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Maine Excellence in Arts Education Celebration

December 7, 2018

Maine Arts Commission to honor Excellence in Arts Education

The Maine Arts Commission will honor nine schools – nine visual art educators – 36 students for their artwork – 158 students for their music – two music educators at the Maine State House with a special reception with First Lady Ann LePage in the Hall of Flags, December 11, 2:00 p.m.

Marshwood Middle School is recognizing their students in the arts with this sign outside their school!

Starting December 1, 2018 through April 2019, the Arts Commission is featuring an art exhibit of 45 pieces that will include for the first time ever, student work combined with their respective art teacher’s work. The student art exhibit is being showcased throughout the State House Capitol building, the Burton M. Cross building, and the offices of the Maine Arts Commission. Additionally, each student artist and their families are invited to the Hall of Flags for a special reception on December 11, starting at 2 p.m. The reception includes student performances and a certificate ceremony with First Lady Ann LePage.

Acrylic painting by grade 8 student Lydia Phipps, Marshwood Middle School

“The Maine Arts Commission believes it is essential for every student to have access to a quality and comprehensive visual and performing arts education,” said Julie Richard, Executive Director of the Maine Arts Commission. “The arts let’s students develop the critical thinking, collaborative, and creative skills necessary to succeed in the ever changing diverse and global economies of today’s world. “

The following schools, teachers and 4 students from each school will be honored and featured in the student exhibit:

  • Gorham Middle School, Teacher: Amy Cousins
  • Hancock Grammar School, Teacher: Jane Snider
  • Jonesport Elementary and Jonesport Beals High School, Teacher: Lisa Marin
  • Marshwood Middle School, Eliot, Teacher: Melanie Crowe
  • Maranacook Middle School, Readfield, Teacher: Hope Lord
  • Oxford Hills High School, South Paris, Teacher: Cindi Kugell
  • Brewer High School, Teacher: Lori Spruce
  • Richmond Middle School and High School, Teacher: Jeff Orth
  • Waterville High School, Teacher: Suzanne Goulet

“Great Third Hill” created by Marshwood Middle School art teacher Melanie Crowe

Two choruses will be recognized and performing at the celebration. Seventy five students will be traveling from Sedomocha School in Dover-Foxcroft with their music teacher Kaitlin Young. Traveling from Marshwood Middle School in Eliot will be seventy five students with their music teacher Kris Bisson. Their programs will highlight their amazing students and a collaborative project that Kris’ students participated with teaching artist Brian Evans-Jones.

All of the teachers involved are teacher leaders in the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative, a program of the Maine Arts Commission.

The reception is open to the public on Tuesday, December 11, 2:00 p.m.

For more information about the Maine Excellence in Arts Education please contact Argy Nestor, Director of Arts Education at 207-287-2713,

For more information about the Maine Arts Commission’s programs and services, please visit; follow the agency on FacebookTwitter and Instagram, or contact the offices at 207-287-2724.



Lindsay’s Helsinki – Part 2

November 20, 2018

Lindsay’s notes

This is the second post about our travels to Helsinki for the HundrED Innovation Summit earlier in November. Yesterday’s post gives you a glimpse. Today’s post, below, was written by Lindsay Pinchbeck who is the founder and director of Sweet Tree Arts Center and Sweetland School located in Hope. Thank you for your contribution Lindsay – in her own words…. 

In 2016 I traveled to Malawi with Argy. 

We shared professional development with 12 teachers from the village of Mpamila and neighboring primary schools. We introduced arts integration ideas and used the arts to learn and build community. The experience was life changing, and pushed me to reconsider my own teaching practice and my daily actions. I continue to believe travel gives us the ability to step back and see with fresh eyes what we knew all along, it allows us to trust our intuition, see new perspectives and build new friendships and new ideas. 

On the flight home Argy and I began dreaming about other places we might travel to keep growing and learning. Finland, the antithesis of Malawi, was on the list. 

Two years after our trip to Malawi (last week), Argy and I had the great privilege to travel to Helsinki for the HundrED education summit. HundrED’s manifesto – 

The purpose of education is to help every child flourish, no matter what happens in life.

In a fast changing world focusing on traditional academic skills will remain important, but that is not enough. To thrive as global citizens, children must be equipped with a breadth of skills.

We were invited to be a part of their Ambassadors program to share our arts integration work in Malawi. 

Discussions around ideas of implementing change and many inspiring projects and innovations were shared. It was a highly positive environment, with passionate educators focused on implementing new practices to engage mind, body and soul in relevant work. A focus on sustainable practices was clear and a strong message of student centered work and listening and responding to our children was heard loud and clear. Many educators shared passionately their ideas to better the world through their efforts as educators. The invented word of the conference was ‘Humblitious” created by HundrED founder and creative director Saku Tuominen. Innovations and Educators were indeed both humble and ambitious.

In my journal I noted down these key questions and ideas swirling around the summit. Notes were gathered from discussions, presentations and panels. Many of the ideas and conversations felt so supportive of my own work in a school and community arts center that honors questions over answers, new thinking, listening deeply, and valuing each experience.

What kind of attitude is needed to make change happen? – Listen, be open, We know so little, don’t assume we know anything.

How can we support every child to flourish? – Always ask this question

What is the purpose of school?- Self discovery and Life long Learning

Honor the past, change with the children, make room for new ideas

Change with the children and listen to the children. 

Every drop of water leads to an ocean of change. 

Humbilitious – Humble and Ambitious ideas. 

I do not assume to believe any of these ideas are easy to put into practice and I do not assume to have the answers but in my own work and practice in the arts and education I know I have grown and continue to grow each day by not knowing the way, reflecting back and trusting the process. More than anything the practice of learning, then relearning and learning again how to listen to the children and valuing them as capable, active contributors to our world is the work that is the most challenging and most rewarding.

Lindsay Pinchbeck can be reached at


My Helsinki – Part 1

November 19, 2018

What an experience

Pinch me – is this real? Over and over that question entered my mind as I set out for Helsinki, Finland for the HundrED Innovation Summit during the week of November 4th. It was an honor to be invited to participate in the summit. Lindsay Pinchbeck, Sweet Tree Arts founder and director of Sweetland School and member of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative Design Team and I were selected as Ambassadors for the HundrED organization. I arrived early so I could take in as much as possible.

I’ve been asked dozens of questions about the trip so I’m writing a series of blog posts to share this amazing educational experience. In this post I share some of the “exploring” parts of the trip as well as the school visit.


Nicholas and I with my Danish family members

My son, Nicholas and I left Boston on Friday evening. We had a quick plane change in Iceland and flew on to Copenhagen, arriving mid-morning. I studied in Copenhagen during my junior year in college (MANY moons ago) and lived with a Danish family. My Danish mother, now 87 years old, met us for lunch with some of the family. It was such a treat to see them and have Nicholas meet them! Afterwards we started walking through Copenhagen along the Strøget – the pedestrian, car free shopping area, down to the 17th-century waterfront –  Nyhavn, and to visit the bronze statute, the Little Mermaid sitting at the waters edge, created by Edvard Eriksen. We found a lovely spot outside to eat – most of the restaurants have outdoor heaters – pretty much ignoring the cold and damp air.


We stayed one night and boarded the plane the next afternoon for Helsinki. We stayed in an Airbnb that was located in a short walking distance to almost everywhere we needed to be. I was happy to have Nicholas along since he has traveled extensively with his back pack. He had done some research and we were out and about the next day learning about the history and cultural opportunities. We stopped at two beautiful churches, very different from each other. The Uspenski Cathedral which originally was Russian Orthodox and is now Finnish Orthodox. It sits high on a hill overlooking the city and makes the brick facade look monumental. The second, a Lutheran church – delightfully elegant with hundreds of steps leading up to the entrance. Inside we found simple, clean curved lines and strong columns. On our way out we  met the Boys Choir Director and learned that the 500 member choir representing ages 15-25 has performed throughout the world. I had to imagine their sound in the church that seats 1,200. I was told that the Finnish were serious people but if you asked them a question they were warm and wonderfully helpful. I found that advise to be very accurate so I didn’t hesitate talking to people to learn as much as possible.

Paavo Johannes Nurmi was a Finnish middle-distance and long-distance runner. He was nicknamed the “Flying Finn” as he dominated distance running in the early 20th century. This statue is outside the Olympic stadium.

As we continued walking we passed the presidential palace, historical monuments, the outdoor markets, and stopped at the amazing Helsinki Music Centre (just 7 years old). On to the site of the 1952 summer Olympics where they are refurbishing the well used stadium, tracks and other venues. We were wowed at the sculpture that honors the

Finnish composer and violinist Jean Sibelius (8 December 1865 – 20 September 1957). Even though Sibelius created little music for organs the piece is made to look like stylized organ pipes. It consists of 600 hollow steel pipes welding together. Visiting the piece as the day light disappeared made it all the more dramatic.

The late afternoon was chilly and damp, and the sky was grey so we headed for a delightful small cabin called Cafe Regatta. Located just next to the water it was originally built to hold the Paulig family’s fishnets. In 2002 it became a cafe and it may have been chilly outside but the wood stove warmed up the inside and the hot chocolate was a wonderful helper. We actually sat outside by the fire pit as the sun set. We imagined what it must be like sitting outside during the summer watching the boats on a lazy afternoon.

Interestingly enough Helsinki is a city of about 631,695 (2016) and Copenhagen (2017) has about 602,481. Helsinki has a Design District, several amazing museums, lots of shopping, and great little restaurants. Later in the week, Lindsay and I visited the Ateneum Art Museum with new artists and many well preserved older works as well. The place was packed – the Finnish out and about enjoying their Saturday. We stumbled upon the open studio where everyone was invited to create styrofoam prints. Young and old mixed in and all seriously focused. We had a delightful meal at the museum which included the best salmon chowder I’ve ever had! We visited a great little stationery store and were directed to a wonderful fabric store called Eurokangas where we bought some Marimekko fabric. It is beautiful!


I was invited to the HundrED Master Class where we had the chance to hear from amazing educators from India, New Zealand, California, and Arizona. Fascinating conversations over a delicious lunch of reindeer with educators from Australia, Hawaii, Brazil, New Zealand and Helsinki! I was so humbled. Their stories were amazing – everyone was abuzz sharing ideas and their passion for making a difference with their innovations. The class was held at Supercell which is one of the sponsors of HundrED. We entered an amazing space where we took off our shoes and stashed our coats. It oozed with imagination and prompted everyone to connect!


I had a choice of visiting several different schools and chose one that had a focus on visual arts, digital arts, and Chinese. Meilahti Comprehensive School: ages 13-15, grades 7-9, 468 students, 45 teachers, 9 other staff. The 7th graders are grouped by interest and in grades 8 and 9 students select from a variety of options to focus. For example, an 8th grader can focus 7 of their periods per week in visual arts or music. The principal was a gracious host, sharing and answering our questions and was very well connected to the students.

Meilahti Comprehensive School music class

In addition to Finnish, 6 other languages are offered. Everywhere we went in Helsinki everyone spoke English very well. There are 24 different nationalities and languages represented in the school and homes. The school focus was on the success of each student with this years emphasis on Positive Interaction. Grade 7: Cultural, interaction and self-expression, grade 8: Managing daily life and taking care of oneself, and grade 9: working life and active citizenship. They follow a national curriculum but there is a ton of freedom so the teachers can determine how to deliver the curriculum and how much they focus on what. Teachers are trusted and supported to offer the best learning for students. In turn their empowerment encourages student empowerment. In Finland teaching is well respected and it is competitive to get a job teaching.

The school visit was definitely a highlight of the trip. Tomorrow’s blog post will be written by Lindsay where she’ll provide her reflections on the trip. And, the the post after that will dive into the actual summit.

Art work on display at Meilahti Comprehensive School


Traditions of the Season

October 31, 2018

Where do they come from?

Ever wonder about the where Halloween traditions originated? Well, wonder no more. You can read about them at THIS LINK. Share these facts with your students. On costumes: With all these ghosts wandering around the Earth during Samhain, the Celts had to get creative to avoid being terrorized by evil spirits. To fake out the ghosts, people would don disguises so they would be mistaken for spirits themselves and left alone.

  • Jack-o-Lanterns
  • Ghosts
  • Trick-or-Treating
  • Trick-or-Treating, the Scottish Way
  • Trick-or-Treating, American-style
  • Black Cats
  • Bobbing for Apples
  • Black and Orange
  • Pranks
  • Candles and Bonfires
  • Candy Apples
  • Bats
  • Candy
  • Candy Corn

Recognizing Ashley Bryan’s Work

October 21, 2018


It’s all come together around Ashley Bryan. Art exhibit, theatre performance, film, a visit to Ashley’s home, and a requiem.

This blog post (and more to follow) will provide information about what is presently underway to recognize the work of Ashley Bryan. Ashley is 95 years old and has lived on Islesford – Little Cranberry Island – year-round since he retired from Dartmouth College 31 years ago. He first came to Maine to attend the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 1946. Ashley is a poet, storyteller, painter, puppet maker, illustrator, printmaker, and musician. He has written or illustrated over 50 children’s books. He is alive with imagination and creativity!

Ashley with his puppets Babatu and Osaze

I’ve blogged about the exhibit of Ashley Bryan’s at the Portland Museum of Art that opened in early August and will be remain until November 25. Contact the museum to arrange a trip for your students to visit. And, plan to go with your family and friends. I’ve shared information about the film (and the shortened version) created for schools by Maine film maker Richard Kane called I Know a Man… Ashley BryanThe film is available for public libraries and K-12 schools on DVD.

This weekend and tomorrow at the University of Southern Maine one of Ashley’s books, Beautiful Blackbird, which was created into a play, will be performed. Below is information from three people representing the three organizations who have collaborated to make the exhibit and the performance possible.

  • Catherine M. Anderson, Director of Ovations Offstage
  • Marcie P. Griswold, Director of Visitor Experience and Special Programs, Portland Museum of Art
  • René  Goddess Johnson, Coordinator of Multicultural Affairs, Education and Events, Executive & Artistic Director of the Theater Ensemble of Color

Beautiful Blackbird, words and illustrations by Ashley Bryan

Inspired by a traditional story from the Ila-speaking people of Zambia, Blackbird tells the uplifting tale of the only bird in the forest to have black feathers, and his lessons for the other birds, who are envious of his beauty. The moral is that of tolerance, understanding, and self-love, and this limited-run production promises to empower and entertain theater-goers of all ages.

René Goddess has been working with children for 17 years as a nanny, an improv movement teacher and actor at event’s like Portland Stages Play Me story events. She chose not to communicate with the theater group who performed Beautiful Blackbird at the High Museum in Atlanta so she would not be influenced. Instead she has envisioned this completely with the local artists of color as inspiration.

In René’s own words: “Ashley’s work is somehow complex and simple and always stunning. His love for children and their ability to imagine the best in humans is what excites me the most about bringing this to a live stage. His art is complex because all humans, regardless of age, understand depth. The lack of intricate detail on the beautiful creatures, with this particular story, allows for young people to conjure the story around the character. The self love of blackness in all his art has always drawn me to him. Growing up in a place like Maine, where white teachers made me generally feel shame for my blackness, his work gave me options that were positive and affirming. Bring messages of growth in humanity is what theatre does best.”

From Marcie Griswold

At the PMA, collaboration is key. We’re always looking for new access points to visual art; music, dance, and theater provide a magical connection to works of art. Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre had staged two plays based on Ashley Bryan’s works, Dancing Granny and Beautiful Blackbird, which complemented the run of the Bryan’s exhibition at the city’s High Museum. After our Learning & Interpretation colleagues witnessed the magic of that show, we felt the programming would be a fabulous component to our own iteration of the show and to Maine audiences generally.

We needed a collaborative partner to whom we could give this project with the knowledge that the PMA is not in the business of theatre arts. It is only through a creative collaboration that we could bring this work to life. As an institution, the PMA seeks to amplify artists — and this was a great opportunity to continue that practice. The original production and musical accompaniment, written by Theroun Patterson and Eugene H. Russell III, calls for creative movement and vibrant voices; TEoC and Portland Ovations fit the bill for an exciting collaboration.

A quote delivered to PMA from Theroun Patterson and Eugene H. Russell III:

“All of the dynamic elements of theatre are in the Ashley Bryan’s story of Beautiful Blackbird: a great story, positive and affirming messages for young and old alike, and of course, it’s musicality. Having the show travel north exemplifies what is great about the Theatre Arts and Artists: we are a massive hive of shared work! We are each probably no more than three or four degrees separated from someone that has had at least something to do with almost any play out there. It’s what we do. We create. We pass on. We learn. It’s a beautiful ecosystem.”

From Catherine Anderson

When we had the opportunity at Portland Ovations to collaborate with University of Southern Maine to produce the first staged reading of the opera “The Summer King” about the Life of Negro League Ballplayer Josh Gibson in 2014 we had a similar long range goal that was realized. The full length opera The Summer King has been presented at the Pittsburg Opera in 2017, and the Detroit Opera earlier this year.

From the first moment I was contacted by the Jen Deprizzio/The Portland Museum of Art in early 2017 to explore Ovations interest and capacity for supporting this project, Ovations Offstage was in a full-on YES mode. It is a rare and miraculous thing when an offer to work with a trusted and respected partner comes to you with a collaboration offer on a project that you fully believe in before you have even arrived at the table. It was humbling to be at the table with the PMA, and the leadership of the Theatre Ensemble of Color during the various incarnations of this project.  Marcie and the PMA were instrumental in making sure that Ovations and the PMA came this concept of “amplifying” Theatre Ensemble of Color every step of the way. What that meant to Ovations Offstage was always looking for opportunities to make the realization of bringing these performance(s) to fruition as easy as possible, and with as many opportunities for shared learning, and celebration. From lighting design plans, to marketing materials our collective mission was to see this project to where it has arrived; four sold out performances and a wait list with 500 people on it!


End of Week

September 21, 2018

As another week of school comes to an end


  • your week was filled with “ah-ha” moments for you and your students.
  • you had a chance to learn along with your students.
  • the smile on your face has warmed the heart of at least one learner.
  • an administrator or parent or colleague noticed your commitment to arts education and the success of all learners.
  • you realize that the work and play you’re doing is vitally important ‘to today’ and ‘the future’.
  • you remember that its not just about the ‘talented’ kids or the ‘fast learners’ but about all kids reaching their potential.
  • you tell your story of ‘today’ to at least one other person.
  • you know that real collaboration makes teaching fun.
  • you have a chance to reflect on what you did this past week and what you will do in the next week in your classroom.
  • you know that an excellent arts education is a sign of an excellent education.
  • you never forget that students need your very best so they can be their very best!
  • your weekend is filled with laughter and love!

Call for Art

August 28, 2018

Life on the Trail


Deadline for submissions: September 1, 2018, 11:59pm.

Where: The Harlow, 100 Water Street, Hallowell, ME 04347

Contact: Allison McKeen, Marketing Manager, 207-622-3813,,


“Trail Flowers”, watercolor, by Chris Cart

HALLOWELL, MAINE —  The Harlow, in partnership with Friends of the Kennebec River Rail Trail (FKRRT), invites Maine artists to submit work inspired by or depicting the Kennebec rail trail for an upcoming exhibition “Life on the Trail.” The deadline for email submissions is September 1, 11:59pm, 2018. Submissions will be reviewed by a curatorial committee including members of Friends of the Kennebec Rail Trail and staff from The Harlow.

The exhibition will be on view October 5-27, 2018 at The Harlow, located at 100 Water Street in Hallowell, with an opening reception on Friday October 5, 5-7pm. Proceeds from art sales during the exhibition will benefit FKRRT and support programming at The Harlow.

Complete information and to submit your work.

The Harlow is a membership based 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to connecting and celebrating art, artists and community in downtown historic Hallowell since 1963. Exhibitions are always free and open to the public. Hours are Wednesday-Saturday noon-6pm and Sundays 12-4pm. For more information or call 207-622-3813.

The Harlow Gallery is supported by Camden National Bank, the City of Hallowell, Kennebec Savings Bank, The Liberal Cup and The Maine House, the Roxanne Quimby Foundation and by our members. Season Sponsors for 2018 are Book Orchard Press, Capitol Dental Care, Chris Walters Productions, Great Gatherings, Doug & Melinda Jennings, Eaton Peabody Attorneys at Law, Scrummy Afters Candy Shoppe, Slates Restaurant and Target Electric Corporation. Programming is funded in part by a Partnership Grant from the Maine Arts Commission, an independent state agency supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.

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