Holiday Gifts and Something Wonderful You May Have Missed

It’s that time of year when I’m torn between wanting to cherish every moment and make time for what’s important while feeling the need to hurry through a long list of responsibilities, partly in compensation for the time off for the holidays and partly out of “obligation”.

So in finding the balance, I’m reflecting on what’s going well, and what we’ve accomplished this year. I’m proud of all of the events we’ve brought to northern New Hampshire and proud that we’ve represented our members and expanded the benefits to them. This November’s artist-in-residence was Shamou, a musician, composer and educator originally from Iran, and his message of how we’re all connected and the power of music and drumming really resonated with audiences in Plymouth, Franconia, Conway and beyond.

This Sunday, we’re bringing Not Your Mom’s Musical Theater up from southern New Hampshire, and Littleton is in for a treat. If you didn’t catch these performers in May, you won’t want to miss their new touring show – and if you did catch it, you’ll know why you DEFINITELY want to come see them again! This tour is centered around holiday music featured in or written for musicals, and it’s got some fantastic numbers and their history, including “Turkey Lurkey Time” from Promises, Promises with full choreography, some great tunes you haven’t heard yet, plus some classics like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. Save on advance tickets here, or purchase at the door. The show is at the Littleton Opera House at 3 p.m. this Sunday and will be done by 5 p.m. – we recommend it for ages 10 &  up. Learn more here. We won’t turn anyone away if the price is a hardship! Just pay what you can – or join us as our guest.

Since it’s Giving Tuesday, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the Arts Alliance is greatly appreciative of any and all gifts you can give us today and throughout the year. We’re in the midst of our Annual Fund campaign, and your donations make it possible for us to provide discounted and free arts programming throughout northern New Hampshire. We hope you’ll support your local arts organizations as well as the Arts Alliance this year – and if you prefer, learn about our membership program here. And please don’t hesitate to reach out if you’d like to become a volunteer! We have lots of opportunities throughout the year to get involved, and we’d love to have you.

Thanks for reading. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and have a restful and joyful holiday season!

All the best,




Writing on the Land: Exploring the nature of the place we live with poet Verandah Porche

Wanted to share a quick post – we kicked off our fall residency with poet Verandah Porche yesterday and you can still join us in Bethlehem tonight or in Lincoln tomorrow if you’re interested in a place-based writing workshop for educators or in a (free) community poetry reading & scribe training where you’ll learn to record people’s stories as a “told poem”.

Fascinating method, fascinating poet, and all a part of our beginning efforts to capture northern New Hampshire’s relationship with the land through the arts. We’ll hold a wider community discussion on October 8th (Bethlehem) and 9th (Lincoln) as well, facilitated by North Country Listens.

Join us if you can, and spread the word – and thanks!

p.s. High school students who want to join our new youth arts program can email me or click here to learn more. We’d love to see some high school students trained as scribes too!

Developing Perspective Through the Arts

Perspective – the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance

– Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

 We all have our own perspectives through which we view the world.  Our perspective on any given issue is influenced by our upbringing, our education, the people we encounter, the advantages we’re born with and the stumbling blocks we face as we grow. During adolescence, we begin to consciously develop our own perspectives, as we learn about moral complexity and encounter the often conflicting views of those around us.

The more isolated we are, geographically, economically and socially, the less likely it is that we will be exposed to – and learn from — perspectives different from our own.  Yet this exposure is a critical part of growing up.

At the recent Carsey Institute conference on Coos Youth at White Mountains Community College, a session was dedicated to the importance of out-of-school experiences for young people in Coos County.  The data from the Coos Youth Development Study shows that involvement in structured activities outside of the classroom — from clubs to extended learning classes, outdoor excursions to volunteering — is a key indicator for success beyond high school. This finding seems to me to be directly connected to the importance of diverse experiences as opportunities to gain new perspective.

With this idea in mind, the Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire is launching a new regional youth arts initiative.  The goal of this program is to help students find their voice – and their views. Arts education, as Matt D’Arigo, founder of A Reason to Survive (ARTS) recently put it, is the perfect place to “[help] youth express themselves and to find their voice in creative ways…the art instruction comes secondarily and intrinsically as youth strive to hone their voice by learning a chosen medium and wanting to express themselves.”

Our pilot youth arts project in July was a partnership with “Girls of Summer” in Lincoln. This wonderful program, which brings middle- and high-school girls together to hike, read and write, was broadened this year through an Extended Learning for Youth grant from the NH State Council on the Arts to include time with a photographer, painters, a poet and an eco-artist.

When we interviewed “Girls of Summer” participants on the culminating day of their program, they reflected on the benefit of connecting outdoor experiences with the arts. The resounding theme of their conversations was, in fact, “perspective.” One girl said that photographer John Anderson “gave me new perspective…taking pictures or out in nature,” and another mentioned that each of the “different artists had different perspectives… different views than our teachers had.” A third student talked about how something simple, like a rock, that most people would overlook, could become a really important focal point for an artist — it “made you look at something way different than you would” ordinarily. Each student was able to see the land around her in a different light, framing the world through the perspectives modeled by the artists, combined with her own individual interpretation and flair.

As one participant explained, “One of the big things we learned was how your perspective changes [depending on] what you’re doing. We were accustomed to just hiking and writing. When you’re writing, you’re given a prompt, and then you find your perspective, and what you want to connect that to, whereas in painting you have this much smaller picture: You already have a focus and you’re adding in your characters and other things… And then in photography you’re given this landscape, this big beautiful picture and you slowly start taking things away to come to a much smaller focus — but it turns out to be actually much bigger! So we learned how to look through the world and the woods in these three different perspectives that each of our different teachers and hikes taught us.”

We can all benefit from experiences that offer us a different lens through which to view our surroundings.  Learning through nature and the arts offers youth perspectives – both literal and metaphorical – that expand their horizons and make them think about the world in fresh new ways and share their discoveries through paintings, poems, photographs, sculpture, music, dance, and more. We are excited about offering youth throughout northern New Hampshire the opportunity to learn from respected professional artists and also to provide community service through volunteering for local cultural organizations. I hope you’ll send youth interested in the arts (from Coos and the rest of northern NH) our way to get involved during the upcoming school year.

What opportunities do you see in your own communities? Where do you see the greatest need for youth arts in northern NH?  What partnerships should we pursue?

We’re looking for a few students from each high school in the region, as well as adult advisors, mentors and volunteers. You can contact us at with names, ideas or suggestions, or learn more about the program here.

Note: a version of this post recently appeared in the Coos Networks site. 

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!


Mime Dance and Musical Theater Take Over the North Country!


Perhaps a bit. But I saw two phenomenal school assemblies by Karen Montanaro, and let me tell you, her artform, “mime dance”, and her, are the real deal. Children were on the edge of their seat, staff were mesmerized – I cannot WAIT for her performance tonight. There are plenty of tickets, so come on by – and if your kids (in grades 3-7) want to join, they can come to a 6 pm rehearsal and be in the performance with Karen? Pretty great, right? Learn more here. Littleton Opera House at 7:30 p.m. and it’s for all ages. (She will be in Gorham May 30, so if you can’t make it tonight, it isn’t your last chance! More fun stuff to be announced.)

I’m also particularly excited that we’re bringing some lesser-known musical theater to Littleton and Plymouth next week. Not Your Mom’s Musical Theater is just that – a frequent reviewer of NYMMT described them this way,“If you want theatre that’s predictable, safe, familiar, and comfortable, then by all means, stay away from NOT YOUR MOM’S MUSICAL THEATRE. If, however, you like your theatre served up with a big ol’ heapin’ helpin’ of innovation, passion, quirkiness and quality, then get yourself to wherever they happen to be and treat yourself to a feast for the eyes, the ears, the heart and most importantly, the soul.” – Michael J. Curtiss, reviewer for Caught in the Act 

This is a rare chance to see lesser-known musical theater in the North Country, and these actors are stunning – incredibly versatile, fabulous voices – expect to laugh, maybe to cry, and definitely to be entertained. Don’t miss it. Powerful theater to be had! That being said, it’s best for ages 12 & up due to a bit of adult subject matter in a couple of songs. If you like music, you like theater, or you like arts you can’t find anywhere else, this is the place to be. Littleton Opera House at 7:30 p.m. next Saturday, May 10, and in Plymouth at Starr King Fellowship at 2:30 p.m. Enjoy Mother’s Day weekend and combine it with a meal – we’ve got special offers up on our page! Learn more about all of it and get your tickets here.

I am loving northern NH – and particularly loving the opportunity to help bring such amazing acts north. Thank you for spreading the word and supporting what we do – let’s keep doing that and make the arts scene even stronger in the North Country!

p.s. I captured a short but amazing clip of Karen (and the reaction she had on her audience) yesterday – I posted it today on the Arts Alliance of Northern NH Facebook page. Check it out!


Arts in the Schools Month, Or, A Crazy and Awesome Time For Arts in Northern NH

March is Music in the Schools/Arts in Education/Youth Arts month – and what an incredible month it’s been! The Arts Alliance (and I) have been extremely busy – and so have our schools! Here are some of the wonderful projects I’ve gotten to be a part of this month.

  • Arts in Early Learning: Where the Wild Things Are – What an incredible conference this is to be a part of! After two great sessions last fall, we continued our work through our contract with the Kennedy Center, with events in Berlin and Derry. Educators gave high praise for the experience, and we were as always thrilled to work with passionate, dedicated early learning educators who seek new ways to bring the arts (and through them, effective teaching) into their classrooms. Thanks so much to everyone who joined us! Watch for more of our VSA/Kennedy Center programs this spring.
  • Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem – This residency was an absolute delight, from start to finish. Rani, Andrew, Anand and Scott were a joy to work with in addition to being some of the most talented musicians I’ve ever seen. There is something about their energy and their voices that is incredibly accessible. (And I even got to jam with them – how cool!) They enchanted preschoolers and elders equally. Baby boomers and high-school students equally (but differently!) sang their praise. I’m so thankful I got to be a part of this! The two things I would have liked improved? No snow day on Thursday (the Littleton kids lost their assemblies and we had to cancel a workshop!) and while we had solid attendance at the concerts, I sure wish we’d packed the venues to capacity (maybe next time)! What a gem of a group.
  • Write Now! Conference – Looking forward to attending my first one this weekend – if the weather cooperates, we’ll have 300 teachers from across New England and Canada at the conference!
  • Inkas Wasi – We’re capping off the month with a residency with Inkas Wasi, a group of six South American musicians and dancers who perform the music of the Incas in native costume and with traditional instruments. We’ve got music & dance workshops (for teachers, community members and students) all over the region, with two public concerts — one on Thursday (in Intervale) and one on Friday (in Bethlehem). Join us for a rare glimpse of the music of the Andes in northern New Hampshire!

So, I guess that makes it obvious why I haven’t been posting blog entries as frequently as I should! Thanks for your patience, and for reading. Hope to see you at an Arts Alliance event soon!

Rani and the band performed at the Morrison House for an appreciative audience!

Rani and the band performed at the Morrison House for an appreciative audience!

Snowy Days in Piermont, NH And Beyond!

What a snow-filled week it’s been! I hope you’re staying warm!

Amidst the snowdrifts and chilly temperatures, we’ve been busy at the Arts Alliance. Friday I spent the morning at Piermont Village School, where traditional Andean musician Sergio Espinoza of Inkas Wasi was in residence with workshops and an all-school assembly. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


The students learned about the history, culture, and (their favorite part) music of the people of the Andes, and in the afternoon they enjoyed an assembly full of traditional music and dance.  One of the most fascinating things for the kids was the variety of sizes of Andean flutes – they ranged from one that fits in the palm of your hand to a pair of flutes more than five feet tall that must be used together to play a scale!

We’re planning to bring Sergio back — along with three other musicians and two dancers — for a regional residency this spring, as part of our “Experiencing the World” multicultural programming. In addition to Inkas Wasi, we will be presenting dance, theater, mime, music and poetry residencies this winter and spring with renowned artists from all around New OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEngland.   Get involved by reaching out to me at

I wonder what arts programs you remember from your own childhood – I’d love for you to share! My favorites included poets, inspiring talks –including one about the Gullah people that I especially  loved. I also enjoyed field trips to see theater performances and experience museums.

Finally, we’re always looking for stories about why the arts — and the Arts Alliance! —  are important to you. We’d love to hear from you.           Arts in Education

p.s. If you have a story about rural/small-town America, maybe you should share it with NPR. Learn more here.