Posts Tagged ‘Martha Piscuskas’

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Teaching Artists Residencies During Covid

February 20, 2021

Possible and yes, happening!

In December 2020 Martha Piscuskas, director of Arts Education at the Maine Arts Commission (MAC), moderated a discussion with teaching artists and a middle schooler called School Arts Residencies During COVID? Yes We Can! Included in the discussion were teaching artists: Bridget Matros, Alicia Phelps, Tim Christensen, and Dana Lagawiec with student Theo Forcier, Mt. Ararat Middle School. They discussed keys to success for remote school artist residencies and what they’re doing during the pandemic to further connections and learning opportunities for Maine learners.

The webinar was recorded and archived on YouTube and can be viewed below. The video opens with Martha sharing a land acknowledgment. Bridget Matros (starts at 4:30) is the Kids & Family Outreach Manager at Waterfall Arts and she is in the middle of a residency in Brunswick provided by the well established Arts Are Elementary program. She shares the set up in how she is teaching multiple learners in more than one space at one time. Alicia Phelps (starts at 12:00) teaches piano and voice and is Director of Community Partnerships and Special Programs at the community music center in Yarmouth, 317 Main. She is a recipient of a MAC grant. Tim is a ceramic artist (starts at 22:00) and became a Teaching Artist Leader with MAC’s Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) in Phase 6, 2016-17. Dana (starts at 31:15) does creative theater and became a Teaching Artist Leader with MALI Phase 7, 2017-18. The session finishes with circus artist MALI Phase 6, 2016-17 MALI Teaching Artist Brigid Rankowski monitoring questions. During the summer of 2020 MALI transformed into Maine Arts Education Partners in Leadership (MAEPL). Tim, Dana, Bridget, and Brigid are on the Maine Arts Commission Teaching Artist Roster.

RESOURCES FROM THE WEBINAR

MAC has the following education specific grants available with a deadline of April 1, 2021. Learn more by clicking on the grant title. Arts LearningCreative AgingDance Education. If you have any questions please contact Martha at Martha.Piscuskas@maine.gov.

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Arts Education Advocacy Day

February 16, 2021

Don’t miss it!

REGISTER HERE TO PARTICIPATE

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MALI Becomes MAEPL

December 8, 2020

Teacher Network Rebrands its Commitment to Arts Education

The Teacher Leader network known as MALI, or Maine Arts Leadership Initiative, has taken on the new mantle of MAEPL, Maine Arts Education Partners in Leadership, with the revised mission to develop and promote high quality arts education for all.” Leaders of MAEPL say the new name and mission statement better encapsulates what this community of arts educators has been and will continue to be. The process evolved as a result of bringing in new staff and expanding the organization’s leadership structure. Jake Sturtevant, music educator at Falmouth High School, longtime MALI member and Chair of the MAEPL Vision Team, said, “We are still committed to partnering with each other to be resilient, compassionate, and curious Teacher Leaders for our students and in our communities.”

2014 Summer MALI Institute

MALI, now MAEPL, a program of the Maine Arts Commission, is a unique teacher leader development program specifically for preK-12 visual and performing arts (VPA) educators from across the state, one of the very few in the country.  Led by active educators, they focus on the emerging needs of the field.  Components of the year-long program for both classroom teachers and teaching artists in all arts disciplines include community-building, an annual Individualized Professional Development Plan, structured mutual accountability, and leadership development. Over 120 Maine VPA teachers, as well as teaching artists, have participated in the last ten years.  

Even before the pandemic, teachers of the arts often felt isolated.  School district-level trainings are often geared towards general or “core” subject teachers.  “I’m only one of two in my district teaching elementary music.  We are in our little islands, far from anyone else doing what we do,” said Kate Smith, 2014 York County Teacher of the Year and MAEPL Program Team Leader.  “MALI changed all that.” 

Pamela Kinsey, Lori Spruce, Kate Smith, Pam Chernesky, Julie Richard, Winter Retreat 2020

This past year the group took a deep dive into their own organizational structure, assessing and clarifying their policies and processes. Even through the pandemic, the Leadership Teams met and solicited input from the entire membership, and determined a new name, a refined mission, and a new logo. “We chose the whirling maple seed pod as our new symbol because we felt it reflected the best of what we do – taking new ideas, learning and sharing together, then planting them throughout our school communities,” said Jennie Driscoll, visual art educator at Brunswick High School and Vision Team member. “It’s got our energy.”  

In 2020 they also delivered a virtual Summer Institute to 50 VPA educators, addressing the social and emotional resiliency needed this year. In addition, many members led efforts to support and connect with other teachers quickly adjusting to online instruction, leading virtual seminars through the Maine Department of Education and the Maine Arts Commission.

Group exercise at Winter Retreat, 2020

 “MALI grew a wealth of resources and committed members over the years,” said the current Director of Arts Education for the Maine Arts Commission, Martha Piscuskas, referring to the online Resource Bank and Arts Assessment Resources website, available free to all teachers. “We wanted to build on those strengths.” In addition to the professional development programs, next steps include creating an advisory council, streamlining their web presence, and continued advocacy for the sector. 

The group formed in 2010 to focus on student assessments, an emerging need for visual and performing arts teachers at that time. After learning from other states, a small group of educators led by Argy Nestor, the former Director of Arts Education at the Commission, Rob Westerberg, Choral Director at York High School, and Catherine Ring, former school administrator and art teacher, created the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative. They established the multi-day Summer Institute, sharing a framework and best practices for successful arts assessment in the classroom. “We quickly became the assessment experts in our schools,” said Sturtevant. 

Hope Lord and Adele Drake, MALI Summer Institute 2017

In 2015 the group added “teacher voice” and advocacy to their mission, becoming the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI), again addressing emerging needs of the sector. “I never would have thought to seek out leadership positions, continue my graduate studies, or have presented at conferences without the support and influence of MALI,” said Iva Damon, visual art teacher and Humanities Department Head at Leavitt Area High School.    

For more information about MAEPL, and to learn about how to get involved, contact Director of Arts Education for the Maine Arts Commission, Martha Piscuskas at martha.piscuskas@maine.gov. Arts education resources developed over the years are accessible through the Maine Arts Commission’s website, https://mainearts.maine.gov/pages/programs/maai.

The Maine Arts Commission is a state agency supporting artists, arts organizations, educators, policy makers, and community developers to advance the arts in Maine since 1966.  www.Mainearts.com


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NH Arts Ed Conference

November 27, 2019

Culturally Responsive Leadership

Martha Piscuskas

Recently Martha Piscuskas, Interim Director of Arts Education at the Maine Arts Commission attuned the New Hampshire Arts Education conference. The theme was Culturally Responsive Leadership. There were great discussions and learnings on how to create more inclusive  creative spaces, for educators and the young artists we mentor.

Martha returned with several resources to share – some listed below with Martha’s comments included. Martha suggests that you take a look and consider how to use them in your classroom and/or with policy makers.

If you have any questions please contact Martha at martha.piscuskas@maine.gov.

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Who Are They? Waterfall Arts – Part 2

April 21, 2017

Curating for Community

This is the second of five blog posts in a series about Waterfall Arts, located in Belfast, and are posted April 20-24. This is part of a series called Who Are They? Information is provided for the Maine Arts Ed blog readers to learn about community organizations and institutions that provide educational opportunities in the arts. You will learn that they are partnering with other organizations and schools to extend learning opportunities, not supplant.

Waterfall Arts (WA) was founded in 2000 on a rustic site in Montville by a group of local artists. Seventeen years later now located in a repurposed old schoolhouse in Belfast, WA is a vibrant midcoast arts hub with over 6000 visitors per year, still committed to its mission “to create community in harmony with nature through the transformative power of the arts.” WA offers resources to artists and arts enthusiasts of all ages, including classes, exhibitions, events, open media-specific studios (clay, print, and photography), free/sliding scale arts after-school programs for 4th-12th graders, public art projects, long-term studio space, and short-term rental facilities. As the co-founders and those involved are dedicated to an accessible, environmentally-sustainable center, they have embarked on a campaign to transform their old building into a model of creative energy efficiency and ADA-compliance.  Waterfall Arts is located at 265 High Street in Belfast. Website: http://waterfallarts.org, contact: info@waterfallarts.org or call 207.338.2222. This is the second of five on Waterfall Arts.

Waterfall Arts, Belfast

In the early days of Waterfall Arts, we were all volunteers running summer classes in a collection of rustic buildings and tents in rural Montville, Waldo County. All exhibits were pop-up, day-of, showing teachers’ and students’ work, often together. We were all about just getting the work out there. Prints, glass beads, earthmounds, dances performed under waterfalls, drawings and paintings, clay pots, floating burning boats.

Today, we annually exhibit about 200 artists of the highest caliber, and the variety is as eclectic and interesting as ever. Now in Belfast year-round, we plan two years out for our two exhibition spaces. We show work of artists near (in the building) and far (Japanese photographer Koichiro Kurita) and of all ages, from life-long painter Harold Garde at age 90 to 4-year-old Eliot Bee Andrews and her fairy sculptures.

Our curating process is by committee, with different staff or volunteers taking the lead.

Every spring two open (non-curated) community shows bring in work from all over: in March, the Young Artists’ Gallery Takeover exhibit features hundreds of works by Waldo County artists under age 18. In April, the Open Call show has attracted as many as 200 artists from all over the US. Themes have included the all-cardboard creations, works of exactly one square foot, Earth, and printmaking (celebrating our new print studio). These shows fill both the three-floor Corridor Gallery and the 725 sq ft Clifford Gallery.

True to our roots, we still like to show work outside — on the lawn, on the building, in the town.  We’ve made murals and chalk drawings, projected video onto the building from an old car parked on the lawn, and installed stone and metal sculpture.  Grants help drive some projects, such as our permanent Willow Dome on the front lawn and the seasonal Living Wall, a vertical garden on the south wall designed, cared for, and installed by students from partnering schools.

Some exhibitions are developed from scratch, in-house — usually long-term projects that require external funding and sometimes a large crew. The show “David McLaughlin: The Art of Salvage” was two years in the making. David, who had recently passed away, owned an entire cannery as his live/work environment, filling every nook and cranny with metal and salvaged objects. With his heirs, we reached out to find and catalogue the assemblaged and metal sculpture of this talented and beloved local metalworker. We also received permission to disassemble a small entryway, and then precisely reassembled it in the Clifford Gallery with all its contents, including several tons of metal tools. Large photographs of the cannery, as well as another built environment, graced the gallery to augment and highlight the sculpture. One visitor commented that it was “as good as a Smithsonian exhibit.”

Artists, teachers or friends sometimes propose a show; if the committee gives a green light, we’ll collaborate and curate together. In 2015, we worked with Waging Peace/Maine to bring together two well-known painters — Rob Shetterly (“Americans Who Tell the Truth” series) and Alan Magee (allegorical war-torn figures) — for a powerful exhibition, an artist talk broadcast on community radio, and well-attended workshops with national peace activist Paul Chappell.

And then there’s luck. Sometimes when you pick up the phone and call a famous artist, like Arthur Ganson, they say yes. The exhibition of his kinetic sculpture was one of the most visited and interactive we’ve ever had.

Waterfall Arts seeks to present work that is topical and community-minded, that emphasizes the rich artistic talent here in Maine while also introducing new or national voices, that provokes discussion, raises awareness of the creative process and provides a glimpse into the mind of today’s artist in a challenging world. While art sales matter, they are not a major curatorial factor —  inquiry and freshness are.

We’ve learned on the fly, had help from amazing artists both in shows and on our committee, and, without fail, are inspired with every new show.

This post was written by Martha Piscuskas, Waterfall Arts Director of Programming. Martha is one of the founders and longtime volunteers of the organization. She has 25 years of non-profit management experience, having worked for or directed numerous progressive organizations in Maine. Along with her four siblings, Martha is also an artist, making interactive installations and community performances. She holds a BA in Cultural Anthropology from Wesleyan University, and a BFA from the Maine College of Art. Martha can be reached at martha@waterfallarts.org.

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