By Susan Chadwick

Do you remember what you were doing on November 1, 1972? While most people were ditching their hippy look in favor of hot pants and platform shoes, a group of creative and inspired locals, with the assistance of a mini-endowment of $1,145.61, were creating the Youth Arts Program Charitable Trust. Originally it was an informal group that was known then as the Camden Chapter of Young Audiences. Today, it is an organization that raises roughly $22,000 a year, and is run entirely by volunteer parents – working with teachers and artists who have a vested interest in bringing arts to the schools of SAD 28.

What began as a way to connect students and teachers with artists and large performance art, Youth Arts has evolved into an organization that connects the teachers with artists and mediums they would like their students to experience throughout the school year. Teachers use their current curriculum to ensure that the various residencies and performances tie-in to their teaching, and they then submit their proposal ideas to the Youth Arts Program Committee for approval and assistance.

The numerous residencies and performances that Youth Arts has sponsored throughout these past 40 years have ranged from small, grade specific art projects, to filling every seat of the Strom for large-scale performance art. Do you remember when singer/songwriter/recording artist Chuck Kruger did a two-day songwriting workshop at what is now CHRHS? How many can remember the amazing performance of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, performed by the Children’s Theatre of Maine? I bet some of you still have the photo book “Our View” – which was published with funding by Eastman Kodak, and coordinated by the 7th grade team of teachers? As a Youth Arts sponsored project, CRMS 7th graders were given cameras and 24 hours to capture a day in the life of Camden/Rockport locals. The best of the 25,000 photos that were taken that day made it into “Our View”. This project, inspired by teachers, supported by parents, local businesses, residents and the Kodak Center for Creative Imagery, is typical of how Youth Arts collaborates with the local community to make the impossible happen. Youth Arts also partnered with Bay Chamber Concerts for the amazing performance of the world renowned Golden Dragon Chinese Acrobats. Most recently, Youth Arts supported the production of Phantom of the Opera at CHRHS, bringing in professional artists to teach the students costume design, hair & make-up and scenery work.

What is unique about Youth Arts sponsored projects is that they transcend your normal classroom experience and can become permanent installations for current and future students to enjoy for years to come. One needs only to walk into the CRMS cafeteria to see the amazing, 20 foot-long Mosaic Mural that was inspired by Eric Hopkins’ art, and created by more than 200 students and artistic volunteers. Journey into the lobby of CRES and look up to see all of the beautiful, student-made, individually designed FishES that seemingly move with the breeze.

Youth Arts serves to inspire and enrich each student and the entire school community with a variety of dynamic arts experiences. Many of the special arts projects and performances that local children enjoy throughout the school year are not a part of the regular school curriculum. CRMS Art Teacher Kristen Anderson speaks to the value of such an organization:
“Youth Arts allows teachers to do those hands-on projects that they know would greatly enhance their curriculum but are too costly, time consuming or large scale to do alone. I feel so fortunate to know that I have this dedicated group of people to call upon to make the unimaginable happen in my classroom!”
Even during these challenging financial times, Youth Arts has been able to continue providing funding for the arts in large part because of generous donations from the general public, and from our annual fundraiser(s). To celebrate our 40 years in the community, Youth Arts is holding their Annual Auction and 10by10 Art Sale Saturday, November 3, 2012 at High Mountain Hall. Doors open at 6 P.M., and tickets ($40/individual; $65/couple) can be purchased by calling 207-975-2298, or email Teresa Curtis at Items to be auctioned include but are not limited to: an iPad, Camden Yacht Club sailing camp, River Run Camp 1 week camp session, Eric Hopkins Signed poster, YMCA Gift Certificate, and Amy Wilton Photo Session. The 10by10 Art Sale includes art work by the following artists: Julie Richard Crane, Jeanne Dawson, Susan Dowley, Doreen Dufour, Jackie Dunham, Ingrid Ellison, Ronald Frontin, Phillipe Guillerm, Barbara Jackson, Rebecca Johnson, Russell Kahn, Jean Kigel, Annadeene Konesni Fowler, and Jamie Waterman. These 10by10 pieces can be viewed ahead of time, rotating from the Farnsworth, to the Rockport Public Library and finally in the window of the Camden Town Office. Check our website for additional information and images:
Please help Youth Arts continue its legacy in this community! Here’s to another 40 years – look for our 80th anniversary article in 2052!