June 25, 2018
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Boston artist brings ‘Smart Art’ to Houlton

Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times
Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times
Sandra Donnelly, left, and Russell Stairs are collaborating to offer a youth art project at the Houlton Recreation Department on making robots. The program is a combination of art, math, history and science.
By Joseph Cyr, Houlton Pioneer Times

HOULTON, Maine — For any child who has ever dreamed about creating their very own robot, the Houlton Parks and Recreation Department is offering a new program that is sure to delight.

The Recreation Center will host two “Smart Art” programs for children ages 5 and older. Children will design and create their own robots from recycled cans, pop tabs and other materials.

The program is the brainchild of Sandra Donnelly, a former Boston artist who now resides in Weston.

“The robot class is part of an art program called ‘The Smart Art Program’ I designed in 2012 in Boston,” she said. “It is a merger of science, math and history with the arts. The intent is to work in conjunction with the curriculum of a school system to enhance and propel students’ learning capabilities.”

Donnelly and Russell Stairs will be the instructors for this class, held 3:30-5:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, April 29-May 1.

The instructors will discuss the history of different robots, such as the ones NASA has used on Mars and how others are designed to help doctors in surgeries. Children will learn about modern surgical procedures currently performed by robots under the surveillance of doctor. The hope is to teach and inspire children about different careers.

Upon completion, children will showcase their robots at the Visions Art Studio.

“This program is an out-of-the-box way to teach, since it involves all sensory system and allows for students that experience difficulties learning with the traditional school system curriculum to strive,” Donnelly said. “Having a learning disabled son was my motivation to create such of program. My son struggled so much with the traditional curriculum. I always felt there had to be something more I could do to for students like my son and just students in general. I always felt art was not a luxury but a mind and spiritual necessity. I want to bring back to our communities the importance of arts.

“Today my son who was born with brain damage graduated from college and is currently working as a chef in Boston, all in part to the arts I incorporated throughout his life as well as the support of the schools,” she added. “Both are equally important for self-esteem and academic growth.”

The cost for this program is $25 per child and registration is required. The recreation department accepts any size recycled cans, pop tabs and such for this program. Those items may be dropped off at the Houlton Recreation Department.

A second art program will center on the Apollo 11 space adventure. This is a six-week program and participants will work on a rocket. Once again, Donnelly will incorporate history by talking about the Apollo 11 journey that landed on the moon.

This program will be held 3:30-5:30 p.m. each Wednesday, starting May 7, at the Houlton Recreation Center. The cost for this program is $40 per child.

“My dream is acquire grants to support this art program throughout the Maine school system,” Donnelly said. “I’m a strong believer in this program because I’m a witness of what it can do.”

To register, call the Houlton Parks and Recreation Department at 532-1310 by April 25.


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