Getting Maine Artists into the schools! UMVA Maine Masters’ Report

Ashley Bryan in the schools.
Ashley Bryan in the schools.

 by Richard Kane

Producing films on art and artists has been an ongoing dream fulfilled.  Good for me.  But what about for you?  What about for the school kids of Maine? Or the elderly?  So in the past two years I’ve devoted more of my studio time working on getting these films on Maine artists seen by a larger audience where they could actually have some impact.

Recently I was asked where our films could be seen and I said they’re often in film festivals, on Maine Public TV, in libraries and universities. And I said proudly, “We also have DVDs!” The response was devastating. “How quaint.” Arrgghhh!  Then I spoke with my friend Marianne New, a red jeep-driving nonagenarian (95!) who loves Ashley Bryan’s books and art.  But Marianne told me she couldn’t hear the DVD!  So we’re now getting the films closed-captioned. Next we opened an On Demand Vimeo portal starting with:

Ashley Bryan www.vimeo.com/ondemand/ashleybryan

David Driskell www.vimeo.com/ondemand/driskell

Jon Imber – Imber’s Left Hand www.vimeo.com/ondemand/imber and

M.C. Richards: The Fire Within www.vimeo.com/ondemand/mcrichards.

Just yesterday I was inspired by an email from France asking if we had our film on Carlo Pittore streaming yet.  So I spent a good part of the day posting that film:  www.vimeo.com/ondemand/Carlo

J. Fred Woell will be next.

Perhaps the most important impact we could have will be on the next generation.  With diminishing access to arts learning there is a need to enhance students’ capacity to think creatively and make connections — building blocks in a young person’s development. But our schools’ schedules are so tight they have no room for long form.  So I spoke with the recently retired principal Don Buckingham of Sedgwick who thought short films were a great way to allow for “immediate hands on time in class to create art.”   Would schools pay $1.99 to see these streaming films? Don replied: “I would turn handsprings down the hallway for the art teacher to tell me the cost would be $1.99.” So with Don’s encouragement, I’ve started raising money to edit each episode down to ten minutes.  Any financial help will be so appreciated.

I also had an “Ah ha!” moment while attending the Camden International Film Festival’s Points North Documentary Forum.  “Get a publicist!” the workshop leader said.  Easier said than done.  But through showing Imber’s Left Hand at 25 film festivals, I connected with a Boston Outreach and Audience Engagement Director who has made all the difference!  Marga Varea has opened the door to hundreds of organizations who are now booking screenings.  And I’ve been on several screening/speaking tours around the country with I Know a Man … Ashley Bryan and with our latest film J. Fred Woell: An American Vision.

But I haven’t stopped making films.  Our Yvonne Jacquette project is back on the table as is our project on Rob Shetterly and his Americans Who Tell the Truth. 

A big thanks to Maine’s artist community and the UMVA for all its support of the Maine Masters Project.