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, 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!