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!



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!