December 12, 2019

Group raises funds to bring arts to kids

PRESQUE ISLE – After more than a decade of raising funds to bring the arts to local schools, the Aroostook Partners in the Arts is still going strong.

The group, which was created in 1996 and has helped to bring everything from mask-making workshops to African drumming to Aroostook County schools, is forging into its second decade of exposing local students to an enhanced arts education.

Dory Smith, co-chairwoman of the Aroostook Partners in the Arts, said Tuesday that the group was created with the vision of raising funds to help finance arts-theme activities that schools and PTOs could not afford on their own.

“The vision was if we can help raise the funds, if we can help seek out these various artists and musicians and bring them to the schools, that would be a good thing,” Smith said.

Over the years, the group has helped fund many arts activities. A few times it has provided all the funding, but most of the time it works in conjunction with others. For example, when the University of Maine at Presque Isle lines up its schedule of arts events, the Partners many times will pay to have the artists and performers do a workshop in a local school or perform for students.

This past year, Smith said a few of the activities the Partners have helped fund include Karen Montanaro’s visit this spring to Presque Isle. Montanaro, a mime-based in southern Maine, provided workshops to local elementary school pupils. The Partners also helped bring a Shakespeare troupe from Bangor to Presque Isle Middle School where actors did a weeklong residency for seventh-graders taking part in a Renaissance unit.

Right now, the annual Presque Isle Summer Theatre Camp, a brainchild of one of the APA members, is being held. The Partners provides scholarships for the two-week-long camp, directed by Leslee Mahon, which usually sees 20 to 40 students. This year’s show, “Li’l Abner,” will be presented at 7 p.m. June 29 and at 2 and 7 p.m. June 30 at Presque Isle Middle School.

To be able to do all this, group members spend a lot of time raising money. Last year, they brought up Kyra Alex, the author of “Cooking in the Moment” and the owner of Lily’s Cafe in Stonington, and sold tickets for her cooking demonstration at the Nordic Heritage Center. Smith said the group generally raises about $500 to $1,500 when it hosts a fundraising event.

This month, they’re hoping to bring in more funding by hosting during Mapleton Daze a Country-Square-Contra Dance with “The Aroostookats,” a local fiddling family.

“This particular event is going to appeal to a broad variety of people. It’s music that’s lively and reaches everybody,” Smith said. “We’re hoping this kind of event will appeal to students, adults and families, so they can have a fun evening and know that the money they contribute is going to go to arts activities in our schools.”

The dance will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, June 30, at the Mapleton Hall on Main Street. The cost will be $5 for individuals and $12 for families. Tickets may be purchased in advance at the Aroostook Centre Mall or at Crystal Compass Bookstore.

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