KATHRYN OLMSTEAD

Artists to ‘Paint the County’ to benefit student art projects

Kathryn Olmstead
John Clarke Russ | BDN
Kathryn Olmstead Buy Photo
Posted Aug. 01, 2013, at 6 p.m.
Paige McHatten shows a painting by Frank Sullivan of Littleton during a previous Presque Isle fresh paint auction as University of Maine at Presque Isle President Donald Zillman seeks bids from the audience.
Courtesy of Aroostook Partners in the Arts
Paige McHatten shows a painting by Frank Sullivan of Littleton during a previous Presque Isle fresh paint auction as University of Maine at Presque Isle President Donald Zillman seeks bids from the audience.
Artist Whitney Graham of Dresden will return to Presque Isle to participate in the Aug. 24 Paint the County event.
Courtesy of Aroostook Partners in the Arts
Artist Whitney Graham of Dresden will return to Presque Isle to participate in the Aug. 24 Paint the County event.

The call is out to artists in Aroostook County and beyond. On Aug. 24, artists will fan out across Aroostook to “Paint the County.”

Sponsored by Aroostook Partners in the Arts, the event involves auctioning off freshly painted artwork to raise funds for arts education projects for students throughout central Aroostook County. Founded in 1991, Aroostook Partners in the Arts works cooperatively with local schools to develop, support and sponsor significant performing arts, visual arts and humanities experiences for schoolchildren and young people in the community.

“Fresh paint events are fantastic, especially ones in The County,” said artist Heather Harvell of Presque Isle, who brought the idea to Aroostook after participating in a similar event at the Fiddlehead Center for the Arts when it was located in New Gloucester.

Originally called “Paint Presque Isle,” the event is now in its sixth year. This is the first year artists have been allowed to choose a spot to paint outside the Presque Isle area. Historic landmarks, architecture, people and favorite places are suggested sites.

“The event has helped launch local artists,” said Dory Smith of Presque Isle, a member of the planning committee, adding that she has purchased several paintings by Bill Duncan of Stockholm at past auctions. “And it is for such a good cause.”

Artists will begin checking in at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 24, at the Northeastland Hotel in Presque Isle and will have until 3 p.m. to complete their paintings. They may use oil, acrylic or watercolor paints in a format no larger than 16 inches by 20 inches. They may begin their works in advance, but must complete them on the day of the event.

Former University of Maine at Presque Isle President Donald Zillman will return to the county to serve as auctioneer for the evening’s art auction — a role he performed for the first several years of the annual event. The auction begins at 7 p.m. with a preview reception at 6 p.m.

Fifteen of the works created during the day will be selected for the live auction and others may be placed in a silent auction, if the artist so chooses. The silent auction also will include sculptures, wood carvings, woven items, jewelry, pottery and photographs.

Artists agree to donate at least 50 percent of the proceeds their works generate to support the Aroostook Partners in the Arts’ mission of enhancing arts education in central Aroostook County schools. Since 2008, the auctions have raised $20,300 for art projects.

Auction proceeds have helped fund Destination Imagination global competitions for Limestone and Presque Isle high school students, Theater at Monmouth productions for Mapleton Elementary School and Caribou High School, and a field trip to the coast of Maine for students from Zippel Elementary School in Presque Isle.

Funds from the Partners have supported theater camp scholarships, writing and poetry workshops, a cappella and jazz workshops, and a music boosters trip to New York City for MSAD 1 students.

Programs at elementary and high schools in Presque Isle, Limestone, Washburn, Mapleton, Easton, Caribou and Ashland in recent years have included dance workshops led by mime artist Karen Montanaro of Casco and African drumming workshops led by Michael Wingfield of Portland.

“It’s hard to put into words what she does with these kids,” said Zippel School fifth-grade teacher Robin Norsworthy, describing the positive effects of Montanaro’s workshops on fifth-graders’ self esteem and comfort “in their own skin” at an awkward time in their lives. “In a few hours, she choreographs a performance presented to the entire school. Every kid is happy, beaming. She is the perfect example of setting the bar high.”

Since Harvell introduced the idea for auctioning off newly painted artwork, the event’s success has grown steadily. Last year, the Partners awarded $6,000 for art programs in schools and has provided $2,900 for projects so far in this year.

“It certainly has grown over the years,” said Smith, recalling the first event had about a dozen items. “We have more artists each year.”

While the range of bids varies from year to year, she said bidders have paid up to $600 for a painting.

“Even if you can’t buy, it’s a nice evening out with wine and hors d’oeuvres,” said Smith.

For information, visit Aroostook Partners in the Arts on Facebook or call Heather at 207-540-1754.

Kathryn Olmstead is a former University of Maine associate dean and associate professor of journalism living in Aroostook County, where she publishes the quarterly magazine Echoes. Her column appears in this space every other Friday. She can be reached at kathryn.olmstead@umit.maine.edu or P.O. Box 626, Caribou, ME 04736.

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