Posts Tagged ‘arts education’

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Penny’s Story

April 19, 2022

MLTI t-shirt design

This story starts with the design that was selected for the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI) conference t-shirt. But, it’s about much more than that. It’s about a 7th grader who LOVES the arts. Congratulations to Penny Graham who attends Waterville Jr. High School. Her art work, seen below, was selected to be printed on t-shirts that will be worn by Maine middle schoolers and their teachers while they attend the virtual student conference being held, May 26. Registration is open for the MLTI Virtual Conference and all grade 7 and 8 Maine students are invited to participate.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Penny recently about her design that connects with this years conference theme: Space2Connect. Before getting to the creating part Penny looked at t-shirts from past years which helped to guide her decisions. She wanted it simple so she considered ideas with space, specifically planets. She decided on one color so it could be seen and read easily. She tried different colors including pink and green but kept coming back to purple. She’s been using the digital app Procreate on her iPad for about a year so it made sense to use it for designing the t-shirt idea. In fact, she has created a video that demonstrates her knowledge and how she went about accomplishing her design. Video about using the app Procreate. Penny’s video will be included on an upcoming episode of the MLTI SLAM Show, which focuses on student leadership in technology integration. 

Penny drawing

After being on the phone with Penny for about 45 minutes I realized that I was not only speaking to a t-shirt designer by an incredible arts advocate. “The Arts are important to me. My whole life I’ve always loved doing music and art because they’re my passions. I’ve done art clubs, I draw a lot, I played a little saxophone, guitar, and the recorder. This year I can see myself improving.”

In addition Penny loves to write, narratives and some poetry. She’ll often learn something while writing in school and goes home and practices what she’s learned. She’s had several different learning opportunities in the arts. “I love doing art with materials and using my hands and getting dirty. It is such fun.” She enjoys pen and ink, sketching, water color, rock painting and pottery. Penny also loves creating with digital tools because “I can change the design quickly and the process goes much smoother.

The arts rotate through the schedule for students at Waterville Jr. High and as a 7th grader she doesn’t have visual art but she does have music. She selected the violin which she played when she was younger and is happy to return to it. She enjoys playing in the school orchestra and likes the performances.  

She also loves theatre and has participated in the Sound of Music and Nobody Believes in Fairies which was written by one of the school’s 6th English teachers. She’s excited about the musical coming up this spring called Middleschool Madness. Penny says: “Theater is a really nice bonding experience. It’s a fun, social thing that I just love to do. I got to meet so many new people in the two plays I’ve been inMy theater experiences have all been really great.” 

Penny as Gretl

Penny also shared her experience of the pandemic. She was glad to have alone time to draw and bake and was able to pursue her hobbies. “I feel like without the pandemic I wouldn’t have been able to move forward that much. I feel like I could take big strokes that I wouldn’t have had time to do.”

Penny’s dad shared: “Waterville is a wonderful place for artistic and curious children like Penny.”

I’m certain that Penny has a bright future and I’m grateful to have met her and for our conversation.

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MAEA Conference and Awards

April 12, 2022

What a day for art education!

The Maine Art Education Association (MAEA) concluded an outstanding spring conference by presenting three, no four, awards to deserving educators. But first a word about the conference. I’ve been around long enough to see institutions transform, some for the third and fourth time. I had the pleasure of working on the planning committee for the MAEA spring conference that was held on Saturday, April 2 in Rockland at the Farnsworth Art Museum and CMCA. I’m not just talking about a conference that was held in both facilities but what took place was magical. It was delightful to see the two institutions partner with MAEA to put together a very worthwhile day for art educators.

Presentation by Daniel Salomon

The conference entitled Radical Reuse was planned and implemented by a group of people who had never worked together before, some new to their positions, and everyone went above and beyond. Over a two month period every Thursday the education staffs of both institutions and the MAEA conference planners came together on zoom to plan the annual spring conference. THANK YOU to everyone for a job well done! From CMCA: Mia Bogyo, and representing the Farnsworth: Gwendolyn Loomis Smith, Katherine Karlik, and Alexis Saba. MAEA president, Lynda Leonas, coordinated the effort with board members Iva Damon and Christine Del Rossi supporting. From the Rockland school district Richard Wehnke helped.

Printmaking with Sherrie York – Lynda Leonas and Iva Damon

The keynote was provided by Krisanne Baker, Medomak Valley High School art and ecology teacher and artist. She is committed to advocating for the ocean and inspires her students to learn about water quality, availability and rights, and ocean stewardship. Guest speaker Daniel Salomon who teaches in The Hatchery at Camden Hills Regional High School provided background information on the work he is doing with students utilizing and reusing materials and the role we each can play.

Gallery tour, Farnsworth

After the opening speakers, conference participants attended sessions on printmaking with Sherrie York, art making around ‘place’ with Alexis Iammarino, toured the Farnsworth Museum, and toured CMCA. Several merchants from Downtown Rockland supported the conference goers with discounts. During the middle of the day Daniel’s students from the Hatchery, set up outside CMCA, shared several of the projects they have been involved in this year.

Alexis Iammarino demonstrating, CMCA

AWARDS PROGRAM

The day concluded with honoring the work of four educators with an amazing backdrop of quilts at CMCA. The educators are outstanding in and out of the classroom, engaged in work at the local, regional, and state level. They work (and play) tirelessly, sometimes alone and often collaborating with others. Every day they exhibit all that is right about education. In their respective institutions they have a place at the table where they continuously advocate for students and art education. We know that an excellent education in the arts is essential, and these educators strive for every student to experience just that. 

The awards committee was led by Belfast Area High School art teacher Heidi O’Donnell. Members of the committee included Hope Lord, Maranacook Middle School art teacher and Suzanne Goulet, Waterville High School art teacher, and myself. The awards, clay vessels, were created by Carolyn Brown, Camden Hills Regional High School art teacher. In addition each educator received a plaque for their classroom and a pineapple.

The 2022 Administration/Supervision Art Educator of the Year was presented to Dr. Rachel Somerville who is at Maine College of Art & Design and Westbrook Schools. She was introduced by Melissa Perkins, Congin Elementary School art teacher, Westbrook.

Melissa presenting Rachel

The 2022 Secondary Art Educator of the year was presented to Iva Damon, art teacher at Leavitt Area High School in Turner. She was introduced by Lynda Leonas, president of MAEA and an art teacher at Walton and Washburn Elementary Schools in Auburn.

Lynda presenting Iva

The 2023 Maine Art Educator of the Year was presented to Matthew Johnson, art teacher at Westbrook High School. He was introduced by Deb Bickford who also teaches art at Westbrook High School.

Lynda Leonas presented a surprise pineapple award to Heidi for outstanding leadership and contributions to the MAEA board. She is stepping down from the board as she takes on a leadership position with the National Art Education Association.

Heidi O’Donnell, right with her Belfast colleagues Linda Nicholas, middle and Kathie Gass, left

As we move away from the challenges of the pandemic I urge you to consider:

  • Become a member of MAEA, if you are not already one
  • Volunteer to become a board member and take on a leadership role
  • Nominate a colleague who is worthy of recognition

For more information please go to the MAEA website.

Photos taken by Heidi O’Donnell and myself.

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Insect Lab

March 22, 2022

Learning opportunity for teachers

Below is an invitation from Maine artist Mike Libby! Mike is a graduate of Bangor High School and is an amazing artist who established INSECT LAB. Now, he’s sharing his ideas with teachers. I encourage you to respond to Mike and join him on zoom during one or all of the sessions. What a super opportunity to consider how Insect Lab could be part of a lesson or perhaps your school curriculum.

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Congratulations Sue Barre

March 17, 2022

National Federation of State High School Associations Awardee                 

In 1989 the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFSH) established The Outstanding Music Educator Awards. Waterville High School music educator Susan Barre is an awardee!

CONGRATULATIONS SUE!

Many of us know Sue’s tireless work for music education from her school district in Waterville, Maine to the state level and now at the national level. Sue teaches music to students in grades 5-12. I first met Sue when she became a Teacher Leader during Phase 3 of the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative (MAAI). She was a strong leader as MAAI transitioned to the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) and its latest iteration of the Maine Arts Education Partners in Leadership (MAEPL). Sue is a quiet and effective leader who is there when needed and is willing to take on a responsibility and give it her full attention. She can be trusted to not only to complete the task but, always at the highest level. She is a steady voice for all her students and the music education in her district continuously shines under her guidance. I’ve had the honor of working with Sue on many projects and watch her grow as a teacher, leader, and human being. We co-presented in Providence at the NAfME Eastern Division Conference in 2015 and again in 2017 in Atlantic City. This is certainly a well deserved award and I invite you to join me in CONGRATULATING SUE!

NFSH ASSOCIATION NEWS RELEASE

In addition to earning numerous awards and honors, Susan Barre has transformed Maine’s Waterville school music program to one of the state’s most respected, celebrating music and students of all abilities and interests.

After beginning her education career in 1989 and teaching music at various schools in Maine, Barre joined Waterville Public Schools in 2008 as band director for grades 5-12. In 2014, Barre was named department chair for Visual and Performing Arts at Waterville Senior High School and coordinator of music for grades K-12. During her tenure, Waterville students have consistently been recognized with Outstanding Music Awards.

In 2013, Waterville Ensembles were recognized with the “Spirit of DC” award recognizing responsible and respectful behavior. At the 2018 NYC Heritage Music Festival, the Waterville Music Department won the Sweepstakes Award for outstanding music department, and the concert and jazz band earned Gold Awards.

Barre has worked to revise the music curriculum, seeking consistency in music terms and practices, and coordinated the development and implementation of a portfolio for music students. The portfolio has become a blueprint for many other music programs in the state.

Locally, the Waterville music program has become an integral part of the arts community, recognized for its efficient hosting of local festivals each year. Waterville students regularly perform in the community and are active in the arts programs at nearby Colby College.

At the state level, Barre is a [past] president of the Maine Music Educators, which helped implement a paid executive director position for the organization and moved the state’s jazz programs from a competitive format to a festival format, where ensembles perform for a rating and not against each other. Barre is also president of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) Eastern Division and served on the executive committee overseeing the planning and implementation of the 2021 Eastern Division Virtual Festival and Conference.

Sue Barre and Argy Nestor co-presenting, NAfME Eastern Division Conference, Atlantic City, 2017. Session: Leading a Way to Proficiency Through the Arts
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Nicholas Parker’s Story

February 26, 2022

Musical journey and it’s impact on something larger

This is a story about Nicholas Parker but his story is especially poignant at this time with the invasion by Russia of Ukraine earlier this week. Samantha Smith was a 10 year old girl living in Manchester, Maine when, in 1982, she wrote to the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Yuri AndropovI. She was seeking to understand why the relations between the Soviet Union and the United States were so tense. Her question and bravery prompted a response and made a huge difference. She received an invitation to the Soviet Union and became a Goodwill Ambassador. Sadly, Samantha, at the age of 13, and her father, died in a plane crash. Her spirit and commitment to peace lives on. I pray for peace for the people of Ukraine.

If we could be friends by just getting to know each other better, then what are our countries really arguing about? Nothing could be more important than not having a war if a war could kill everything.” ~Samantha Smith

NICHOLAS PARKER’S STORY

As many young children do when there is a piano in the house Nicholas started ‘playing’ random notes for fun at an early age. At age 9 he started taking piano lessons from Amy Irish. At the time, he knew how to play “Do-Re-Mifrom The Sound of Music using solely his pointer finger. Amy taught him to develop his piano abilities and he fell in love with the instrument over the next decade.

PLEASE NOTE: All of the indented bold and italic sections below are quotes from Nicholas Parker.

“Plunking around on the piano and coming up with my own melodies has been one of my favorite activities since the beginning, though I never really put my efforts into writing a complete piece until the eighth grade.”

Nicholas playing Do-Re-Mi

In 2014 while in grade 8 at Reeds Brook School in Hampden Nicholas had Karyn Field for a teacher. Students were engaged in project based learning using Meridian Stories. Along with teaching Karyn was the Civil Rights Advisor so she decided to reach out to Rob Shetterly and Americans Who Tell the Truth (AWTT) to enrich the opportunities for student learning. Rob brought some of his large portraits to school to hang in the library. Students selected a portrait from Rob’s collection and were assigned to do some sort of creative project on that person. Nicholas chose Samantha Smith.

I chose Samantha Smith, a girl from Maine who, in the ‘80s, was known as America’s Youngest Ambassador, and who traveled to the Soviet Union as a peace activist at the height of the Cold War. For my project, I wrote a piano piece about Samantha’s life.

Piano recital with Amy Irish

For several days Nicholas worked independently in the music room while writing the piece about Samantha Smith. Karyn remembers checking in with him periodically to hear what he was accomplishing. Nick used his musical abilities and combined them with Samantha Smith; an ideal project in many ways.

When Rob and AWTT staff saw and heard what Nicholas had accomplished they were very impressed. A conversation followed and out of this grew the ongoing AWTT project offered each year to middle students. The Samantha Smith Challenge (SSC) is a dynamic educational program for middle and high school students that uses the creative arts to build a bridge between the classroom and the world as students become compassionate, courageous, and engaged citizens. SSC projects teach students that, no matter what age, they can be part of solving the challenges and problems they see around them and work for the common good.

“Looking back, I would have written the piece a bit differently now (on account of my skills having developed significantly since I was 13), but the music nevertheless managed to elicit a response from Mr. Shetterly, who was present when we displayed our projects.”

Playing on a street piano

Karyn shared that Nicholas was a confident and very humble student. He was provided an amazing opportunity to take what someone did that created change and through Rob’s painting of Samantha, together they elevated her voice. Nicholas was invited, while in high school, to speak at the New England League of Middle Schools annual dinner. Karyn said: “Through his passion and intelligence and his gifts he opened doors for others students and served as a good role model.”

“Seeing the impact my project had on Mr. Shetterly and the creation of the Samantha Smith Challenge was wonderful. Since then, I’ve loved staying in touch with AWTT when I’m able, and have enjoyed learning much more in the fields of piano performance and composition.”

Nicholas returned at Christmas from a semester studying in Italy. He took time to provide an update what he’s doing and some of his thinking.

“Today, I am headed into my senior year at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, where I am majoring in Music and Italian Studies. While I have grown a lot in my abilities, I must admit that I’m still trying to figure out what it is that I want to write (and how to write it). George Winston, whose CDs my parents used to play when I was growing up, is a source of much inspiration. His seasonal albums are some of my favorites, and the way in which he captures natural settings through the piano is exceptional. 

Working on music while in Italy last fall

The opportunity to teach music to others has presented itself in recent years as well, and I have found myself working with a few students—albeit largely in a virtual format—on the fundamentals of music and piano-playing. To introduce people to the piano has been an immense joy, and quite often has made me think of the importance of the arts and music in education. I personally have learned at least as much from studying music as I have from any science or math course, and in fact have found that the subjects of music and science are not quite so different. And yet, when it comes to many schools (especially those in less-privileged areas or with less funding), the arts and music programs are all too often the first on the chopping block. The benefits of music in education are plentiful, but inclusion and accessibility are indispensable when it comes to having an impact on students’ development.

Nick performing the Samantha Smith piece he wrote:

As was stated by Stanford University professor Eliot Eisner (quoted previously on this blog), “The arts make vivid the fact that neither words in their literal form nor numbers exhaust what we can know. The limits of our language do not define the limits of our cognition.” Whether by aiding in telling the story of Samantha Smith, or by helping me explore the natural world around us in a way that words and numbers cannot, music has occupied a space in my life that nothing else could. It’s impact on me has in turn given me the potential to impact a little bit of my corner of the world, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

AWTT Education Director Connie Carter has valued her time working with Nicholas and said the following: “Besides being the catalyst for AWTT’s education program the Samantha Smith Challenge, Nick has continued to be a strong voice for courageous student activism.  He has spoken at conferences about AWTT and was a critical voice in our strategic planning process.  Listening to Nick talk about the importance of finding and using one’s voice is like listening to a beautiful musical composition  — full of meaning, compassion, and inspiration.”

It was such a gift to converse with Nicholas and hear his story. His journey in many ways is just beginning, especially to those of us who have been around for many years. But, his musical journey started many years ago as a small child. I’m grateful Nicholas shared his story and I’m sure it will inspire and remind us how important it is to provide learning opportunities in the arts for all.

If you have a student or a former student whose story will inspire please contact me at meartsed@gmail.com!

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On Hiatus

July 2, 2021

The Maine Arts Education Blog is on hiatus

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Great Opportunity

June 18, 2021

What are you doing July 27-28?

Interested in getting together with other Maine Arts Educators and Teaching Artists? Learn more about Maine Arts Education Partners in Leadership (MAEPL) and consider applying to attend the summer institute and become a Teacher Leader or Teaching Artist Leader for the 2021-22 school year.

At the Summer Institute new Teacher Leaders and Teaching Artist Leaders will learn foundational practices in instructional design and leadership skills. Participants will take part in a variety of workshops focused on emerging needs in Arts Education professional development.  

Collaboration, networking, and the sharing of resources are an expectation as a member of the MAEPL community.  During the Institute participants will develop an individualized growth plan that will be shared with others for feedback and suggestions.  

Throughout the school year, participants will continue to share how their individualized growth plan is developed and implemented, and they will have the opportunity to share at a Critical Friends Day, and with a thought partner.        

There is a Winter Retreat with participants to review and reflect on the work done, and allow for time to get feedback to plan for the next Summer Institute.  

Listen to Teacher Leader Kris Bisson talk about her experiences being involved with MAEPL

Teacher Leader/Teaching Artist Leader Annual Expectations: 

  • Attend Summer Institute 
  • Work with a thought partner 
  • Develop a individualized growth plan 
  • Share the outcomes of your individual growth plan within the MAEPL community and beyond (i.e. workshop, resource, video, article, etc.) 
  • Share feedback and information about MAEPL through teacher leader stories and as part of your outcomes of your personal growth plan 
  • Collaborate, network, and share resources 
  • Participate in Critical Friend Day 
  • Attend Winter Retreat

Teacher Leader/Teaching Artist Leader Opportunities: 

  • Membership in the vibrant MAEPL community
  • Access to online resources 
  • Learn/Experience creative activities together 
  • Collaboratively develop educational resources 
  • Establish and work toward an individualized growth plan
  • Take on leadership and facilitator roles in MAEPL, Arts Organizations, and school communities 
  • Connect and make long-lasting relationships with other arts educators  
  • Network across diverse arts disciplines 
  • Access cutting edge professional development for emerging needs of our students and leaders within the arts educational community and beyond
  • Learn from experienced leaders 
  • Gain recertification hours 
  • Partner with the Maine Arts Commission Arts Education Program 

JOIN US!  Become a Teacher Leader and Change Lives.  

APPLY TODAY — CLICK HERE  June 22, 2021 deadline for new and returning applicants

IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW: 

SUMMER INSTITUTE

Pilgrim Lodge is a camp run by the United Church of Christ of Maine on Lake Cobbosseecontee in West Gardiner, with cabins with electricity and plumbing, large indoor and outdoor meeting spaces, modern dining facilities, wifi in main buildings and good general cell reception, and recreation options, including swimming, human-powered boating, and trails.  

APPLICATION

Administrator Name/contact information

Paragraph of Interest — Selected individuals will be expected to be active leaders in helping to develop and support excellence in teaching and learning in Maine. A full commitment to the Institute timeline is expected as seen in the online information sheet.  Please attach a brief overview of your interest and current/past experience (if any) in Leadership. Include your experience collaborating with other arts educators and experiences relevant to the initiative.  (Please no more than ~ 500 words, about 1 page.) 

Resume/CV —  If you are a Teaching Artist, please also include websites or documentation of your teaching work.  

Letter of Reference – TEACHERS: This should be from your administrator.  TEACHING ARTISTS: This should be from a school or community  organization with whom you have worked.   Please attach a Letter of Recommendation in which the person includes comments and/or examples reflecting your leadership potential and your ability to work collaboratively.  Selected individuals will be responsible for sharing their newly developed expertise and related classroom experiences with other arts educators.

Questions? Contact Maine Arts Commission Director of Education, Martha Piscuskas at Martha.Piscuskas@maine.gov.

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Congressional Art Awards

June 13, 2021

Congratulations go to Lewiston and Portland students

In an academic year that was largely defined by remote learning and minimal social gatherings, twelve high school art students welcomed some exciting news from Maine’s Congresswoman Chellie Pingree and Congressman Jared Golden. 

Representatives Pingree and Golden announced the winners of this year’s Congressional Art Competition: Baxter Academy senior Elwen Bernard of Maine’s First District, and Lewiston High School sophomore Whitney Perkins of Maine’s Second District.

Benard’s illustration Passport Photo, and Perkins’ photograph Curious, will be displayed in the Cannon Tunnel of the U.S. Capitol for the entire year, alongside winning artists from districts across the country. The winners are flown to Washington, D.C. in June for the official opening of the show.

“Every year, the sheer talent of Maine student artists blows me away, and this year’s Congressional Art Competition was no exception. Art offers a great outlet through tough times. I’m thrilled to see that students are still connected with their artistic processes after a year of unknowns and immense change,” said Congresswoman Pingree. “Elwen’s piece is poignant and stunning, and I’m sure that it will stand out when it’s on display at the Capitol. My thanks to all the students who participated this year—It is an honor to view your work.”

“I had high hopes for the submissions we’d receive for this year’s Congressional Art Competition, but the students really went above and beyond,” said Congressman Golden. “This contest is a great showcase of the insight and skill of Maine students, and it’s an annual reminder of how fortunate we are to have so many talented young artists in our state. Congratulations to all of our winners and thank you for making our district proud.”

The submitted artwork was judged by a panel of jurors selected by the Maine Arts Commission.  Jurors Juliet Karelsen and Breehan James judged the First District competition.

 The jurors noted in Benard’s Passport Photo, “we encounter a real person whose strength, warmth, honesty, vulnerability and soul come through the finely layered and textured colored pencil markings….It exudes an inner life and an unassuming presence. It speaks loudly in its quiet expressiveness and subtly.”

Jurors Carolyn Wallace-Zani and Teddi-Jann Covell judged the Second District competition.

In Perkins’ Curiosity, the jurors noted the variety and repetition of lines, shapes, tones, and values repeatedly directing the viewer through the nearly empty bus and back again to the young child while confirming her feelings of isolation, uncertainty, and curiosity. “This piece has a strong composition, is well presented and timely. Her backwards glance caught us looking into the now common life of all students around the world during this pandemic. Even though the mask hides a smile, it cannot mask the inquisitiveness of youngsters.”

The judges honored the works of twelve Maine students in total.

First District:  Winner: Elwen Benard of Baxter Academy. First Runner Up: Fiona Jason of Baxter Academy, Second Runner Up: Kaitlyn Sawicki of Freeport High School. Honorable Mention: Della Huntley of Baxter Academy. Honorable Mention: Alexis Milem of Thornton Academy. Honorable Mention: Kaylee Demers of Falmouth High School.

Second District: Winner: Whitney Perkins. First Runner Up: Sophia Carson of Edward Little High School, Second Runner Up: Ella Shaffer of Rangeley Lakes Regional School. Honorable Mention: Lexi Bachelder. Rangeley Lakes Regional School. Honorable Mention: Ruoxuan Zhang of Lee Academy, Honorable Mention: Addaline Hemmingway of Rangeley Lakes Regional School.

Click here to view student’s artwork in a virtual gallery

The Congressional Arts Competition was started in 1982 to honor the arts and talents of students nationwide. The Maine Arts Commission works closely with Congresswoman Chellie Pingree’s and Congressman Jared Golden’s offices to administer the program. The Arts Commission also partners with the Maine College of Art (MECA) and the National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards to help with the process of selecting the artwork. Two art professionals from each district are chosen to jury artwork from that district. It is “blind” jurying in which the judges only see the title, size and medium of each piece. This year they convened online to review and discuss digital images to decide. Placements are first, second, third and then three honorable mentions.

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MAEA Spring Conference

April 6, 2021

A HUGE SUCCESS

Congratulations to the Maine Art Education Association for a successful virtual conference held this past Saturday. Iva Damon was the chair who waited an entire year to complete her task. Last year the conference was canceled thanks to the pandemic. Every aspect of the conference entitled Perceptions 2021 went really well. If you’re working on the planning of a virtual conference or workshop I suggest you reach out to Iva who is an art teacher at Leavitt Area High School. Conference planner Extraordinaire!

The conference opened with a keynote provided by Natasha Mayers and Rob Shetterly. She often explores themes of peace and social justice. Recently the film on Natasha’s life as an artist was released called Natasha Mayers: an Un-Still Life. Natasha founded ARRT! (the Artists’ Rapid Response Team) in 2012, an artists’ collective that meets monthly, creating over 400 banners, props and yard signs for most of the progressive organizations in Maine. She co-founded and is editor-in-chief of The Maine Arts Journal: Union of Maine Visual Artists Quarterly. Learn more about how Natasha has contributed to so many meaningful projects and made a difference in Maine practicing her art in a collaborative way. You can read about her contributions since 1976 at THIS LINK. Conference participants had a chance to view the film before the conference.

“…an engaging and lively portrait of an engaged and lively artist who uses her talents in the service of truth and justice, rather than fortune”
— Edgar Allen Beem
Natasha Mayers

Artist Rob Shetterly founded Americans Who Tell the Truth (AWTT) and has painted over 250 portraits of ‘truth tellers’. The Samantha Smith Project is part of the AWTT work where middle and high school students use art to build a bridge between the classroom and the world to create curious, courageous, and engaged citizens. SSC projects teach students that, no matter what age, they can be part of solving the challenges and problems they see around them.

One of the portraits that Rob has created is of Natasha so it was a delight to have them both share their stories and inspire art educators to make a difference in their classrooms.

Participants had a chance to attend three workshops throughout the day and meet with colleagues informally. The workshops were:

  • Evaluating Creativity with music educator Joe Cough
  • Update your Advocacy: New Ways of Promoting and Expanding Your Impact Beyond the Art Room with Brunswick Middle School teacher Cory Bucknam
  • Neurographic Art with Maranacook Community School art teacher Hope Lord
  • Teaching and Learning with Natasha Mayers: An Un-Still Life with Argy Nestor, Sweetland Middle School
  • AP Art and Design Network Discussion with high school art teachers Lori Spruce and Holly Houston
  • Hand-Build a Tour Up & Stamped Mug with Bioddeford Middle School art teacher Samara Yandell

The day ended with a gathering and door prizes presented. It was very clear that teachers missed seeing colleagues from other parts of the state and making art together. Comments around the challenges of the year and that the value of the art classroom became more clear to educators. Participants said what a great conference it was. More people attended the spring conference than has been the case in the last several years. The comment that placed clarity on our important roles as art educators this year was stated by Rangeley Lakes Regional School Art Teacher Sonja Johnson:

“The Art classroom is a place of awakening this year”.

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Silver Linings

March 12, 2021

Teacher Leader voices of Maine on the bright lights that the pandemic afforded

A year ago my school, like all schools in Maine, shut down because of the Covid outbreak. On Friday, March 13th staff left for the weekend without knowing what the next week was going to bring. Staff and parents and students quickly kicked into a complete ‘flex mode’ each day learning and building on our knowledge. In the beginning it was an amazing and unsettling feeling to watch, listen, and learn through a completely different lens. Everyone stepped up and each person, young and old, were terrific. The summer came and went with educators throughout the world considering the next steps. With open minds and a cooperative spirit the sharing of ideas flowed through the air waves (in most cases at no cost) and connected educators in a completely different way. I can only think of a couple of other times in my career when my pathways to learning were so rapid. As the 2020-21 school year progressed FLEXIBILITY continued to be necessary. And, as we pause for the one year anniversary of education changing drastically we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. My greatest hope is that our pathways of learning, sharing ideas, and collaborating will continue. And, I do hope that we simply don’t ‘go back’ to where we were before unless the pieces are in the best interest of every learner!

The following Maine Visual or Performing Arts Educators kindly provided their “silver linings” of the pandemic. We all have them, what is yours? Please email your silver linings at meartsed@gmail.com so we can continue to learn from each other.

  • I teach the littlest students. My silver lining is that, since class sizes are very small, there is time to hear all students’ stories, opinions, ideas, etc. There is also time for every student to have a turn at every activity. They get more individual attention than ever before. ~ Patti Gordan, Music Teacher, Raymond Elementary School
  • From Sue Barre, Grades 5-12 Band Director, Waterville Public Schools Like many school programs traveling with students to perform in other locations has been temporarily eliminated. Instead each high school ensemble commissioned a piece – reflective in some way to the last year we have all experienced. Ensemble members have had the opportunity for input and for interaction with the composers. “This experience has been so much more than I anticipated, really cool to watch students learn in a whole new way”!
    • In band I asked the students what dates were of importance to them and these are some that came forward: 3/31/20 – last day of school, 5/25/20 – death of George Floyd and 1/6/21 were some of the dates that came forward. 
    • I asked for sounds that they connected to last year and ideas such as email arriving into the box, sirens and silence came up…   
    • The most fascinating sessions were with the composer sharing ideas. The chorus and orchestra have had different experiences than the band. 
    • In May we hope to have a socially distanced event to share the debuts and senior recognition night all wrapped into one. 
  • From Kate Smith, Music Teacher Central Elementary School, So. Berwick
    • The pandemic has increased awareness of the value of reliable daycare and how it effects the wellbeing of an economy. I hope this will lead to additional and consistent financial support from the government.
    • Smaller class sizes have enabled more personalized, individualized and differentiated instruction. Students can ask more questions and have more turns. I am more likely to have enough instruments or resources for everyone. 
    • Free professional development opportunities abound like never before. I’ve seen increased collaboration between educators within districts, states and even internationally. Everyone has had to learn how to use technology like video conferencing which means everyone now has the skills to connect online. I hope this continues. 
  • My silver lining is the freedom this chaotic moment in time has presented to try something completely different. I am sharing photos from one of my third grade classes this week. We went outside to make art as a whole-class reward for the great choices they’ve made during the last 6 weeks that we’ve all been back together at Madison Elementary. (Other classes will earn their “Outside Art”, too. It just may take a little longer : ) I gave these students snow block makers and spray bottles filled with watercolor paint and pointed them to the snow. It was a blast and it made my art teacher heart happy to see the creativity and teamwork this class demonstrated.  ~ Lisa Ingraham, K-4 Art Teacher, Madison Elementary School, K-12 Gifted & Talented, MSAD 59
  • I have several silver fillings, I mean linings. But one came out the other day that I totally didn’t realize was there.In the pre-covidian era, it was a weekly inevitability  that a first grader would raise their hand and say” Mrs. R., I lost a tooth!” Of course every other hand in the room would shoot up and a chorus ensued with the end result that we would lose 5 minutes of Art time. This has been missing for almost a year now and despite having the 5 minutes back, I really miss those gap-tooth smiles. So I guess it is more like a silver filling after all.  ~Allie Rimkunas, Great Falls Elementary School Art Teacher
  • Thanks to Coronavirus – both the time I have gotten back with my family and the strides I have made in differentiated learning for my classroom. Technology resources have made it so learning can happen anywhere and for any student with the click of a button. ~Iva Damon, Leavitt Area High School Art Teacher, Humanities Network Leader
  • From Hope Lord, Maranacook Middle School Art Teacher
    • Zoom Parent Teacher Conferences are very efficient and I am able to attend multiple meetings to speak to parents of advisees and students in my classes. In traditional conferences I would have to decide which meetings to attend. Now I can join a meeting and share and then leave and join another student’s meeting within a few seconds. It’s been a great tool.
    • Another wonderful benefit from having to adapt to teaching during a pandemic is that most of my teaching resources, videos, assignments, and assessments are now available online through Google Classroom. If a student is absent, they will have access to the lesson online and can complete the work at home when they feel better and not fall behind. 
    • Lastly, no more snow days that extend the school year way into June. Since we have had remote learning days, we have not had a snow day. We won’t have to be in school until the end of June! 
  • My silver lining…….hmmm. No more photos turned in or left on the dryer in the darkroom : ” STUDENT ARTIST  UNKNOWN”!  Now that work is digital and submitted in Google CLassroom I ALWAYS know whose image it is!  ~Jennie Driscoll, Brunswick High School Art Teacher
  • We all have the students that are quiet in school, do not talk, that seem to want to be invisible and they never participate in class discussions, nor would I make them. I always wondered and worried about these students. When we went to remote some of these students slowly began to come out of their armor they had built up. We began to have rich conversations about their art work and the deep meanings they put into them and they share the art they do on their own. They are comfortable in their own environment and slowly have come to life and I have the privilege of really getting to know them. I look forward to my zoom sessions with these students where they smile and laugh and share their ideas with me. Connecting with these students is my positive out of the negative, my “silver lining”.      ~Holly (Leighton) Boyce, Mattanawcook Academy Art Teacher
  • I have been having – hands down – one of the most rewarding school years of my career. I’ve been creating my curriculum several weeks ahead of teaching it all year so far. And what it has done is:
    • reinforce that singing and playing is not content: it’s DELIVERY
    • when the delivery method changes that there are many other ways of delivering content
    • my program is not built on my students’ emotional dependence on it, so the transition away from singing was pretty easy
    • being a good teacher is not dependent on circumstances ~Rob Westerberg, Music Educator, York High School
  • From Eva Wagner, Bangor High School Art Teacher Class size for sure, so much better in the art room to have smaller class sizes. Eva wrote these amazing Silver Linings – Haiku Style:

From Leah Olson, Ellsworth High School Art Teacher

  •  The silver linings that I’ve discovered in the age of covid are many! Since March 13th, life has been a bumpy journey to say the least! The hybrid of learning for students has forced me to rethink projects differently in regards to curriculum, material use and social interactions in and out of the art room. In regards to curriculum, I had to change my units as immediately as school started in the fall. I realized that my units were not going to work as well for students who were completely remote. So, I met them where they were at. Units were and are chunked down with reinforcing the basic concepts of ceramics and jewelry. It has worked out so well that I may rethink the sequential curriculum for next year! 
    • In regards to using technology, I’ve been using Google Folders for years as portfolios to grade student work, so that was easy to keep track of student progress. I started using Google Classroom last year after March 13th to post Zoom Meeting links and reminders. The newest learning tool to navigate around was creating a Google website that students could access rubrics, videos and links most relevant to the lesson. It’s been so helpful for students to access this if they miss a class or need a review of the techniques. The silver lining is that I finally created a website that can be used in the years to come! : )
    • Another silver lining is that through the covid grant, I was able to purchase materials so that Ellsworth High School students could work from home and from school. Because of this, students would create two projects using the same technique – the easier project would be done at home and the more difficult one would be done at school. This reinforced fluency and confidence using the tools and materials.   
    • Having no more than ten students in class allows me to demonstrate techniques for students remotely and physically. I’ve been able to work alongside with students in a way I never could before. While they are working with their works, I am too. We talk with each other, laugh, and at the same time, the bar is raised. The social connections with students could not be experienced in the same way as a class of twenty. You all know what I mean! There is time to talk with one another.
    • Finally, I’m also learning more about teaching ceramics through trial and error. Like, don’t travel with bone dry projects. Telling students to not leave clay in the freezing cold car overnight, and cheese graters at the Dollar Tree work great for downsizing thick places in pots and evening out the surfaces. I learned that cutting pinch pots in half to see the thickness of the walls make for better pinch pot luminaries, raku clay is an excellent starter clay for slab containers because you don’t have to wait to join the walls, watercolor underglazes are a game changer for creativity and traveling back and forth from home to school. This is just to name a few! I often wonder what students will think of learning about jewelry and ceramics through the pandemic years from now. Hopefully, they will look at something they made and see the year 2020 or 2021 scratched into their work and feel a sense of relief, pride, and nostalgia! I am reminded daily by the phrase, “The Darkest Nights Produce The Brightest Stars”.
Sierra Andrews) who absolutely loves her “Mainely Mug”
Think you can “Handle It” assignment
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