Side x Side Slides into Summer

Posted by on Jun 27, 2016 in Art Classes, drawing, pastels, school visits | 1 comment

Working with Side x Side, Portland’s coup in the name of arts integration, has been truly satisfying, as well as a juggle. This spring I visited three schools, East End, Reiche, and Ocean Avenue Elementary, where our Land Forms project had a happy culmination. I attended last week’s Summer Arts Institute at the Portland Museum of Art along with a hearty crowd of teachers on their first day of summer vacation. Now that’s dedication!

Mark Bessire, Director of the PMA, welcomed us and our coffee into the auditorium. He introduced Mayor Ethan Strimling, who supports the arts, telling us that he came from a theater family, and earned a degree at Julliard.

After remarks from USM Provost Jeannine Uzzi and Side x Side Executive Director Beth Wilbur Van Mierlo, we were led through an exercise in Visual Thinking Strategies by the awesome Jenn DePrizio, PMA Director of Learning and Interpretation. So cool, I sketched her later.


The crowd was divided into groups, and mine went directly to a small gallery of landscape paintings. Jenn read us a poem, Peregrination by Billy Collins, and we were asked to imagine a walk into a painting of our choice. I chose Salt Marshes Newburyport Massachusetts by Martin Johnson Heade. We were prompted with the first two words for each line. Are you ready? Here’s mine:

I will skirt the snaking curve of mirrored water

And walk through the knee-deep clover

With this feather of joy dropped from a billowing sky

I will hear birdsong even in the shadows

And seek the skittering sunshine

Until the day is done.

And then, carrying these memories

I will become the salt marsh

Until the ripples vanish

And finally I know myself.

From there, we looked at a John Singer Sargent painting for two minutes, then turned our back on it, writing all the details we noticed. See, it’s all about the noticing. But our next exercise was about embodiment, with Side x Side teaching artist, Gretchen Berg. She gave my group a list of six instructions involving a painting, Icelandic Picnic by Louisa Matthiasdottir. We made a “frozen tableau” with our group of something before the moment of the painting, the actual scene, and something after. Great icebreaker! Here’s a glimpse of another group’s tableau in another gallery.


Next we regrouped in the auditorium where Side x Side teaching artist Laurie Downey led us through a sketching prompt, to draw anything from our pockets or bags after looking at it for a full two minutes. Slow down that looking. She’s been using sketchbooks for students to draw, doodle, make sense of their city. She collects them all and creates murals about place from selected student drawings.

I drew my trusty Ray Bans.


After a delicious lunch break, my group headed to Pamela Moulton’s studio, where  her incredible art kept us company. That’s Pamela on the left, USM student teacher, Hannah Manning, Ocean Avenue second grade teachers, Kelley Nogar and Erin Partridge, Ocean Avenue art teacher, Sally Mitchell, myself, and USM student teacher, Kaczmarek. What a team!


I started us all out with boxes of natural objects to draw. This is Pat’s elegant drawing of a crab part, in which she let the shapes flow diagonally across the page.

The drawing led us into thinking out loud about the next Land Forms project, and we brainstormed a ton. Near the end of our session, Side x Side teaching artists Meg Christie and Geep got us moving with physical theater games. A perfect way to work off all the afternoon snacks that were delivered.


The next morning, we met back at Pamela’s studio with a wee surprise for Erin.


A little celebration was a good kick-off for our sculpting project. I sketched out the shape of the Portland peninsula on a wooden board, and all hands began shaping newspapers into the forms.

We used colored tape and fiber optics to define the forms. A birthday party noise-maker became the Portland Observatory.


We settled down again for drawing, this time with a box of my Terry Ludwig pastels.


Spontaneously there was color heaven. Here’s Kelley’s on the left, and Sally’s on the right, tall vistas of pigment.


Pat (top) and Hannah (bottom) chose the horizontal approach with vivid lushness.


Erin and I had full moons on our minds. Erin’s are the top and right, both dreamy abstractions.


Pamela pulled out her bounty of costumes, as we decided to make a bouncy entrance when presenting our work back at the PMA after lunch.


Hannah is having too much fun.


The first group presented some incredible pop-up books made with collage and paste papers.


Nance Parker’s group had made fantastic ocean animals with paper mache. Check out this gull!


The third grade group drew locations around Portland, and acted out what they did there.


And the last group made films inspired by creative obstacles. Whew!


Bravo Side x Side for another fantastic whirlwind creative blast. See you all this fall with new ideas!


One Comment

  1. Wow! What a great program!

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