News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in The Weekly Packet, May 30, 2013
Arts Festival returns to GSA

by Rich Hewitt

The Lawn Forest has appeared again at George Stevens Academy marking the return of the school’s annual art festival.

The Lawn Forest is one of the many activities students can choose for the week-long festival which kicked off on Tuesday, May 28. While some students started the festival at workshops on topics including guitar, the waltz, the history of rock and roll, water color painting and Chinese calligraphy, others were out on the school’s front lawn decorating trees and limbs with brightly colored fabrics and installing them across the lawn.

The festival has been a fixture at GSA for about 35 years according to art teacher Katie Greene who organizes the event each year. This year, students chose from a selection of about 70 workshops to attend during the course of the festival. Greene stressed that students are not required to attend workshops and many classes continue during the course of the festival.

The festival day is organized into two halves with workshops held during the morning and an assembly, which is open to the public, in the afternoon. The assemblies vary widely. This year they include Oxford style debates between student groups, a dance performance with Alison Chase dancers and GSA student dance students, theater with Brent McCoy, a fashion show and a piano program by Orono native Emily Manzo titled “Hello Chopin.”

According to Green, Manzo provided GSA students with written descriptions of Chopin’s “Preludes” earlier in the year. The students created artworks based on those descriptions and Manzo compiled them in a pdf file. As she performs the “Preludes” the student works will be projected on a screen.

This is the first school where Manzo, who is a graduate student at Columbia University, has used this type of program/performance.

That’s the kind of experience the festival offers, Greene said. It provides the opportunity for students to break out of the traditional classroom model and to learn in a different setting and from different people, Green said.

“Art has a lot to do with discovery,” she said. “Some students are visual learners, some are tactile learners. This is a week for those visual and tactile learners to really learn that way. They’re not all in the classroom all the time during the week, but they are learning a lot in a different way and from different people.”

The festival takes a broad view of art and the workshops cover a variety of topics ranging from auto restoration, chocolate tasting, the art of petanque and culinary arts, to more traditional venues such as music, dance, theater, painting and pottery.

“It’s an opportunity to do more things that don’t usually happen in a high school,” said junior Savannah Leaf. “You’re just able to try something and see if you’re interested. There’s a ton of things available. It’s awesome.”’

The festival draws on the talents of a variety of people, some from away, many local artists including GSA staff members and students, to lead the various workshops. More than occasionally, GSA alumni will return to the campus to lead workshops.

“This is a way to open the doors and let other people come in,” Greene said. “It’s a way to connect the community to the students and the students to the community. It’s an opportunity for them to see art as a part of their life, to see people who are working in their art and to find out how they do what they do.”

Sometimes students make connections for their independent study projects during Arts Festival,

Senior Zak Vogel was one of the students who led a workshop on Tuesday, with fellow student Stephen Salois. This is the third year he has led the Make A Shake workshop in which students learn to make smoothies.

“The first years, everybody wanted to just have chocolate,” he said. “But this year, we had a good budget and we went to TradeWinds and got some fruit and veggies. We made some good smoothies. My goal is just to have some fun and all do something together. The whole point is to learn something and have fun at the same time.”

Some of the workshops are organized off campus, including field trips to museums in Rockland, Searsport and Bar Harbor. Greene said she depends upon help from the parent teachers association and from other community members who open their homes, provide transportation and food for visiting artists.

The festival will continue through Friday, May 31.

Musician George Lirakis

Local musician George Lirakis performs an old Simon & Garfunkle tune Tuesday during a guitar workshop at George Stevens Academy.

Brightly decorated tree limbs at the GSA Arts Festival

Brightly decorated tree limbs sprout from the lawn at George Stevens Academy on Tuesday, May 28, marking the start of the school’s annual Arts Festival.

Students at George Stevens Academy learn the tango

Led by instructor Chuck McKay, students at George Stevens Academy learn the steps of the tango during a workshop on Tuesday, one of the many offered during the high school’s annual Arts Festival.

Photo by Rich Hewitt