Exploring Arts & Nature in Northern New Hampshire

Although I may not have been able to articulate it six months ago, I think one of the areas in which the Arts Alliance most distinguishes itself is environmental arts. Between showings of the documentary “Mother Nature’s Child”, workshops on Environmental Literacy & the Arts (where lessons included the creation of nature journals and discussions addressed ways to develop writing and other curricula with students in an outdoor learning environment), and of course the White Mountain National Forest Artist in Residence summer program, I’ve gotten to learn about and experience the power — and natural fit — of arts in nature in myriad ways since I began my work with the Arts Alliance last fall.

Living where I do in Franconia, I am closer to – and more in dialogue with – nature than I’ve ever been. As a kid, I felt connected to the outdoors, spending entire days in the woods by my suburban home, communing with caterpillars and writing journal entries and stories by the light of the sun filtering through the trees. Now I am constantly bombarded by new experiences in the North Country. From starting my car at -8 degrees, to walking across the street to go for a hike and a picnic by a waterfall, to seeing my first moose cross the road by my apartment, to standing in our driveway, surrounded by fields and fields of fireflies — we are so lucky to have these incredible nature-based experiences at our fingertips. Not to mention that while I could see lots of stars growing up, the skies here definitely have suburban New Hampshire beat!

It’s no wonder that artists have been coming up here to capture the beauty of our area throughout the past two centuries. We of course continue the tradition with our White Mountain National Forest Artist in Residence – Susie O’Keeffe is this year’s artist, and I can’t wait to see what insights come from her time in the Wilderness! She’s an artist of many talents and interests, and her main area of study explores the power and importance of spending time with and in nature – a good bit of therapy for all of us! You can learn more about her here.

This summer, we kick off a new youth arts program at the Arts Alliance of Northern NH. We’ve wanted to do this for a while: the goal is to give high school students interested in the arts a place where they can meet other young people from around northern NH, get hands-on opportunities working with professional artists of all types and become more connected to the arts organizations in the region. We anticipate that volunteer options, job shadowing and lots of leadership opportunities will come out of this, and we’ll be designing the program with the students themselves.

Why do I mention this here? Well, we’re actually beginning with an arts & the environment program this summer. Students entering grades 9-12 can join us in Bethlehem, where they’ll work with a photographer, a poet, two painters and an eco-artist and curator. By the end of the program (which starts July 1 and meets over four days in July), they’ll have worked together to create a variety of artwork inspired by the environment – and they’ll have curated their own art show to share with the community. You (and any youth who might be interested) can learn more about it here. I can’t wait! (We’re also partnering with the “Girls of Summer” program in Lincoln, offering participants time with the same artists.)

Do you ever make art in, or inspired by, nature? I’d love for you to leave your comments here. We’re also looking for adults interested in helping us to craft the youth program, so don’t hesitate to reach out on that either. Thanks for reading, and enjoy all of the beauty around you this summer!

 

It’s Giving Tuesday! How Are You Celebrating?

Happy Holidays everyone!

#GivingTuesday may be a new concept, but taking the time to give to causes we care about and people in need is not a new holiday concept.

 Better Christmas Carol

This holiday season, I’m of course especially aware of AANNH’ Arts in Education campaign. We’re in the midst of it now. All of the money we raise during this year’s Annual Appeal goes towards future arts in education programming in the North Country.

Appeal Full Banner

Whether you’re supporting a White Mountain artist-in-residence, bringing a wonderful dancer or visual artist into schools, Annual Appeal 6

or providing a film workshop for high school students, the possibilities and potential for life-changing work are endless.

How are you supporting #GivingTuesday?

My Five Favorite Things about the Arts Alliance of Northern NH (So Far)

Happy Thanksgiving! I am thankful for your support of the arts and of our work here. Safe travels and stay warm this season! I’ve been enjoying getting to know the North Country of NH better. Towns I’ve spent time in so far: Albany, Bethlehem, Conway, Franconia, Freedom, Gorham, Lancaster, Littleton, Plymouth, Shelburne, and more! 

The view at the Environmental Literacy through the Arts workshop at the beautiful Tin Mountain Conservation Center in Albany, NH.

The view at the Environmental Literacy through the Arts workshop at the beautiful Tin Mountain Conservation Center in Albany, NH.

As I’ve now passed the month mark on the job, I thought it would be fun to think about my favorite things about our organization.

My Five Favorite Things About AANNH (So Far):

  1. AANNH is all about the arts – from visual to performing, from traditional crafts to contemporary dance, and from Arts in Health to Arts in Early Learning, AANNH supports and recognizes the arts across the region.
  2. AANNH recognizes the value of education in everything we do in the arts – from professional development to choosing teaching artists and presenters, the role of education is never forgotten. (In fact, the 2013 Annual Fund is dedicated to AANNH’s Arts in Education efforts, and we’re kicking off the campaign today if you’d like to support us!)
  3. AANNH has members in all disciplines, from supporters to artists to arts organizations to local businesses, who unite to support the quality work of the Arts Alliance. (FYI that we are raffling off a print by Jeanette Fournier – anyone who signs up or renews their membership before the end of the year is entered to win!)
  4. AANNH staff and volunteers work tirelessly and are a wonderful, fun, hard-working group I’m honored to be a part of!
  5. “We’re All In This Together” isn’t just the theme of this year’s work at AANNH – it’s also the overwhelming theme when I attend events, workshops, and more. When we hold workshops and have conversations with our peers who are engaged in the same work, it is sustaining and life-affirming. Someone else knows what I am going through! It gives us new resources and new confidence to tackle the challenges when we return to our classrooms, organizations and communities.

So my question to you is obvious – what are your favorite things about AANNH? We love feedback and hope you’ll continue to share your thoughts and your favorite things so that we can do the best work possible and continue to fill the needs you see in your communities.

Oops! Why I Finally “Get” The Arts-Based Classroom

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the arts in education. As a music and theater instructor, I love to teach the arts, and I’ve taught the arts in plenty of preschool and kindergarten settings. But it wasn’t until recently, in my work with AANNH, that I started to get excited about all of the ways that arts permeate good classroom teaching. I didn’t think, for instance, of using a fifth grade classroom as a setting for arts-based learning.  Now, I’m not saying I didn’t know it could happen – but it was never something I articulated,  and much as I love the arts, perhaps an arts-based classroom seemed like a luxury…not something that everyone could afford.

And yet, when I think about it, what sticks out from fifth grade? The autobiography we had to write – which I got WAY too engrossed in. I think the final product is 120+ pages, and yes, I still have it. And our writing journals – I remember a lot of poetry writing and journaling. My poor writing instructor let me write backwards, so you  had to hold it up to a mirror to see it, for many weeks before saying, “Jamie, I just don’t want to have to keep getting out of bed to go hold your journal up to a mirror when I do grading. Sorry.” Or I think of the awesome talent show we had around the holidays, where one of my friends sang a Mariah Carey song and I recited a Robert Frost poem with a puppet.

Or fourth grade? I remember acting out Aesop’s Fables with puppets in a series of songs and skits. And my first money-making venture was in fourth grade, when I made photocopies of my original stories (based on fictional versions of my classmates) and sold them for $1 each on the playground. Memory says I made about $20! (I also wrote a rap to remember the 10 NH counties.)

You might be thinking that the only reason the arts were so memorable in my education is that I am an “arts person”, but it turns out that arts experiences, whether integrated into a class by the classroom teacher or during special events where an artist comes into the classroom, tend to be what we remember most about our education. And some of the “arts” aren’t things we’d commonly recognize that way, so the creativity we often learn through the arts can translate in ways you wouldn’t expect. Arts jobs can include writers, architects, museum curators, graphic designers, translators, engineers and museum technicians and conservators…and of course without creativity, it’s hard to imagine scientists, computer programmers, or all sorts of other fields! And part of what makes educators so effective is their creativity – great teachers know that the “arts”, in all of its forms, make for excellent teaching methods.

So if the most memorable parts of our education generally involved the arts, it’s pretty clear that if you want your students to remember what they learn for the long term, the arts are an integral piece of that puzzle. Some of you probably think this is common sense, but I think a lot of us, including most of society, either aren’t aware of the importance of the arts in classrooms, or are aware of it but haven’t taken the time to articulate it, like I just did. I’ve been preaching the importance of the arts forever, but had I ever sat down and tried to imagine my education without it? Nope.

What would your education have looked like without the arts? I bet we all have a favorite moment or two, probably for every year we were in school, that involved the arts. (I’d love for you to share an anecdote with me in the comments section!) And if by chance for you they really, truly, weren’t a part of your education, how might your experience have been different if a teacher had encouraged you to act out a story, to create a timeline or write a poem?

I think one of the best things about the Arts Alliance is the quality programing it supports. If AANNH is going to hold an event, it will showcase folks who are the best in their field, with the best training and knowledge of the best resources. Not that there aren’t a lot of great organizations in NH, but you really can’t go wrong in attending one of our conferences, at least from what I can see.

They’re inexpensive. They’re thoroughly researched and well-executed, driven by evidence and the latest thinking, combined with experienced instructors with practical knowledge to share. And they’re fun!

So yes, if I was a teacher needing some professional development credit or a few new ideas for my classroom, I wouldn’t hesitate to sign up for something interesting.

Coming Soon:

We’ve got a few awesome events coming up. The first is one of our Arts in Early Learning conferences, and this one focuses on the well-loved book Where The Wild Things Are. You can learn more about it here. And if you need any more convincing on how the arts offer great tools for teaching, check out this inspiring article and/or video.

If incorporating environmental literacy through the arts is more relevant to what you do, our second workshop in this series is coming up on November 18th.

And after that, we’ve got a free workshop on Integrated Arts on November 19th with Trisha Lindberg at 4 p.m. From 3-4, we’re having a meetup for anyone interested in the NH Arts Learning Network – please stop by and meet me!

So between that and a bunch of networking events to spread the word about us and our members, I’ve got a lot on my plate this week, but I’m thrilled to dive in.

Final note? If you’re an Arts Alliance member, on November 13th we’ll be at the Coos County Business Expo. We’ll have a table set up to showcase the programs/services/art/events of our members, so whether you’re in Coos or not, please connect with me ASAP so that we can promote you!

New Beginnings – A Creative Intro to the Arts Alliance of Northern NH

Photo courtesy of Sarah Haskell

Photo courtesy of Sarah Haskell

What a whirlwind of a beginning this has been!

For those of you that haven’t met me yet, I’m Jamie Feinberg, new Program Manager for the Arts Alliance of Northern NH. I’m a musician, theater practitioner (most notably I founded Not Your Mom’s Musical Theater in 2010) and lover of the arts and New Hampshire in general. I also have a background in office and arts administration, and I’m especially interested in how we can use the arts to enhance teaching and strengthen our communities.

This past weekend I had what was probably one of the coolest, most invigorating experiences I’ve ever had – I attended the Arts in Education – Exploring Creativity conference in Freedom, NH. If you’ve never been, it’s two days jam-packed with keynote speakers and workshops covering a variety of subjects that affect teachers, teaching artists, administrators, and anyone working to encourage and make the most of arts-based learning across all disciplines.

I’m sure it was an exciting and even exhausting conference for all of the attendees, but in my case, it was actually my first two days on the job! So on Day One as Program Manager, I basically got introduced to the Who’s Who of artists, educators, teaching artists, and anyone who cares about the arts in New Hampshire…so, yeah. Pretty crazy, right? Once I remembered that 1) I am actually good at learning names when I work really hard at it and 2) arts educators are awesome people, I knew I would have a good time. It was hard work, in many moments,  but it was all so full of joy that it barely felt like work as I directed people, swept the floor, or took photos and videos to share with our Twitter and Facebook followers on the fly and after the event. (#artsallianceNNH if you want to check it out!)

The conference was a great introduction to those who practice and teach the arts in NH (some I knew already or knew of, but most I hadn’t met yet) and to the issues they face (Common Core, budget challenges, educating a rotating group of lawmakers, etc.) both here and nationally in their work. It was absolutely inspiring, and sometimes heartbreaking, to hear the stories and struggles everyone has faced incorporating arts into education. I had confirmation very early on Friday that this was the work I needed to be doing, and I continue to be thankful for the opportunity as I tackle my new position here at the Arts Alliance.

Perhaps most fun for me at the conference was seeing Frumie’s reaction after I greeted Saturday’s keynote speaker, NH Teacher of the Year (and National Finalist) Heidi Welch, with a giant bear hug. (Frumie Selchen is our venerable leader, if her first name didn’t ring any bells!) Heidi was in the first two productions of my theater company, so it was wonderful to catch up with her, but she surprised me as well when she incorporated me into her keynote speech too. I’m so proud of Heidi – the whole thing just goes to show what a small state NH is, where all of our circles are so interconnected.

In the coming weeks, I have a lot of orientation ahead, but I’ll be sharing photos and videos from the conference and hope to hear from some of the attendees about their reflections post-conference. I’d love to hear from you too, either here or via email, jamie@aannh.org. I also look forward to increasing our presence in social media, so I hope you’ll “like” us on Facebook and even follow us on Twitter (I’m @ArtsANNH) to stay up to date and keep us informed of what you’re seeing too. Feel free to send me photos from the conference and even future program ideas as you think of them!

Thanks for stopping by. This weekend is NH Open Doors, so there is a ton of stuff to do – maybe I’ll see you there!