Posts Tagged ‘Building Community Through the Arts’


Building Community Through the Arts

December 5, 2015

Last month

IMG_20151101_1031521-768x1024MAAE Building Community Through the Arts theater residencies were in full swing last month at Piscataquis County Secondary School in Guilford and Penquis Valley High School in Milo. The students of Joseph Hennessey’s two senior English classes in PCSS worked with teaching artist Jeri Pitcher to creatively engage with their reading of Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe. At Penquis Valley HS teaching artist Beverly Mann worked with Chad Emery’s College Prep 10 English class as well as with Mr. Emery’s small (but very enthusiastic!) drama class. The classes performed their works at the Center Theatre in Dover Foxcroft on October 27th and November 3rd. For the three English classes this was the students’ first time on a stage, and even for the drama class it was the students’ first attempt at creating theater. Parents and members of the community also attended the performances, and all had an opportunity to watch compelling works, each exploring social themes that the students had chosen.  To learn about these theater pieces and see photos, visit MAAE’s website,

In post-performance discussions the students in all four classes talked about the program’s creative process through group improvisation as giving them a new sense of closeness with one another. Penquis Valley English teacher Chad Emery spoke about his admiration for the students’ work and about the combined impact of the program: “The program helps bring students closer together as evolving 21st century problem solvers. Teachers are able to witness these future leaders’ dynamic flexibility, creativity, and innate inspiration.  In seeing our students on stage, we see ourselves and all that the future has in store.”

Building Community Through the Arts in Piscataquis County was supported by funding from the Piscataquis County Fund of the Maine Community Foundation and the Maine Arts Commission.


MAAE Artist Residency Program

August 19, 2015

Addressing Social Issues in Portland

Maine Alliance for Arts Education’s (MAAE) Building Community Through the Arts drama and dance residency program (BCTA) was developed in 2000 after the shooting at Columbine High School brought the issue of social climate in schools to the nation’s attention. The BCTA residencies, engaging whole classes of students in non-­arts high school classrooms in the collaborative creation and performance of an original theater or dance piece,  introduced many students to creative theater and dance, even as they helped to break down social barriers and build trust. Until recently the program has been operating primarily in the Penquis Region of the state, where student social issues were often based on socio­-economic diversity or gender issues. But BCTA has been expanding into more areas, and this summer it has come to Portland, where the social issues the students are dealing with include racial and religious diversity.

5e4a1529-30a4-4c07-8632-b978223a4a28The introduction of the BCTA program into Portland has been through MAAE’s new partnership with OPEN (Organization for Partnership and Engagement with Neighborhoods), an after-school and week­end program in Portland’s Parkside area that engages diverse youth to take an active role in the decision making and dialogue about issues of social justice affecting their community.  During a three-­week residency in July with BCTA theater artist Jeri Pitcher, an OPEN group of 12 mostly minority and immigrant youth created “Amy’s First Day,” an original drama, which they performed for the community on the evening of July 22.

The play, the first time that the OPEN program had incorporated theater, addressed racial and religious bias in the community through the eyes of the title character Amy, an African girl newly arrived in Portland. To read more about the play and the issues it raised, visit MAAE’s website,

668f31f2-e4bc-4d8c-b762-6ceeb50c2a54MAAE will be working with OPEN and with the youth themselves to explore options for bringing the BCTA program into Portland schools. Public input is welcome as well. To contribute to this discussion and for more information contact MAAE Executive Director Susan Potters either by email ( or by phone (207) 439­-3169.


Maine Alliance for Arts Ed News

December 13, 2014

Building Community Through the Arts

In November the Maine Alliance for Arts Education (MAAE) brought five English classes from Bangor and Brewer high schools together for the performance of original works each class had created as part of Building Community Through the Arts (BCTA).  BCTA, the MAAE drama and dance artist residency program now in its fifteenth year, engages whole classes in the collaborative creation of an original play or dance piece, culminating in a regional public performance.

FullSizeRenderThe three Brewer High School groups, all creative writing classes of teacher Michelle MacDonald, worked with drama teaching artist Jeri Pitcher to create and perform works that were based on their self-identified social issues. These were compelling and in some cases darkly humorous plays of social criticism directed at such issues as persistent negative attitudes, social labels and intolerance of difference. Even online social networking came under criticism, for paradoxically encouraging a focus on self rather than on caring about others.

The two Bangor High School classes of teacher Angela Domina, both college preparatory classes in Junior English, worked with dance teaching artist Katenia Keller to create dances that expressed universal  themes, such as nature versus societal order, and loyalty versus betrayal that the students  had explored in their readings of medieval British literature.

FullSizeRender 4Initiated in response to the tragedy at Columbine High School, the collaborative process in the MAAE program helps to break down social barriers among students even as its classroom setting directly connects that process with academic learning. As one Bangor student remarked,  “just as we all have to work together to form a dance group, all the parts need to work together to form a story.”

For more on the November student performances and photos visit MAAE’s website,


Building Community Through the Arts

November 16, 2013

English and Science Classes at Bangor High School and Brewer High School Create Original Dance and Drama

IMG_0190Four academic classes from Brewer High School and Bangor High School have been working on original dance and drama pieces for the past several weeks, and will be performing them for the public on Wednesday, November 20 in Orono. The students’ creative work is part of “Building Community Through the Arts,” a program organized annually at these schools by the Maine Alliance for Arts & Education (MAAE). The artist residency program, now in its fourteenth year, brings professional Maine choreographers and playwrights into academic secondary school classrooms to help students create group works which combine curriculum themes with the social issues the students themselves choose to address.

At Bangor High School this year Susannah Owen’s sophomore English class has been creating a dance piece based on its reading of Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men,” and Michele Benoit’s Introductory Chemistry class is creating a dance based on the behavior of elements. Both classes are working with Maine choreographer Katenia Keller.

At Brewer High School Michelle MacDonald’s two creative writing classes are creating works of drama with Maine playwright/ director Jeri Pitcher. For most of the students this is their first experience in creative theater and dance.

The public is invited to view the performances, which will take place at the Church of Universal Fellowship, 82 State Street in Orono. Admission is free. “Building Community Through the Arts” is funded this year with support from the Maine Humanities Council. Performances will run from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm; for more information visit the MAAE website,

%d bloggers like this: