Posts Tagged ‘connect2women’

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Visit to Wyoming

May 22, 2019

Amazing opportunity

Mary and I at the Wyoming Arts Council

I am so grateful to have traveled to Wyoming last week. I went for two main purposes – one to sit on the arts education grant panel for the Wyoming Arts Council and the second to attend the connect2women conference, especially to attend a session provided by Mary Billiter. Mary is the Arts Education Specialist at the Wyoming Arts Council. I love the Council’s slogan: Grow – Connect – Thrive.

During my almost six years as the director of arts education at the Maine Arts Commission I have been fortunate to mentor two other state arts agency arts education directors. Both have provided me with opportunities to reflect on the work that I view as so important to quality arts education in our schools and communities throughout the state and country. And, is often the case, I have learned so much and have been grateful for the chance to interact with two amazing women! Now, they are not only colleagues but friends.

Denver airport looks like a giant sculpture

It was fascinating to see ‘close up’ how another state coordinates their arts education grant panel. I have read about how other states run their panels and talked with other directors about the process but experiencing the process was much different. It gave me the chance to pause, reflect, and learn.

The panel of 8 traveled from all over Wyoming and we reviewed 53 grant applications, which is almost three times as many as are submitted in Maine. The applications received cover a wide range; PreK-through higher education institutions, arts councils, non-profit, for profit, community organizations and much more. Some of the challenges and successes the applicants face day to day are similar to what I find in Maine and some were very different. It Applicants were required to demonstrate alignment with the state’s arts standards, among other requirements. Needless to say I loved taking on the challenge and since I knew very little or nothing about the applicants and communities, in some ways the task was easier.

First Lady Jennie Gordon

Attending the connect2women conference was a real gift. Kate Debow Hayes serves as the executive director and is the energy behind the work that the organization has underway. It is their fourth conference and the first as a non-profit. Each year the conference grows as people learn about the opportunity.

The speakers, presenters and workshops were varied and interesting. Mary’s workshop was called “Writing Your Online Presence” and it was useful on many levels. From writing emails to formal and informal letters to requesting face to face meetings and much more – I was reminded of how important communication is on a variety of levels. The room was packed with about 50 people. Mary Billiter is the award-winning author of the highly acclaimed resort romance series, which she wrote on her cell phone while she underwent breast cancer treatment. She has a new book coming out in July. I will include a blog post tomorrow that I hope you’ll read since it covers a topic that is familiar to all of us and an important one to address as educators.

Giant boot mosaic

I attended a second workshop called “Brand Your Story” that was presented by Elizabeth Dillow who is an accomplished photographer and designer. The seeds she planted provided the chance to work on “advocacy” through a different lens. It is so fun to be presented with challenges when traveling.

One highlight of the conference was the keynote provided by Wyoming’s First Lady Jennie Gordon. She shared her story growing up with a mother who was born in Austria and coming to the states after marrying an American service man from WWII. She has 9 siblings and now grown children of her own. Her story was very inspirational.

One of the many beautiful flowers at the botanical garden

During my down-time in Wyoming I had a chance to visit some local spots. The Cheyenne Botanical Gardens was one and they are amazing. Many of you know that I create mosaics so seeing the giant boot in mosaic form was a real treat. The gardens also include 3 floors of beautiful plants, an extensive children’s garden, a rooftop garden spot, and much more. I loved seeing the tulips, the vegetables and flowers waiting to be planted from the greenhouse, the indoor/ outdoor classroom and the rooftop providing a wonderful view. While there I met an interesting 80 year old man who was retired from a career in education – teacher, principal, and superintendent – he was spending his day fishing.

The best part about being out west is how everything feels so HUGE. I landed at the Denver airport with a tent like design, the Rockies in the distance, the intense blue sky, the clouds that go from white puffy to grey rain clouds in a matter of minutes, the boots and hats, and the people who are curious and friendly! I am grateful to experience and learn so much while traveling and LOVE returning home to Maine!

Indoor/outdoor classroom in the children’s area of the botanical gardens

I’m sure many of the meartsed blog readers have been out west. If not, I recommend a trip – rent a car, drive around, stop in the local  shops, and stare at the immense sky and land. Ask the local people a question or two and let them talk about their lives.

 

 

 

 

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