The Strategy: Building on Traditions

These two mid-coast communities have built opportunities for young people by keeping alive creative traditions that go back nearly a century. Both communities have opera houses built before the turn of the last century that still host musical and theatrical events throughout the year. Writers as different as the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay and contemporary novelist Richard Russo have enjoyed the tranquility where “the mountains meet the sea.” Since World War II, which drove many European musicians to America, the area has become the summer home of numerous classical musicians and festivals.

Evidence that these traditions continue is everywhere. For just a few examples:
FishES is an extended collaboration between Youth Arts (a local nonprofit supporting arts education), the elementary school staff and students, and community members. In 2009-2010, Youth Arts designed a permanent piece of public art for the two-story entryway of the Camden-Rockport Elementary School. This kinetic sculpture features four large schools of species of North Atlantic fish. The process began with a community building activity in which everyone in the school formed a giant "human fish" in the gym—a performance captured on film by a camera suspended from the ceiling. Throughout the year, during a series of week-long art residencies, each student and many school staff members created a fish to the build the sculpture. Students worked with local artists to create fish that were unique to their class. Sizes and shapes of wooden fish decoys, color palettes, artistic techniques, and materials varied in each grouping. The result is a sea of over 400 fish that envelops, welcomes, and amazes visitors.

Camden Hills High School serves both the community and students from five surrounding towns. By raising both private and public money, the five towns were able to build Strom Auditorium, a state-of-the-art, 826-seat facility serving the midcoast of Maine

The high school faculty offers a remarkable array of arts, crafts, and technical courses. For example, in theater, students can take a performance class, two theater tech courses, or an independent study. In addition, as members of the Strom Auditorium Tech Club, students train to operate the theater’s lighting, sound, and other technical equipment for performances by a wide range of world-class artists, working side-by-side with technical theater professionals.

An innovative partnership with the high school music department allows private music teachers space and time during the school day to provide individual lessons for students in addition to the full music curriculum.

Given the way these arts traditions continue to thrive, it is not surprising that many young people who grew up in Camden-Rockport return to teach in the schools and give back to the arts community that "raised" them. A number of arts professionals who teach in the schools have returned to the region to pass on their investment in imaginative learning and living.

Effective partnerships between schools and community organizations strengthen and broaden educational offerings for students. Examples of these partnerships include:

Bay Chamber Concerts not only provides concerts for students but also offers study guides correlated to the Maine Learning Results, so teachers can prepare students for concerts while connecting to the curriculum.

Camden Public Library staff visit all local schools, bringing books and library cards to the students and provide evening programs for high school students.

Horizons Arts for Gifted and Talented Students, SAD 28 and Five-Town CSD

Camden Rockport Elementary School (CRES)

Camden Rockport Middle School (CRMS)

Camden Hills Regional High School
Bay Chamber Concerts, Camden-Rockport

Youth Arts, Camden-Rockport

Camden Opera House

Camden Public Library

music class
art work
photo class
art work
art room

I stood under the fish mobile in the elementary school and thought, what a perfect analogy. This whole building is swimming with art.  – Alice Bissell, art teacher, North Haven, ME.  Alice’s slideshow of the site visit is at here.

It says a lot about a community’s investment in the arts when its young people go off to college or to work but come back from away to be a part of passing on the arts through the schools or community work. – Carol Trimble, Director, Maine Alliance for Arts Education