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!

 

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Arts Fairs in NH – Not Just A Passing Fad!

Out and about in New Hampshire this past weekend, it struck me that the “buy local” movement has really picked up steam in our state. While the national trend of mall and big box shopping continues, here in the Granite State there are definitely significant numbers of shoppers who are seeking to make a local impact when they shop for gifts this holiday season. nitelites

A quick stroll through the local papers shows we had more than fifteen local arts markets this past weekend across New Hampshire (downtown Manchester had three different hubs for local arts on Saturday). Incredible! From the usual open hours of the Picker Building in Nashua (a wonderful old mill building with three floors of artists) in the southernmost portion of our state, to church holiday fairs and events, art was everywhere – not to mention activities for kids at tree lighting ceremonies, parades and even the Hobo Railroad in Lincoln! In our region there were productions of the Nutcracker ballet in Bethlehem and Berlin and great holiday concerts. train Christmastrain Christmas

MM bridal fun

How fun is this photo from last year’s Midnight Merriment in Concord?

I myself made a trip down to Midnight Merriment in Concord – shopping local is extra fun when all the businesses are open until midnight, and I made sure to tour the Kimball House Mansion while I was there.

There are just as many opportunities for shopping local this weekend, so don’t fret if you didn’t find time last week! Victorian Christmas in Littleton Friday night should be a blast, and the William Rugh Gallery in Lancaster has a holiday show and sale. You won’t want to miss the WREN Cookie Walk (this Saturday) in Bethlehem; WREN also has a holiday party Thursday evening if you can’t wait that long for some festive fun. The Rey Center in Waterville Valley also hosts its Holiday Fair for a few more weeks.

Let us know what your shop-local, attend-local plans are for this week. Planning to go to events I haven’t heard about yet? I’d love for you to leave a comment here.  We also promote our members’ events on Facebook and Twitter (as well as in our e-calendar), so if you have something to share, please reach out to me at jamie@aannh.org.

I’m hard at work lining up our programming for this winter and spring while working on our Annual Appeal campaign. Know a school in need of arts programming? Have a business looking to support arts in their community? Send them my way!

Stay warm, and have a wonderful week!

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.