The Monson Arts High School Program is underway for the 2023/24 school year! This year we have 7 participating schools , including Greenville, Piscataquis Community, Foxcroft Academy, Penquis Valley, Nokomis, Dexter, and, our newest addition, Corinth Central High.
For our first session on September 19th, we focused on meet and greet and team building activities. Students, teachers, and Monson Arts staff gathered in a circle in chairs and paired off with someone they didn’t know, each person sharing with the other a little about themselves. Then each person had to repeat the story of their partner as it was told to them to reinforce the connection they just made.
This was just the start in a series of creative, collaborative experiences, ranging from creating human sculptures, interacting with a gallery show, and a version of improvised physical and verbal ad libs that required students to let go of any social anxiety. Led by improv artist and dancer Gretchen Berg, these exercises bonded all participants to open up in a safe space.
In session two on Oct 4th, the writers began their lesson talking about the meaning of language and how it can be used in writing. This question created a group discussion where teacher Dawn Potter talked about all the possibilities contained in language while students generated talking points such as symbolism, emotion, interpretation, description, sound, and communication. Dawn used these ideas to further conversation as different students took turns giving their thoughts on the meaning of language.
This was followed by a writing exercise prompt where students used the image of “frostbitten river” and “fog-covered fields”, writing a poem or prose piece to accompany it. Some students read their “blurbs” and Dawn gave improvised feedback to create and further the students ideas for the group. Dawn emphasized the point that the important part was to use the prompt to create the writing experience, and flex the writing muscle.
The visual artists took to the woods behind the Tenney House building where, over one hundred years ago, a hotel overlooking Lake Hebron once stood. Long gone, the foundation remains, surrounded by a stand of trees and underbrush, resplendent with fall colors. Here the artists broke off into small groups or as individuals to start, as their teacher Alan Bray says, “to develop their observation skills and interpret the natural world that we all share.” Students will then turn those observations into paintings over the next couple of classes.
Visual artist students also visited the studio space of a Monson Arts resident, Loretta Violante of New York City, whose work in Monson partially involved picking out various wood forms, stripping them down then repainting and/or applying wood pulp to create colorful and fragile forms. This visit illustrated to the students the direct connection their environmental space can have on their art forms, giving them ideas on how to integrate new types of materials into their creative undertakings. Art students finished their day on Oct 4th drawing small natural objects that were collected while they were outside as well as relics from the old hotel.
This is just the start, we look forward to having more adventures and creative, constructive conversations and activities on the 17th!