“Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.” ~ Ella Fitzgerald
Imagining how a program might evolve is one thing. Finding oneself in the midst of important work is another.
Five years after moving from Boston to Maine and leaving a school headship of 17 years, I’ve landed in, what feels to me like, “the place just right” (Simple Gifts; Elder Joseph; Alfred ME.)
LEAPS of IMAGINATION, founded in 2014, is giving kids the chance to put themselves at the center of some complex art making. They are trying out new mediums and motifs and making intuitive connections between literature, science, and art.
Back in the summer of ’13, when midcoast Maine’s town officials were struggling to balance their budgets, art was the first thing to go. And to give kids more, rather than to accept the notion that they would have less, LEAPS of IMAGINATION was conceived. It was a spontaneous move, meeting with principals, listening to teachers, and keeping my fingers crossed that I could make such a program happen for kids.
Now almost four years later, our team of 6 mentor artists has impacted hundreds of kids in rural Maine, from the island of Vinalhaven to the St. George Peninsula. We’ve collaborated with superb teachers and principals. It is time to express my gratitude.
To our cohort of extraordinary artists, Alexis Iammarino, Susan Beebe, and Sarah Rogers – the core team, and to Cindy McGuirl, Sandy Weisman, and Dee Peppe (who join us when classes are especially large) – I feel privileged to learn from and with you. LEAPS has grown immeasurably because you, as mentors to the kids we teach, keep stretching yourselves in every possible direction. I’m thrilled to welcome our new member, Avis Turner, an artist and educator with vast experience in the classroom and with Reggio Emilia inspired teaching, moving north from Connecticut. She will begin working with LEAPS next fall.
I am indebted to our funders, the Crewe Foundation, Davis Family Foundation, Maine Arts Commission, Maine Community Foundation, Nellie Leaman Taft Foundation, Partners in Island Education, and to two school districts that have supported our work, RSU 13 (Rockland, Cushing, Thomaston, and Owls Head) and St. George.
LEAPS = Real World Issues // Collaboration // Connections
Recognizing that today’s students are connected to their natural world, we work at empowering them as artists and stewards of the earth. They’ve told us outright that they believe that, “Everyone should learn that it’s important to take care of the environment when they’re kids!” Many of our programs this year have made nature the context for creating – and kids have inspired us to pursue that topic again next year.
LEAPS’ kids are learning to collaborate as young people and getting practice for later in life. Engaging them in consensus building as members of a project team, we’ve seen them develop shared ideas, run into occasional struggles as partners, and open their hearts to the realization that they have the power to create something from scratch!
For me, and I expect for children too, being connected to a team of mentor artists who are full of the same excitement that we hope to generate in kids, is about as invigorating as it gets. Here is a big thank you to all of you who are part of the LEAPS community – who believe that art can launch children into a world they may never have imagined.
With warm wishes for a summer full of investigation and creative thinking, Nancy Harris Frohlich