Archive for the ‘Food for thought’ Category


Teachers for Life

March 16, 2018

It’s all about the relationship


Who Are They? Oxford Hills Region Part 3

March 15, 2018

Dance Studios

This blog post is the third of a series that aims to bring awareness to you about the many visual and performing art venues and educational opportunities in the Oxford Hills. The Oxford Hills Region of Maine is a perfect setting for the arts as it is centrally located where the rolling foothills of the White Mountains and beautiful lakes regions intersect. Located 45 miles north of Portland, 35 miles east of New Hampshire, and 20 miles west of Lewiston-Auburn, the region hosts multiple year-round opportunities for learners of all ages and a thriving arts community. The Oxford Hills School District (SAD17) is Maine’s largest school district in geographic area, with nine community schools, a regional middle school, a comprehensive high school and the Streaked Mountain School, an alternative school for high school students. The Oxford Hills include the towns of Buckfield, Harrison, Hartford, Hebron, Mechanic Falls, Norway, Otisfield, Oxford, Paris, Poland, Sumner, Waterford and West Paris. A great big THANKS to Diana Arcadipone for writing this series of posts.

Three Modern Dance Studios with Complimentary Philosophies

Art Moves Dance Studio

“Every kid is hungry for dance!” says Debi Irons, founder and artistic director of Art Moves, a dance studio located in Norway, Maine. In her vast experience as a professional dancer and dance educator, she laments that dance attracts mostly girls. Boys are naturally drawn to dance, but because it is culturally frowned upon, they tend not to participate without explicit support from parents and teachers.

A natural catalyst, Debi Irons wanted to offer dance programs in the schools because performing wasn’t quite enough for her. The joy of discovering a teenager who thrived and made dance her profession drove Debi to focus on dance education. When she offered dance programs in San Fransisco in the 1980’s, she found troubled youth in small alternative high schools who were passionate about dance. These urban kids taught Debi how to street dance, and she taught them self respect. She taught them how to treat each other and how to expect more from life. “Magic happens when students get to the place where they feel free and unselfconscious. Teachers of all disciplines already have the tool kit within them to ignite their students’ creativity”.

In 1988, Debi moved back to the Norway/South Paris area where she had grown up, and opened Art Moves. For thirty years, Art Moves has provided an environment in which students can discover their own self expression. The dance studio, located at 13 Cottage Street, occupies the entire third floor of a grand historic building where dance technique is taught and performances are held. Variant Dance is a developmentally appropriate technique that combines with creativity and self expression. Teaching variant dance could be perceived as the mission of the studio. Art Moves provides opportunities for students who may not easily have access to such a sophisticated and professional experience.

The other driving force behind Art Moves is music. As a dancer, Debi’s preference is improvisation to live music (jazz, hip hop, classical, Afro-Brazilian, etc.) As a teacher, combining music that students have never heard before interspersed with music that they love, is the most effective tool to getting kids to move and grow outside of themselves. The body is the instrument.

Art Moves also hosts a group of Brazilian dance companies annually to tour Maine and conduct workshops and performances in the schools.  Last year, they visited Oxford Elementary School, Hebron Station School, Hartford-Sumner Elementary School, Buckfield High School and various community centers. The Brazilians perform with visual artists and musicians as well. This program also offers a dance exchange for Art Moves Dance Ensemble to visit Brazil for up to one month to study, create and perform.

Currently Art Moves offers variant dance and technique classes for kids, teens and adults at the studio. Art Moves serves hundreds annually between the studio, public schools and private dance studios. Art Moves holds two studio shows annually in collaboration with Expansion Arts and offers a summer dance intensive, Art Moves offers visiting performances and workshops through daily, weekly or long term dance residencies in the schools, in-house field days and/or after school programs. If your school is interested in inviting one of the Brazilian dance groups, Art Moves Dance Ensemble, or Debi Irons to your school, or any other in-house programs, contact For additional information and on-going news; Like Art Moves Dance Studio on Facebook or go to

Expansion Arts Dance Studio

“High standards of training and professionalism” are attributed to my early studies with ArtMoves says Sasha Richardson, Owner and Creative Director of Expansion Arts dance studio. Sasha grew up dancing in the Oxford Hills, starting at the age of 6. While attending Oxford Hills High School, Sasha discovered Debi Irons and ArtMoves which were a major influence on her career path.  She would later join the ArtMoves Ensemble as a professional dancer, and collaborate with ArtMoves to combine studio performances and shows. 

Since Dance was not a part of the curriculum at OHCHS, Sasha Richardson studied music, drums, band, choir, music theory and more.  Devoted to pursuing dance in college, Sasha chose Long Island University where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree that integrated dance, anatomy and wellness. All of her professors were artists and performers from the dance world in NYC. She tapped all available resources including entering her work at NYC’s Dance Theater Workshop, to help shape her philosophy that combines performing, choreographing, teaching and strength training. Sasha was starting to define a style with a modern base and technique base yet with an eye to strength development. “We must work with what we are given in terms of our natural talents, and start from where we are”, Richardson says.

After college, Sasha returned to the Oxford Hills because she “needed her Maine people”. In New York, you stay in one path to specialize, and are not able to branch out so easily. Sasha was determined to dance, train, take classes, create work, rehearse work, perform, teach and choreograph. In Maine, you can branch out.

In 2015, Sasha opened Expansion Arts and soon needed to move to a larger studio. She started with a condensed schedule of 8 classes per week (Tap, Modern, Jazz, Ballet, Zumba and Hip Hop, for kids and adults with age breaks 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, 13 and up) and Creative Movement (for ages 3-5).  The age distinctions are important from an anatomy standpoint and physical development standpoint. Expansion Arts now offers 13 classes per week and has grown from serving 35 dancers to 60 dancers, most of whom are taking 2 – 6 classes each week).  Expansion Arts teachers include Sasha Richardson, Kim Hamlin, Tegan Bullard and Karianna Merrill.

Through Expansion Arts, Sasha has refined her philosophy of training, performing and teaching with a focus on dance anatomy (basics of how the body functions and the kinesiology of how the body moves). She expanded her dance anatomy background to combine with a massage therapy training program to inform teaching dance with additional knowledge of the muscular skeletal system. Student injuries are extremely rare.

Sasha has served the local schools by choreographing for musicals in schools, drama clubs, and community shows. She works with guidance counselors to help students who are having trouble in school and has taught at the Oxford Hills Middle Schools in their “Quest” day for four consecutive years, (where students get to study dance for a longer period of time and visit a real dance studio). Expansion Arts offers choreography and residencies to schools within a 30 mile radius of South Paris, ME. For additional information, contact, go to Facebook. You can also send email to

Neveah Dance Circus and Dance Studio

The Gentempo sisters started Nevaeh Dance Circus and held their first practices in a church basement in Oxford, Maine because they wanted more opportunities to perform. Nevaeh is heaven spelled backwards. Nettie and Hannah grew up in a home filled with dance and music; their mother formally trained in ballet and their father playing the piano. As a young child, Nettie studied ballet in her mother’s studio Green Mountain Ballet in Poultney, VT and later trained with Art Moves. As teenagers, the sisters started a performing group. Nettie studied in Portland, ME after winning a Maine based So You Think You Can Dance competition.

Currently 9 dancers perform with Nevaeh Dance Circus. Their Concept is unique as it combines performance art with dance, incorporates theater, magic, live music, singing, the spoken word, poetry, and interactive segments with the audience. Their Performance season is primarily in summertime as their outdoor public performances focus in unique locations such as Norway Lake, Portland Art Walks, Longley’s Square, Moore Park in South Paris, Old Port Music Festival in Deering Park, Portland.  They also perform in outdoor festivals such as Great North Music Festival, Green Grass Jubilee Festival, Norway Art Festival, Westbrook Together Days. Dance Circus also performs at private camps such as Fernwood Cove, Camp Wigwam with specific programming for youth. A recent project presents a performance to Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” soundtrack that will collaborate with visual artist, A Minor, and incorporate projections.

A 2017 project grant from the Maine Arts Commission enabled Nevaeh to produce 3 summer performances in Longley Square with guest performers Fred Garbo, Debi Irons and  (Ripleys Believe it or Not) Sword swallower Nick Penny. Nevaeh Dance Circus serves an audience from 25 people up to 200. Shows produced by Nevaeh are contribution based (all are welcome regardless of ability to pay).

The dance studio offers classes in ballet, Hulaloops (hula-hoops), Dance fusion, Creative Lyric (storytelling and dance that follows the lyrics of a song), Juggling and Improvisational Theater (taught by Steve Corning), Dance Games (30 minutes that gets kids moving and using their imaginations), Baby and Me (multi-generational ages), and Belly Dance (taught by Tegan Bullard).   Classes and workshops coincide with the school year and serve approximately 50 students annually. HulaLoop classes have beeb offered at Guy Rowe School, West Paris Elementary, Paris Elementary School, Otisfield Elementary, Raymond Elementary School (and most schools in SAD 17).

As of the Spring of 2017, Nevaeh Dance Studio is based on the second floor of 290 Main Street, Norway. Classes serve 18-month olds up to adults.  For more information about classes, workshops or performances, go to Nevaeh or email


MALI Winter Retreat

March 14, 2018

Amazing opportunity to learn and exchange

Winter Retreat participants. photo credit: Chris Pinchbeck

Thirty Teacher Leaders and Teaching Artist Leaders met last Saturday for the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) winter retreat. It was a great opportunity to gather with friends and colleagues from across Maine.


    • To provide an opportunity for the MALI community to come together to listen to and learn from each other
    • To review the work that has taken place during the phase underway
    • To address ideas and the latest topics in education/research and respond to timely issues relevant to Maine teachers
    • To provide information and/or context for participants 
    • To consider topics for the next phase of MALI

We accomplished the above and a whole lot more. There is nothing that compares to coming together with visual and performing arts teachers who have so much in common. So many topics to discuss and listen to what each person has to offer. “Getting off our islands” and coming together with “our community” on a winter day in March is refreshing!

The agenda was filled with art making from the Growth Mindset opening session to the finishing session that concluded with a meditative heart exercise.


  • Growth Mindset review and revisit with Lindsay Pinchbeck
  • MALI This We Believe statements review
  • MALI collaboration with art teacher Hope Lord and music teacher Dorie Tripp
  • Ukulele’s with music teacher Kate Smith
  • Update on Proficiency Based from Department of Education Diana Doiron
  • Looking ahead and considering ideas for Phase 8

If you are considering applying to be a Teacher Leader or a Teaching Artist Leader for MALI in Phase 8, please send an email to me – stating your interest. Applications will be available in May 2018.


MALI Teaching Artist Leader Story: Brian Evans Jones

March 13, 2018

Teaching Artist – Poet

This is one of several blog posts in 2018 that include stories of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Phase 7 Teacher Leaders and Teaching Artist Leaders. This series includes a set of questions so you can learn a little bit about each leader. CLICK HERE  for more information on MALI. CLICK HERE  for more information on the 93 Teacher Leaders and 8 Teaching Artist Leaders.  CLICK HERE  for Arts education resources. CLICK HERE  for the MALI Resource Bank. Search in the “search archives” box on the bottom right side of this post for past teacher leader stories.  Thank you Brian for sharing your story! Learn more about Brian at his WEBSITE.

Brian Evans-Jones is mainly a poet these days but also does creative writing. Brian has been teaching since 2005 and doesn’t have a favorite grade or age to teach. “They all offer something different and wonderful. I like to teach by excitement and discovery. I want students to be excited about the idea of writing before they begin, and then to discover what they’re capable of while they actually do it. I want the whole experience to be fun—though also serious fun, the way that kids’ games can be serious.

What do you like best about being a teaching artist?

That’s a hard question! I guess first of all because I get to see a lot of different ages and types of students, and touch a lot of different lives. Lately I’ve also realized it’s because I get to partner with many wonderful great teachers and teaching artists. And on a personal level, I like the flexibility: I could never see myself being happy in a regular job! 

Brian at Hermon High School, November 2017

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

Thinking about creativity in general, I might say:

  • To be supported to take risks
  • To feel OK about failure
  • To learn the unique habits and (wholesome) props that scaffold your own personal creative process.

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

Not being a regular teacher, I don’t often think about “Assessment.” But I do constantly assess how the class is going, how students and I are bonding, how well I am generating enthusiasm, how well my instructions are being understood and used, how well balanced my activities are between support and openness, how much effort students are putting in, how much they seem to be learning, and how keen they are to keep working. I can’t imagine teaching a class without monitoring those things constantly, and many more, but I don’t formalize them. I do frequently use the SWOT framework to assess how I think a class went and plan for the next one, though.

Brian at Hermon High School facilitating a workshop to help guide students working on Poetry Out Loud

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

People! Meeting cool people who do similar things and make me feel encouraged. Also getting to work on specific projects in partnership with other MALI people, like Kris Bisson, Lindsay Pinchbeck, and Tim Christensen.

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

As an artist: winning the 2017 Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award from Poets & Writers.

As a teaching artist: the fact that I do this at all, having jumped into the financial and professional unknown in order to do it. Also some big residencies I have run or am running, like working with 80 second graders for 2 weeks in South Berwick, ME, and leading a team of 4 TAs on a poetry residency with the 8th grade at Wells Junior High School.

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

Isolation, which makes me less likely to find more work, and makes it harder to plan great classes. Collaboration and MALI connections work against this.

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

Leaving my role as a high school teacher, which didn’t suit me, to piece together a patchwork career, including being a teaching artist. It happened because I sought out any opportunities I could to get experience in the right areas.

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

See the previous answer! Plus also:

  • Make connections
  • Take (some) chances—trust the creative process with your career just as you do when you’re making art. 

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

Brian at the summer MALI institute leading a workshop on writing

That’ll be just enough to pay for college for my two kids by the time they’re ready to go, right? I wish I was even joking…

In a world where college didn’t cost so stupidly much, I would use the money to set up and fund a nonprofit to take poetry to places and people who need it but don’t get exposed to it: prisoners, the homeless, older adults, children in poorer areas, etc.

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

I should have ditched other work and done more teaching artist work sooner! It makes the most difference and is the most rewarding of the several things that I do.

NOTE: Brian traveled to Hermon High School and Van Buren District Secondary School in November 2017 to work with students with the Poetry Out Loud program that the Maine Arts Commission provides in collaboration with the Poetry Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. 

Brian is on the Maine Arts Commission Teaching Artist roster and is available to travel to schools and communities to provide poetry and creative writing instruction. 


State Finals – Poetry Out Loud

March 12, 2018

Join us for an afternoon of poetry

No one is reciting the poem, Eating Poetry below but there are plenty of other poems that 11 Maine high school students will be reciting on Wednesday, March 14, 3:00 p.m., Waterville Opera House. The doors open at 2:30 to the public when you can enjoy a performance by Waterville High School students under the direction of Sue Barre, music educator extraordinaire! There is no cost to attend and I promise that the student reciters will be spectacular! The audiences were WOWED at the Southern and Northern Maine regional finals held during the last month.

We are very proud that Maine consistently ranks high amongst the U.S. national participation. This year, 9,500 Maine students from 39 high schools participated across the state. And now, 11 students advance to the Poetry Out Loud State Finals, being broadcast live on March 14 from the Waterville Opera House.

The Arts Commission is collaborating with Boothbay Region Television to broadcast the state finals live throughout the state, as well as streaming the event via Facebook Live.
To see the students who will move onto the Maine Poetry Out Loud State Finals and hear their recitations from the state regional competition, click here. If you can’t make it to Waterville, remember to tune in live on the Maine Arts Commission Facebook page.

In the meantime, check out Eating Poetry by Mark Strand. This is one of the hundreds of poems that students selected from for their three poems.

Eating Poetry

By Mark Strand

Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.

The librarian does not believe what she sees.
Her eyes are sad
and she walks with her hands in her dress.

The poems are gone.
The light is dim.
The dogs are on the basement stairs and coming up.

Their eyeballs roll,
their blond legs burn like brush.
The poor librarian begins to stamp her feet and weep.

She does not understand.
When I get on my knees and lick her hand,
she screams.

I am a new man.
I snarl at her and bark.
I romp with joy in the bookish dark.

  • Mark Strand, “Eating Poetry” from Selected Poems. Copyright © 1979, 1980 by Mark Strand. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.

Poetry Out Loud is organized nationally by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation and administered at the state level by the Maine Arts Commission.


Americans for the Arts Blog

March 11, 2018

Jeff Poulin – repost

The Americans for the Arts Education Program Manager Jeff Poulin provided a blog post called Shooting Survivors Turn to the Arts in Wake of Tragedy on February 27. Below is the opening of the post.

On February 14, 2018, seventeen people, including students and adults, were killed in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Since this tragedy, the voices of young people from the community have been lifted through their dynamic advocacy to call for reform to national, state, and local gun- and mental health-related policies. Many of the strong skills that they are using for their advocacy came from their immersion and studies in arts education.

Jeff Poulin

The movement that the young people have started—Never Again—utilizes myriad skills that the students have honed from their artistic learning experiences. As reporting from the New Yorker noted, “…it’s not a coincidence that a disproportionate number of the Never Again leaders are dedicated members of the drama club.” Some members of the group were in rehearsal at the time of the shooting, while others referenced their participation in arts courses during town hall meetings. One of the group’s leaders, Emma González (who was in the school’s auditorium at the time of the shooting), has received much praise from numerous artists for her impassioned speech at Broward County Federal Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale a few days following the incident.



The Arts and the Economy

March 10, 2018

$760 Billion contributed to the US Economy

Washington, DCNew data released March 6 by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) offers an insightful picture of the impact the arts have on the nation’s economy. The arts contribute $763.6 billion to the U.S. economy, more than agriculture, transportation, or warehousing.  The arts employ 4.9 million workers across the country with earnings of over $370 billion. Furthermore, the arts exported $20 billion more than imported, providing a positive trade balance.

Produced by the BEA and NEA, the Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account (ACSPA) tracks the annual economic impact of arts and cultural production from 35 industries, both commercial and non-profit. The ACPSA reports on economic measures—value-added to gross domestic product (GDP) as well as employment and compensation. For the first time, the report also includes the arts impact on state economies as contributions to gross state product (GSP). The numbers in this report are from 2015, the most recent reporting year.

“The robust data present in the Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account show through hard evidence how and where arts and culture contribute value to the economies of communities throughout the nation,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “The data confirm that the arts play a meaningful role in our daily lives, including through the jobs we have, the products we purchase, and the experiences we share.”



  • For all national findings, see this arts data profile.
  • The arts contributed $763.6 billion to the U.S. economy in 2015, 4.2 percent of GDP and counted 4.9 million workers, who earned $372 billion in total compensation.
  • The arts added four times more to the U.S. economy than the agricultural sector and $200 billion more than transportation or warehousing.
  • The arts saw a $20 billion trade surplus, leading with movies and TV programs and jewelry.
  • The arts trended positively between 2012 and 2015 with an average growth rate of 2.6 percent, slightly higher than 2.4 percent for the nation’s overall economy. Between 2014 and 2015, the growth rate was 4.9 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars.

By Industry

  • Among the fastest-growing industries within the ACPSA are web-streaming and web-publishing, performing arts presenting, design, and architectural services.
  • Tax-exempt performing arts organizations (those producing art and those presenting the art of others) contributed $9 billion to the U.S. economy and employed 90,000 workers, who earned $5.6 billion in total compensation.
  • Consumers spent $31.6 billion on admissions to performing arts events, $1 billion more than projected.
  • The value added by performing arts presenting (tax-exempt and for-profit) rose by 9.5 percent during the recent three-year period.

By State

The value-added to a state’s economy defined as contributions to the GSP is noted for individual ACPSA industries and the states in which that industry ranked above the national average. For example, as a percentage of GSP, Nevada is at the top for performing arts companies and Louisiana follows only California and New York as the premiere state for movie production. For all state findings, see this arts data profile. Other leading states are:

  • Graphic design in Illinois contributed $589.5 billion to GSP, 69 percent above the national rate.
  • Architectural services in Massachusetts added $804.6 million, 73% greater than the national rate.
  • Industrial design in Michigan added $429 million, 9 times the national rate.
  • Jewelry manufacturing in Rhode Island is $224 million, 33 times the national rate
    Art‐related printing in Wisconsin contributed $530.9 million to the state’s economy, four times greater than the national rate.

In a research brief looking at rural states, North Carolina and Tennessee had the largest rural arts economies with value-added from rural areas in both states totaling more than $13 billion.

In a research brief about the fastest-growing arts economies, Washington State and Utah topped the list with average annual growth rates over five percent between 2012 and 2015.

More state examples are on the State Highlights Fact Sheet.


The NEA, BEA, and the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies have developed resources to help users navigate the data.

  • A Key to Industries describes the 35 ACPSA industries and the percentage and amount of economic value ascribed to each.
  • The NEA created five research briefs featuring national and state overviews, plus special topic areas:

o   The Economic Contributions of Tax-Exempt Performing Arts Organizations 

o   Rural State Arts Economies

o   Three Years of Fast-Growing Arts Industries at the State-Level

  • Through an award from the NEA, the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies produced an interactive dashboard that allows users to explore key information for individual states.
  • The Bureau of Economic Analysis’s state fact sheets feature ACPSA value-added, employment, compensation, top industries, trends, and rankings for 50 states and the District of Columbia.
  • Two interactive infographics produced by the NEA offer a quick and fun look at national and state data.

About the National Endowment for the Arts

Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. Please visit

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