Tuesday, February 3, 2015


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This article appeared in the Maine Sunday Telegram on Sunday, February 1, 2015.  Bill is a Maine Arts Commission Fellowship recipient and a champion for the preservation of the art of snowshoe making.

Snowshoe maker has a foothold in Native American
pressherald.com /2015/02/01/snowshoe-maker-has-a-foothold-in-native-american-culture/

By Deirdre Fleming Staff Writer [email protected] | @FlemingPph | 207-791-6452

MILFORD — For a quarter of a century Bill Mackowski traveled from Labrador to the Yukon and the far reaching corners of Quebec, flying his little float plane to remote native Cree and Inuit villages so he could learn traditional Native American snowshoe patterns. The far-flung adventures and hard travel left Mackowski in need of a new hip, ankle and knees, until finally he had to pack up his bush plane and sell it. But at 66, some say Mackowski is just getting started. Bill Mackowski’s personal odyssey has made him one of the foremost authorities on the many complex Native American snowshoe patterns.

His personal odyssey has made him one of the foremost authorities in North America on the many complex Native American snowshoe patterns. And three grants in the past two years from the Maine Arts Commission have allowed Mackowski to begin the next leg of his journey: the work of passing on the knowledge.

“If he were in Japan, Bill Mackowski would be considered a national treasure,” said Stephen Loring, an anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington. “Japan has a wonderful policy of recognizing the artists rather than the objects, recognizing the skills that are important to Japanese culture and the people who preserve them.”

Loring called Mackowski’s trips to the Yukon and the outlying villages of Quebec and Labrador legendary. The Smithsonian anthropologist even called Mackowski a hero.

“He’s picked up a lot of the anthropological research work from the 1920s and 30s and even in the 19th century. He’s done detailed analysis, and he had the smarts to think about talking to the native people about the detail they put into the shoes,” Loring said. “But he’s also just passionate about the symbolism in the snowshoes as well as the craftsmanship.”

Because of his personal quest to preserve a dying art, Mackowski was twice named a Master Artist by the Maine Arts Commission and given three grants totaling $21,000 to continue his work. In addition, this winter the Penobscot Historic Preservation Commission received a grant for $3,200 from the Arts Commission for Mackowski to teach Penobscot women how to make snowshoes.

For decades, his basic, ash-and-nylon snowshoes have been sold across the country. Orders for these classic winter woods shoes come from foresters and game wardens. And they’re sold in outdoor outlets like Orvis.

But Mackowski’s passion is making the “fancy” snowshoe, as he calls it, those snowshoes with the intricate native designs made from deer hide and ash.

“My goal is to eventually bring the art form back to Indian Island, back to where it belongs,” Mackowski said of the Penobscot community, which sits across the Penobscot River from his home in Milford. “In my experience the Penobscot snowshoe design was the best in the world.”

A lifelong guide, trapper and woodsman, Mackowski has fashioned a showroom at his home that looks like a natural-history museum. His workroom could double as an old saw mill, with piles and pieces of ash everywhere, including in the air. Another barn houses part of an ancient snowshoe collection.

But of greatest value to Mackowski is the knowledge he gleaned from artisans he met in Cree and Inuit villages who could teach him a craft that dates back thousands of years.

“Some 50 to 75 years ago these people lived in remote locations in small family groups. They went everywhere with snowshoes. Everyone knew how to build them. It was a life skill like building a fire or making a canoe,” Mackowski said.

“My one regret is I never took any photos. It seemed an imposition.” He would go into remote villages with locals and ask the elders in the tribe how to weave their traditional snowshoe patterns and what those symbolized. These artisans were private people, reticent to share with a stranger. But Mackowski made friends.

“Bill has collected snowshoes from individuals who still use the same pattern and technique that have been used for several hundred years, if not thousands of years,” said snowshoe maker Anthony Jenkinson of North West River, Labrador.  “He has been all over James Bay and Hudson Bay looking for the Cree people. He paid for it all out of his own pocket. And I don’t know where he refueled that little plane.”

When Mackowski started flying into remote villages in the mid-1980s, he had no support from the state or a university. For 25 years his interest in the ancient patterns of snowshoes and the living history that still exists in these places was self-driven and self-funded.

“One of the first things I said when I stepped in a door was that I was a trapper, and have trapped since I was 7,” Mackowski said. “These people all live subsistence lives, so that was an immediate connection. Then when I’d start asking about snowshoes they’d just stare at me. Why was I interested in that? But when we started talking, others in the tribe would drift into the room and listen.”

Mackowski’s devotion to the cultural importance of his craft is why two years ago the Maine Arts Commission gave him a grant to teach an apprentice with the Penobscot Nation.

“Bill is more like a renaissance man,” said Kathleen Mundell, the commission’s programs director. “And the fact he is reintroducing these techniques back into the community where they started, it’s gone full circle. He’s someone who has been a real champion for his art.”

Carol Dana, the Penobscot Nation’s language specialist, said there are no snowshoe makers on Indian Island now. But with Mackowski teaching the dying art, she has hope that will change. “The Penobscot pattern is quite ornate. I don’t remember ever seeing somebody do it, and I’m 62,” Dana said.

Penobscot Nation elementary school teacher John Neptune is Mackowski’s apprentice. He began learning the intricate Penobscot snowshoe design from Mackowski two years ago thanks to the commission’s grant. Now Neptune goes across the river to learn the craft from Mackowski, listen to his stories, and the two men trap together.

“I enjoy hearing his stories just as much as making the snowshoes. That’s how the tradition was (originally) passed on, through stories,” Neptune said. “Listening to Bill reminds me of an old native soul. He is very similar to the native elders.”

Neptune wants to be the individual who brings this lost art back to his tribe before it slips away. Like Dana, he has hope.

“I think it’s something our ancestors took a lot of pride in. Life has peeled away those traditions and cultures,” said Neptune, 43. “To me, I think it is the basic foundation of who we are. And it’s still there but it’s lost. We need to bring it home.”

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Leonard and Renee Minsky Fund for Arts Education Offers Five Grants

Grant Size: Five grants (maximum of $1,000 each)
Application Deadline: January 31

General Information:
Recognizing the important role the arts can play in a school’s curriculum, the donors established this fund to encourage teachers in grades three through five to work with professional artists to bring the arts into the classroom and, in addition, to integrate a variety of art forms into the standard curriculum. The Fund challenges classroom teachers to explore innovative approaches to meet the following basic guidelines:

  • The artist(s) work(s) with the all the students in the grade(s) participating in the project
  • The artist(s) works with all the participating teachers to explore the integration of the arts into the standard curriculum. If agreed upon by the artist and teachers, other interested faculty may also participate.

Each year the Fund will award five grants, up to a maximum of $1,000 each. The application process involves a simple two-page project proposal, which addresses the following: anticipated benefits; timeline and milestones; possible barriers; and a use-of-funds budget. To further simplify the process, application submission and much of the communication will be completed by email.

Grant Guidelines:
Teachers will work with professional artists from the visual and/or performing arts, including but not limited to film, video, and other media, theater arts, music, dance and creative writing. Together, the teacher and artists will design a program in which teachers and students will learn through participating in the art form. The artist will also work with the teachers to develop a curriculum that will incorporate the arts in a meaningful way, helping the school to meet the Maine Learning Results.

Eligibility Requirements:
All public school teachers of grades three through five in Washington County in even years and in Penobscot County in odd years are eligible for consideration. Although not required, teachers of the three grades are encouraged to work collaboratively to present one project, and elementary schools with low enrollments (100 or less students) are encouraged to present one project for the school.

If there is an arts teacher in the relative field involved, that teacher should participate in the design and implementation of the project.

At least 75% of the funds awarded should be budgeted to artist’s fees.

Project Evaluation:
All grant recipients will be required to submit a project evaluation report upon completion of the project. The evaluation will describe how students and teachers have learned from the project, how the arts have been integrated into the curriculum, and how the project has helped the school further the Maine Learning Results.

How To Apply:
The grant application form can be downloaded here. Applications for grants should be forwarded by email to pcleghorn@mainecf.org or by fax to 773-8832.

When To Apply:
Applications must be submitted by 5:00 PM, January 31. Awards will be announced in mid-February. All applicants will receive notice upon receipt of the application and of the committee's final decisions

If you have questions or would like to discuss an idea before submitting a proposal, please feel free to contact Pam Cleghorn in the Portland office via email or by phone at 207/761-2440.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

How to Raise Money: A Free Workshop for Arts Organizations

How to Raise Money: A free Workshop for Arts Organizations Presented by Larry Rubenstein 10:00pm to 4:15pm, February 6, 2014 Wishcamper Center at University of Southern Maine, Bedford Street, Portland, ME

Larry Rubenstein will present a free, day-long workshop for board chairs and executive directors of arts organizations at the University of Southern Maine on February 6, 2014. This workshop, which will provide fundraising guidance, is designed for teams of two people per arts organization: the Executive Director and the Board Chair, or Development Committee Chair. The Executive Director and Board Chair, or Development Committee Chair, must register together. There is a limit for the workshop for 10 organizations, and complete applications will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. Click to register

The workshop will provide participants with the necessary tools to approach potential donors and take the fear out of the “ask.” Specifically, participants will learn the following:

  • How to make the phone call to get an appointment;
  • Where to have the appointment;
  • Who should participate;
  • How do you ask;
  • Follow up and stewardship.

The workshop will be interactive and run from 10:00 am until 4:15 pm, with a break for lunch.

Larry currently serves as President of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine; is on the board of trustees of the Bowdoin International Music Festival (chair of the development committee); is President of the Board of the Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ which is currently finishing a campaign to pay for renovation of this 100 year old landmark instrument and which he is chairing; and as a trustee of the Portland Museum of Art where he is chair of the development committee and led the $11 Million effort for the renovation of the Winslow Homer Studio. Larry has published many articles on fund raising over the years and has received numerous awards including the University Medal and 3 Dean’s awards from Columbia, and the David Ben Gurion Award from Israel Bonds. He also served on the faculty of Rosemont College and the University of Pennsylvania while living in Philadelphia.
Click here to read Larry's full bio

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Maine Arts Organizations Receive $200,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts

The Bowdoin International Music Festival, from Brunswick, received $10,000 through the Challenge America Fast-Track Grant, to support performances and public outreach activities celebrating the Bowdoin International Music Festival's 50th anniversary.

The Camden International Film Festival, from Camden, received $10,000 through the Art Works Grant to support the Camden International Film Festival and the expansion of its educational programs during the festival. The festival consists of more than 70 feature-length and short films from 20 countries.

The Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, from Deer Isle, received $20,000 through the Art Works Grant to support the Open Studio Residency program, a partnership with the Center for Bits and Atoms at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Residencies will be offered to national and international artists working in ceramics, fiber, graphics, glass, iron and wood.

Figures of Speech Theatre, from Freeport, received $10,000 through the Art Works Grant to support the development of a new work "The Little Match Girl Passion." Based on Composer David Lang's Pulitzer Prize-winning re-imagining of the Hans Christian Andersen story as a passion play, the piece will be a visual tapestry of puppets, objects, and shadow/video projections that surround four singers in the chamber production.

Bates College, from Lewiston, received $30,000 through the Art Works Grant to support Cultivating Innovation and Community in Dance, a program of dance artist residencies as part of the annual Bates Dance Festival. The project will bring together leading dance figures, companies, and emerging artists for residencies to connect, create and perform in a collaborative, supportive environment.

The Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, from Madison, received $25,000 through the Art Works Grant to support artist residencies and related activities. Emerging artists will attend a nine-week summer visual arts residency and receive mentorship from established artists.

The Passamaquoddy Tribe, from Perry, received $15,000 through the Art Works Grant to support the museum exhibit "Passamaquoddy Cultural Renewal," a rotating exhibit of Passamaquoddy traditional arts such as quill work, birch bark baskets, wood carving, and sweet grass baskets.

The Portland Maine Symphony Orchestra, from Portland, received $15,000 through the Art Works Grant to support Nine for Ninety: Beethoven and His Infinite Inspiration, a performance project celebrating the orchestra's 90th anniversary season. Under the artistic leadership of Music Director Robert Moody, the orchestra, guest soloists and the Choral Art Society Masterworks Chorus of Portland will perform three of the nine Beethoven symphonies through five concert programs.

Portland Stage Company, from Portland, received $15,000 through the Art Works Grant to support the development and world premiere of "Veils," a new play by Tom Coash. The play tells the story of two students at the American University in Cairo an African-American Muslim student who wears a hijab, and her non-veiled Egyptian roommate who enlists her help in creating a blog debating the growing controversy over various head coverings at the school.

Terra Moto Inc., from Portland, received $20,000 through the Art Works Grant to support All The Way Home. The project will include research, development and implementation of a program utilizing multidisciplinary arts to help military veterans overcome PTSD and suicidal tendencies. Veterans will participate in artist-led workshops in storytelling, performance, photography, writing, visual arts and movement.

The University of Southern Maine, from Portland, received $15,000 through the Art Works Grant to support the orchestration and premiere of "The Summer King" by composer Daniel Sonenberg and librettist Daniel Nester. The opera will explore the life and legacy of baseball catcher Josh Gibson whose skill on the field and perseverance in the Negro League created the momentum for a whole new generation (led by Jackie Robinson) to integrate baseball. The opera will incorporate various musical languages not traditionally associated with opera including stride piano, straight ahead jazz, and Mexican mariachi music. The premiere will be presented by Portland Ovations with music director Steven Osgood.

Cultural Resources, from Rockport, received $15,000 through the Art Works Grant to to support Elder Arts, a series of training workshops for healthcare and social service professionals working with seniors. Folklorists will offer instruction about the role of storytelling in the life review process, as well as techniques for recording these stories. Through the use of a portable recording studio, seniors will have the opportunity to record these stories and have them edited for broadcast and archived for downloading at the Story Bank and Cultural Resources website.

If you would like to learn more about the grant offerings that are available through the National Endowment for the Arts, visit their website today, or contact Kathy Shaw at the Maine Arts Commission, 207-287-2750, kathy.shaw@maine.gov.

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Employment Opportunities at the Maine Arts Commission

Do you want to help further the cultural sector of Maine? If you would like to be a part of decision making on a statewide scale then review the following positions and apply today.

The Maine Arts Commission currently has two open positions, one for a Director of Operations and the other for Director of Communication. The deadlines for applications are January 3 and December 27 respectively.

The Director of Operations will assist the Executive Director in the day-to-day operations of the Maine Arts Commission and will oversee certain program initiatives. The agency is interested in applicants who are deeply and broadly knowledgeable in the arts, with a proven career engagement with arts innovation, engagement with artists and arts organizations and general diplomacy. Development skills are a plus, excellent written and verbal skills are essential. Responsibilities include human resource management, strategic planning implementation, internal fiscal and office management affairs, coordinating agency programs, and acting as liaison with arts organizations, the Maine Arts Commission members, as well as regional, federal and state agencies and commissions. This position entails assistance with human resources generally, demonstrable problem solving skills and a willingness to learn and follow bureaucratic systems. Work is performed under administrative direction. The salary range for this position is $52,478.40 to $72,155.20/annually.

The Communication Director will be responsible for leading a wide range of communications work to promote and improve public, employee and funder understanding of the Maine Arts Commission’s objectives and achievements and of relevant cultural-related issues. This may include, but is not limited to: communications and marketing strategy development, communications program planning and execution, oversee media relations, materials and events; media relations and website management. The salary range for this position is $37,918.40 to $ 51,376.00 annually.

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Friday, November 15, 2013

November 22 Deadline is Approaching; Register Now!

Poetry Out Loud is a fabulous opportunity for high school students! Begun in high schools nationwide in 2006, the program encourages our nation's youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and performance. Poetry Out Loud helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence and learn about their literary heritage.

Poetry Out Loud is organized by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation; it is administered at the state level by the Maine Arts Commission. Schools can now register quickly and easily online by visiting www.MaineArts.com. Please note that Poetry Out Loud can take place in your school anytime between now and January 17, 2014, as the program does not require full class periods and can be completed in just two to three weeks.

As part of the Maine Poetry Out Loud program the students and teachers are invited to attend an after-school poetry workshop that provides a guidance and mentoring opportunity with Maine poets. Teachers who attend receive contact hours.

Please review the following timeline as you consider registering your school:

  • September – November 2013 School Registration (ongoing)
  • November 22, 2013 Last day to register for Poetry Out Loud
  • January 17, 2014 Last day for school-wide competitions
  • January 28, 2014 Southern Regional Workshop
  • January 30, 2014 Northern Regional Workshop
  • February 6, 2014 Southern Regional Regional Finals
  • February 12, 2014 Northern Regional Finals
  • February 26, 2014 Maine State Finals
  • April 28-30, 2014 Poetry Out Loud National Finals

Please visit www.MaineArts.com to find more information about the benefits of Poetry Out Loud and all of the Maine Arts Commission’s educational programming.

If you have questions or would like assistance to register please contact Argy Nestor, Director of Arts Education, Maine Arts Commission, at Argy.Nestor@maine.gov

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Call for Student Art

Presented by the First Lady of Maine, Ann LePage, In partnership with the Maine Arts Commission


The Maine Arts Commission, in partnership with the First Lady of Maine Ann LePage, is issuing a call for student art for inclusion in the Spring 2014 Maine Youth Excellence in Art exhibition at the State Capitol Complex in Augusta. Art teachers from public, private and parochial schools in Maine are invited to submit one piece of two-dimensional artwork that represents artistic excellence from a K-12 student. Selected works will hang in various locations including the State House, Cross Office Building (second floor), the Blaine House and the office of the Maine Arts Commission for approximately four months. Selected artists, their families and submitting teachers will be invited to an opening reception at the Blaine House hosted by the First Lady Ann LePage where they will receive recognition for their artistic achievements.


One piece of 2-D artwork may be submitted per school. Each school should have one designated teacher to submit the chosen artwork for that school. The program will exhibit approximately forty-five student works. Selection will be made on a first come, first served basis per Superintendent Region. Five pieces of work will be accepted from each of the nine Superintendent Regions. The regions are as follows:

  • Aroostook
  • Cumberland County
  • Hancock County
  • Kennebec County
  • Mid Coast
  • Penquis
  • Washington County
  • Western Maine
  • York County

If you are unsure of which region your school is located in, please refer to the directory on the Maine Department of Education website by clicking this link.

As an added element to this year’s showing we would like to collect a statement from each artist. If the child’s work is selected, we will ask the submitting teacher to provide a brief (one sentence) statement/quote from the artist’s work about their thoughts either toward making art in general, or about the specific piece that they are entering. These statements will be printed on each artwork’s label for the public to read. We believe this added element will assist in enlightening the audience about the essential need for art making in providing children with a comprehensive learning experience.

Teachers interested in submitting should e-mail Julie Horn at the Maine Arts Commission with any questions and/or a request to participate in the program. Please use the subject heading “SPRING 2014 MYEA” in your e-mail to Julie at julie.horn@maine.gov. Your confirmation e-mail will include further instructions and all necessary paperwork.


Only two-dimensional artwork will be accepted. Submitted art work must fit the maximum dimension of 18” x 24.” When submitting smaller artwork it has to be mounted on an 18” x 24” mat or poster board. There is a combined maximum thickness of 3/16’’ for artwork and mat together. The artwork can be exhibited vertically or horizontally (please indicate) and will be placed in pre-existing frames. Artwork submitted that does not fulfill these size requirements will be considered ineligible. All artwork must be labeled on the back with the student’s name, school, and grade. Please do not send artwork in cylinders or mailing tubes.


Artwork and paperwork must be received by Friday, December 6, 2013 for consideration in the exhibition.

The Maine Arts Commission reserves the right of final selection and display of all works for this exhibition.The Maine Arts Commission assumes no responsibility for lost or damaged artwork.

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