Submitted by Kathy Harris-Smedberg, Assistant Superintendent of Schools at Bangor School Department.
Bangor High School Teachers Emilie Throckmorton and Eva Wagner recently collaborated on a unit to connect students with nature. Both visual art and creative writing share a long history of artists being inspired by nature. Wagner and Throckmorton are nature enthusiasts and have a connection with artist eco-artist Mariah Reading, a Bangor High School and Bowdoin College graduate. Their unit culminated with an adventure to Schoodic Point where Reading is the Artist in Residence. Wagner brought her Sculpture class and Throckmorton brought her Creative Writing class.
When Wagner and Throckmorton realized that Reading was chosen to be an artist in residence in Maine, they both thought about what a wonderful opportunity it would be for their students to learn from her. Mariah is positive and energetic and her mere presence would be good for students to absorb. With help from grant writer, Cathleen Neslusan and the Friends of Acadia, the trip became possible.
The day started with a talk with the artist who discussed the reason behind her eco-centered art making. Reading finds trash found in national parks and other protected places and paints bold, colorful realistic landscapes onto them. She then photographs them in front of the landscape so they blend in seamlessly with the environment. Reading has always been inspired by nature but she realized when she was in college that her work was often creating more waste which led to more degradation of the environment. She decided to do something about it and then collected trash and used it as a substrate for her work. Her artwork was so striking and unique that it commanded more and more attention as she shared it on social media. Eventually with 7000 plus followers the art world started paying attention and Mariah got sponsorships.
After Reading’s inspiring and informative talk, the students headed out with their paints, and writing prompts in hand and found a beach to create on. Some students painted, some wrote and others collaborated on an Andy Goldsworthy inspired sculpture. The students seemed awestruck by the thunderous waves and rocky shores. Many had never been to Schoodic Point and some students had never visited the ocean before.
The students responded to the environment, worked together and learned from a contemporary artist that art can make a difference. What was especially important for these students was that Reading had also been a student at Bangor High School, it made her successes seem that much more attainable. A great day was had by all and Throckmorton and Wagner are convinced that students will remember this day for a long time.