If anyone doubted that students who love the arts aren’t a joyous and dedicated bunch, they needed only to stop in at Thursday’s Arts Education Advocacy Day at the State House. Over 200 students of mostly high school age, but also younger, brought their enthusiasm and energy to the Statehouse. The students – brought by teachers, parents and chaperones and in some cases community arts organizations – came from every county in the state and in some cases every senate and house district, to speak about their passion for the arts with their legislators. They held up signs with their legislators’ names on them to connect with them in the third floor hallway…
and connect they did!
… and with Representative Stanley Short.
Some groups were even shown into the Chambers themselves –
One group was shown into Senate President Michael Thibodeau’s office.
The Hall of Flags itself, full of students, student art, and exhibits from arts organizations, never looked more beautiful.
County signs made by the Westbrook High School art team led by Deb Bickford served not only to define the exhibits, but were great for a photo shoot of each county’s delegation.
Tarah Waters, photographer and Eastport Arts Center Fellow, said on Facebook: “Celebrating Arts Education at the Maine state house. Representing Washington County with 4 brilliant students and art work from all over the county. Feeling a great vibe here today!!”
Kristy Cyr: “Hannah Peacock and Makaila Bailey representing Somerset County at the Maine Arts in Education Advocacy Day!”
A jazz combo from SAD 4, directed by teacher Paavo Carey, set a festive mood.
Once all the students returned from their meetings, teaching artist Katenia Keller led the whole group in a mass dance workshop.
Then the students cheerfully squeezed onto the broad main staircase for a group photo shoot, behind the colorful banner that had been created by ARRT, the Artist Rapid Response Team, for this occasion, with MAAE’s mission emblazoned on it: “All the Arts for All Maine Students!”
The students stayed on the staircase to watch a reading of original poems by a student group from Edward Little High School in Auburn.
The Auburn students also posted a photo of themselves outside the State House!
After the legislators themselves came downstairs a formal program included remarks by Acting Commissioner of the Department of Education, William Beardsley; Maine Arts Commission Arts Education Director, Argy Nestor; Farnsworth Museum Education Director, Roger Dell; Maine Resilience Building Network Co-facilitator, Sue Mackey Andrews; and Arts Education Program Manager at Americans for the Arts, Jeff Poulin.
There were also student performances: by the Biddeford Intermediate School Select Chorus, conducted by Andrea Wollstadt;
by a Bangor High School English class, working with teaching artist Katenia Keller, which had choreographed a dance collaboratively;
and by SLAM! a group of students from SAD 33 in Aroostook County advised by Theresa Cerceo, which performed an art advocacy group speaking piece.
It was a full day! But this Advocacy Day’s significance as a day of firsts was in the students themselves… not only in their sheer number (a first for the State House), but also as a statewide gathering of students involved in all art forms – visual art, music, dance, theater and poetry – meeting each other and feeling empowered. So this day was a first, but it wasn’t the last! We hope to have more opportunities like this one – stay tuned!