTING ALL STUDENTS!

h1

Conference Lift-off

November 4, 2022

Teaching Truth, Hope, and Creativity: How the ARTS can deepen any curriculum

During the last 7 months a group of committed educators have been planning, writing grants, communicating with each other and many other educators to plan the conference being held tomorrow, November 4, at Thomas College. Those of you who have planned conferences know of the thousands of details that it takes to pull together a successful conference. Those of you who have attended education conferences know how critical they are to advancing teaching and learning.

The Teaching Truth, Hope, and Creativity conference is for all Maine educators and is supported by many organizations through funding and planning. We are fortunate to have Connie Carter, Education Director from Americans Who Tell the Truth AWTT, take the lead on many of the details. Connie is amazing and knowledgeable about what is needed to face the tough conversations in schools today. Karen MacDonald from the Maine County and State Teachers of the Year Association has been involved in planning several conferences since her retirement as a middle school Language Arts. She is great at taking on responsibilities and at asking the questions to continue moving forward in the planning. Chelsea Fay representing the Maine Math and Science Alliance has been a top notch planner and she along with her colleague at MMSA Emma Carey will be presenting a workshop at the conference. Iva Damon representing the Maine Arts Education Partners in Leadership has wowed us with her technology skills setting up the Padlet and the jam board participants will use. Hope Lord representing Maine Art Education Association has been instrumental in many of the hundreds of details. Sooooo grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with this amazing group of educators!

The conference couldn’t happen without the cooperation and generous support of many organizations. Unum, Veterans for Peace, Farnsworth Art Museum, and Kane-Lewis Productions. Thomas College is a wonderful organization to work with and has a beautiful campus. Staff member Darren has been excellent every step of the way!

The conference is scheduled for 8:45-3:00, tomorrow, November 4. We have 130 registered. If you’re interested in attending we have a few spaces available. Register at the link below OR show up at the door with cash or a check for $25.00 made out to Americans Who Tell the Truth. Included in registration is light breakfast, full lunch, an AWTT book, a padlet filled with resources, amazing workshops presented by Maine educators, access to two films: Truth Tellers and Natasha Mayers: An Un-still Life, wonderful gifts, and contact hours. There will be the opportunity to purchase the film Truth Tellers at a special conference price. Briar Patch books will have books to purchase. The door prizes are amazing!

I’m looking forward to seeing old friends at the conference and making new ones. YAY!

REGISTRATION

h1

Upcoming Conference

October 13, 2022

Register by October 18 and receive complimentary book

REGISTRATION

We know this is planned on a Saturday. (Intentionally so you don’t have to stress about the availability of a substitute). We know you might be tired, (teaching is tiresome along with invigorating). BUT, the planners of this conference want you to have this experience that will inspire you (we all need inspiration periodically) — maybe for this year or even next year. 

Join colleagues from across the state (some that are so ready to connect with you). Come and experience the courage, the passion, and the energy Americans Who Tell The Truth (AWTT) portrait subjects (the portraits will come alive) and teachers (who have actually used the portraits in their classrooms) will share.

Use it, store it, ponder it — but most of all have an amazing experience — even on a Saturday! Teaching Truth, Hope, and Creativity: How the Arts Can Deepen Curriculum. You will received a complimentary copy of Portraits of Racial Justice or Portraits of Earth Justice, if you register by October 18! The frosting on the cake: 6 contact hours are included.

Maine Educator Professional Development Opportunity 

Thomas College, Waterville 

Saturday, Nov. 5, 8:45 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

REGISTRATION

In addition, you will have access to the film Truth Tellers (no cost) for 24 hours. If you’ve never seen the film or wish to see it again, this is a chance. Meet Maine artist Rob Shetterly who has created over 250 portraits. He will be unveiling his latest painting at the conference and the subject will be on a panel. The film has been created by Maine Film Maker, Kane Lewis Productions. Richard Kane will also be at the conference.

%d bloggers like this: