Most days I feel fortunate to do the work I do. Let’s face, I believe working with Maine’s Visual and Performing Arts teachers is a great job! Most days it doesn’t feel like work because I love it so much. (Don’t mistake this for an easy job!) I don’t get to Aroostook County or the areas of Maine that are further away from the Maine Arts Commission office as much as I’d like but, when I do it is a wonderful treat.
Recently I traveled to the County (as Aroostook is affectionately know to many) and learned a great deal AND had a fabulous time. The early morning drive north on 95, once I reach Bangor, is an opportunity to turn off the radio and look and think. It took me almost 4 hours from my home to my first destination, Wintergreen Arts Center in Presque Isle.
I met with Dottie Hutchins, the Executive Director of the Wintergreen Arts Center and with the co-chairs of the center board members Heather Harvell, and Kim Guerrette Michaud. I felt like I had known them for a long time. The center has many successful programs that range from pre-school programs to after school art programs for young kids through teenagers to programs for adults. They are a growing center with so much to offer. If you are in Presque Isle be sure and stop in and say hello to the folks there. Dottie and the crew are working on a series of blog posts for meartsed so you can learn more in depth about their programs.
From there I headed north to visit Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Art Teacher Leader and Leadership Team member Theresa Cerceo. First stop, after my hour drive was at the Dr. Levesque Elementary School in Frenchville where Theresa was teaching a science lab. Yes, art integration in action. It wasn’t about the product but about learning by asking questions and experimenting with materials. For example, students were grinding leaves with a little bit of water. Students test scores in math and reading have increased due to the work that ALL teachers are doing during the weekly labs.
From there I headed north again to Wisdom Middle/High School in St. Agatha to visit with the Students Leaders in the Arts Movement (SLAM). It provided the opportunity to talk and listen to the members of SLAM at their own school. We exchanged ideas on the school board presentation they are preparing for. SLAM kicked off the statewide arts education census in December by creating a video inviting principals to submit the survey. It was great to share some of the results – 95% response. So proud of the advocacy work this group is doing. If you are interested in learning more or starting your own SLAM chapter please contact Theresa at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Back to Presque Isle for supper with the MALI Teacher Leaders who planned the workshop I was attending the next day including Sue Beaulier who teaches Art K-12 in Ashland, Josh Bosse (and his lovely wife), Music PK-12 in Madawaska, Leadership Team member, Pam Kinsey, Music K-12 Easton, and Theresa. After supper we stopped into the Wintergreen Arts to see the center filled with 31 adults painting as part of a fundraiser, Sip and Paint.
The next day I headed west for the MALI Mega Workshop at the beautiful Ashland School. Students were in session but you couldn’t tell. The school is laid out beautifully and the rooms are lovely places to work. Thanks Sue for hosting. It was a wonderful day with the following workshops offered:
- Critical Thinking in the Art Room – Sue Beaulier
- Individual Assessments in an Ensemble – Jake Sturtevant, joining electronically
- GT Toolbox: Tools for the GT Classroom – Josh Bosse
- Changing the Way We Think About Special Ed. Students
- Studio Habits of Mind: Planting Seeds Towards Growth and Proficiency in the Arts – Theresa Cerceo
The day was complete with a discussion on PBE to learn where arts teachers in the County are on the continuum. And, two woman from the Partners in the Arts Presentation shared information about the organization and encouraged teachers to apply for grant funding.
Lunch was delicious and the company was wonderful! Congratulations to the MALI Teacher Leaders and to Dave Ouellette from CACE who planned a great professional development opportunities for their colleagues in the County. The drive to the County is far but it is well worth the distance. I learned a great deal and had fun talking with folks about their arts education program. I had never been that far northeast but I must say the trip was so beautiful, especially along Long Lake (ice still on) in St. Agatha. I still need to get to Madawaska – next trip to the County (Josh!).