Arts Education Advocacy Day 2017 was a special day… when arts educators brought enthusiastic arts students from every county in the state to set up shop at the exhibit tables in the Hall of Flags and advocate one-on-one with their legislators.
And that was just the beginning! From SAD #33 in northern Aroostook County Charles Michaud’s music students came to provide music, and Theresa Cerceo’s Student Leadership Arts Movement (SLAM!) group demonstrated their strategies for keeping the arts front and center.
A “table-hopping” game of mutual interviews gave the students an excuse to meet each other, and the hall’s grand staircase once again provided the site for a group photo behind the ARRT banner. It also provided the audience space for our new-this-year Open Mic, organized by Maranacook HS art student (and stand-up comic!) Gavin Diou Cass.
Each of those performances was special… students reading their poems, singing and accompanying themselves to songs they had written… and who can forget Mikayla Smith’s impassioned speech about arts education!
At the formal noontime program Acting Commissioner Robert G. Hasson welcomed everyone on behalf of the Department of Education, advocate Mary Hermon urged the students to stay with their arts – and to stay in Maine!… and Argy Nestor read a speech from Julie Richard, director of the Maine Arts Commission. And there were more performances: Emma Campbell’s dance students from Thornton Academy performed (beautifully) a piece with some difficult and lyrical partnering; and we were all so moved by the group of formerly incarcerated youth from Maine Inside Out, whose original theater performance and heartfelt words afterward showed how much power the arts have to transform young lives.
This is an important time for arts education advocacy in Maine. Not only will we soon be learning the results of the Census of arts education in Maine schools, conducted by the Maine Arts Commission; but the ESSA federal regulations requiring a state plan this year and district plans next year are offering arts education advocates important opportunities to make their voices heard. Susan Potters urged everyone gathered at the Statehouse to stay tuned to be part of that advocacy, and encouraged all to visit MAAE’s website, www.maineartsed.org and click on “stay in the loop” in order to receive announcements about it.