Posts Tagged ‘Mount Desert Island’


Interview with Carol Shutt

February 20, 2018

Maine Community Foundation

Recently Carl Little, communication director, from the Maine Community Foundation sent me a link to this wonderful blog post about art educator Carol Shutt. Many of you know Carol from Haystack and the fall Maine Art Education conference. With Carl’s permission I am reposting it. The original is found at THIS LINK.

Carol Shutt has been the K-8 art teacher at Mount Desert Elementary School in Northeast Harbor for the past 27 years. Over the years Shutt successfully applied for several Vincent Astor Incentive Awards from the Maine Community Foundation. In an interview in her classroom this past December, Shutt talked about her life in art and teaching and benefits of the Astor grants and art education.

How did you end up in Maine?

I was born in California, in a small town outside of Los Angeles. I grew up there and then left for college. I started at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, and ended up at Syracuse University, which is what brought me east. I graduated in fine arts.

When I moved to Maine, I first was a self-employed craft person because after college I had worked for three years in a really nice craft gallery in Philadelphia, the Works Gallery, run by Rick and Ruth Snyderman. When I came to Downeast Maine in the mid-1970s, there were no galleries so I started making quilts, my own designs, many of them using Amish colors. I did that for about 12 years. And then I became a teacher.

Although my father had been a teacher, I didn’t really think that was going to be my path. I took a temporary position in Steuben and started getting my courses together. After one year at Steuben, I got the job here [at Mount Desert Elementary School]. That was 1991. So this is my 27th year. I retire at the end of this school year.

I think being a K-8 art teacher requires a diverse skill set. Kids surprise you, they do amazing things. The art-making can be the pretext for socializing. This is the class where they can talk while they work.

Can you say something about the importance of art education?

We’re lucky this school and this island are very supportive. And you see how much [art] enriches lives. It’s such a holistic way of learning. You’re maybe getting ideas for imagery from an experience or feeling, but you also get stuck and have to problem solve.

Learning to think critically and creatively is so important. You might just brainstorm ideas. Or you might say, like I did, consider putting two dissimilar images together because that could be more exciting than just one that you might expect. So I feel like in all the arts you’re putting ideas together in new ways and going “Hah! I just thought of this.”

Art is a way to reach all students. I do some one-on-one work with students. It’s kind of amazing what you can do through the arts that you can’t do verbally, in other modalities. It’s powerful. Music is powerful. Dance is powerful.

And it’s also so experiential. It’s amazing how if you just jump in and you’re doing it, it’s so authentic.

In your 27 years at Mount Desert Elementary, you received 10 Astor Incentive Awards. What did they allow you to do?

It’s an amazing benefit for the staff at this school, at the Northeast Harbor Library and the Mount Desert Island High School. It’s amazing to me because the whole goal is to encourage teachers to do things that are self-enriching, with the premise that they will make you a better teacher. They really aren’t looking for people to apply and go take a methods course or go to a conference on curriculum. We already do that; it’s part of the professional development of the school.

The first few Astor grants I received in the 1990s allowed me to study with artists I really like. I studied with Rebecca Cuming, a wonderful artist from Southwest Harbor who now lives in Colorado. I also did a weeklong workshop with painter Louise Bourne. I love her work. I drove down to her studio in Sedgwick every day.

You have also traveled on Astor grants.

My first travel grant took me to Tuscany; there was a weeklong painting workshop there, two wonderful painters teaching it. Lunch was brought out to the fields and you painted outside. At night we’d critique. It was an enriching artistic experience. When the workshop was over, I traveled with my daughter Sarah to Florence and then to France. We visited Aix-en-Provence, where Cézanne painted, and then Arles and van Gogh. I did a lot of sketching in Provence.

How do think the grants have affected you as an artist and teacher?

I think the grants have made me more of an artist. And they have changed how I work with kids. Being a teacher but being an artist too, I am setting an example. The Astor grants gave me more of an identity: this is who I am, this is the kind of art I like to make.

So I think learning to be an artist and then just deepening what I know and what I do. Most of the grants that I did were art retreats. I went by myself and had a routine of working early in the morning and then going out and walking all day, having experiences and sitting and sketching and then coming back and working. There’s nobody there, nothing to distract you—it’s an amazing way to travel. That kind of experience deepens the way I do things with the kids.

Your last trip was to Cuba, in 2017. What was it like?

It was fascinating. I came home wanting to go back immediately. The people were so friendly. So much music, so much art. At the very end I discovered that they have an amazing ceramic museum in Havana. I had met a ceramic artist and he had a gallery and he told me about it. There are art schools in every province of Cuba and they’re very hard to get into, but if you do, you are really supported, you get all kinds of resources.

What do you plan to do in retirement?

I have an art practice so I look forward to having more time and traveling. My husband, Rocky Mann, is a clay artist so I’ve been preparing a part of our studio and I’ve been working on things that I might like to do in clay. I look forward to exploring.

Look for more about Carol Shutt in the spring edition of Maine Ties, MaineCF’s newsletter.


Another Arts Teachers’ Story: Charlie Johnson

July 24, 2012

This is the 18th in a series of blog posts telling arts teachers’ stories. This series contains a set of questions to provide the opportunity for you to read educators stories and to learn from others.

Charlie Johnson started teaching at Mount Desert Island High School in 2004. He started his career as the first visual art teacher at the Jay School Department in 1973. He is the National Honor Society advisor for 20 students. His courses include Photography, Video, and New Media Arts. Charlie is a teacher leader with the first phase of the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative.

What do you like best about being a art educator?

I discovered my love for art at an early age, while my love for teaching did not develop until I was in college, so there is one interest overlapping another, and they make each day different and exciting for me. Teaching something I love and that I can “do” as well as teach makes my connections with students real and meaningful, not only to them, but to me as well. The “best” part is that I can learn from them and their solutions to problems in art every day, and it’s something I love to experience.

Tell me what you think are three keys to ANY successful arts ed program?

  1. Teachers with passion for teaching and the ability to transfer that passion to students.
  2. Teachers with a strong knowledge of pedagogy and the content they teach and who can share this effectively with students.
  3. Teachers who constantly make the value of ARTS education obvious to everyone in their school from students all the way down to administrators.

Express yourself in many forms and let others see you do that!

What specific way(s) do your assessment practices tie into the success of your program?

Students who are given the opportunities to be successful at many levels through understanding completely how they will be assessed and have had input into that assessment are usually on one hand very satisfied with their work and the processes involved in achievement or, on the other hand, understand why their work was not proficient and understand what they need to do to alter their processes to accomplish proficient work.

The vast majority of my students enjoy the task of making their work mean something and seeing purpose and content applied in their work as expression of their own ideals and thoughts and feelings. It is through the process of discussion, critique and revision that draws them into their work and lends to it an enhanced sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

The “Learning Results” are an excellent structure to have students work within, and as soon as they begin to understand what the structures of the ARTS discipline are, their work begins to improve.

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the arts assessment initiative?

For me personally, it has been similar to earning my Master’s Degree; as intense, but a shorter period of time. Being involved in the ARTS assessment initiative has really helped me to open my mind around education in general and to understand the need for a shift in the way education works. I think ARTS teachers have had it all together as a package for a while, but need to be more reflective and accountable for the important work they do with young people. It has caused me to “read” more concerning the specifics of my profession in general and myself as a teaching artist through books, professional papers, literature and articles/online content concerning the “how to” of methods and software around what I teach. I have “grown” connections to a small, but dedicated group of teachers within my geographical area of Maine, and feel a closer collaboration to teachers from other schools.

What are you most proud of in your career?

Making a difference to my students and what they accomplish in their lives, by far.

What gets in the way of being a better teacher or doing a better job as a teacher?

Nothing, any other answer to that question would simply be an excuse for not being the best you can be. If we are to expect the best from our students, then we need to be able to overcome all kinds of obstacles in our classrooms, from money to obnoxious administrators.

Apple or PC?

There’s a difference? Really, I own an iPhone, iPad and several PCs. The important understanding is around software, not platform. Apple seems to still be a bit more user friendly overall, but more controlling as well.

What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances?

I am fortunate to be working in one of the best ARTS supported schools in Maine, but the pathway to this school required a lot of dedication, hard work, love of craft, and yes, luck!

Look into your crystal ball: what advice would you give to teachers?

Stand up for yourselves, promote our profession as a profession by acting professionally and setting good examples for students at all times.

Do things for your students/school without expecting extra pay, it is much louder than words and will more often be appreciated rather than expected. This also ties into the concept of being professional and of teaching being respected as a profession. Encourage or help colleagues to step up every chance you get.

Technology is about to change the face of education, get on board or get ready for a long cold swim. Don’t succumb to technology, but embrace it, always leaving time for a walk in the woods or along a beach!

If you were given a $500,000.00 to do with whatever you please, what would it be?

I would fund a subsidized living complex for people with mental illness, making it as comfortable and spacious as the money would allow.

Charlie invites you to visit his blog at

Thanks Charlie for telling your story!

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