Friday, December 30, 2022

WHS art program prepares students for creative futures

By Masha Yurkevich

In today’s world, career options have expanded to just about anything and everything and at Windham High School, the art program is helping students to see their full potential and rise in whatever they choose to do in the art world.

Great Paulding works on a painting during
an art class taught by Jeffrey Bell at
Windham High School. 
The three art teachers at WHS, Joseph McLaughlin, Jeffery Bell and Alisa James, work hard to help their students aim for the stars.

McLaughlin teaches two-dimensional studio art courses, including Painting I and II, Drawing I and II, Printmaking, and Street Art. He also helps students in developing art portfolios and in preparing for college.

As the department head, it is his responsibility for representing the visual and performing arts teachers in school-wide matters. He has been teaching art for 20 years, including nine years at WHS.

“I love working with young artists as they explore new subject matter, techniques, and their own artistic processes,” says McLaughlin. “I really enjoy seeing their life experiences and perspectives expressed through their artwork. Another great part of the job is witnessing them gain confidence and establishing a voice. They also inspire and motivate me in my own artwork.”

Since McLaughlin arrived, the digital art program has flourished under James. There are now two sections of Bell's AP/advanced art instead of one. McLaughlin has also designed a Street Art course which now runs each semester.

Elyzabeth (Libbi) Pike is a senior at WHS and has taken Digital Art I and II as well as Street Art and Advanced Art throughout her high school career. She originally took Digital Art 1 because she needed an art credit, but after taking it, she realized that she genuinely enjoys digital and graphic arts.

“I took Digital Art II since I liked the first class so much and then learning all the new types of stuff in that class is what made me try for Advanced Art,” says Pike. “Since I want to go to art school, I thought Advanced Art would be a good experience for me. As for Street Art, I wanted to do it as a fun, creative element. I wanted to broaden out my artistic abilities.”

James is the Media Arts teacher and teaches Photography I and II, Digital Art and Design I and II and Film Making. Prior to teaching at WHS, James also taught at Sacopee Valley High School for four years as well as teaching Saturday School at the Maine College of Art — a program for high school students, where she taught Photography. All in all, she has taught art for about 15 years, and this is her fifth year at WHS.

“I have not been at WHS for very long, and much of the time has been affected by COVID,” says James. “Windham has always had a strong art program and I am happy to be a part of it! All the changes I have seen, have been continued, amazing growth.”

New equipment

James has added a lot of new equipment to the media program, including a large format printer, DSLRs and Photoshop.

“I love seeing kids realize their own potential. Because I teach an art form that is created using digital media and cameras, many kids who never knew they were artists find their voice,” she says. “That is the best. I love helping students understand how to communicate their own ideas visually.”

James does a practical logo project in her Digital Art and Design II class where students create a logo for someone in the community. The current SACC (Student Aged Child Care) logo was created by one of her students, Libbi Pike, and is the current logo.

Allona Popov has taken a variety of art programs during her high school years, including Painting I, Painting II, Photography, Digital Art, Advanced Art, Photography II, Ceramics II, Printmaking, AP Art.

“At the beginning of my high school career I didn't know what kind of person I was, or what was I good at,” says Popov. “The main question for me was: what classes do I take to get a good and sustainable job after graduation? I began to take different electives and I loved all of the experience that I got from all of those classes, but I never felt like it was something that I would be able to do for the rest of my life.”

In her junior year she decided to take Painting I, and something clicked.

“The atmosphere that Mr. Mclaughlin created in the art room, felt like home,” Popov says. “I was drawn to that room. I felt inspired, open to exploration, free, and supported by my friends. It is such a privilege that we have three art teachers.”

As a senior of WHS now, she continues to take art classes in preparation for what she plans to do in the future.

Bell has been an art teacher at WHS for 36 years and teaches fine arts studio classes that includes sculpture, ceramics, Advanced Art and Advanced Placement Studio Art. In addition to teaching at WHS, he has also been an adjunct teacher at Southern Maine Community College for over 12 years and as of three years ago, left that position to become an adjunct professor at USM where he teaches ceramics year-round.

He also teaches a summer class at USM for young artists called “ArtLab,” where he helps train the art education majors to become art educators.

Class offerings

“I think the art programs have changed quite a bit over the years,” said Bell. “Our class offerings have really expanded through the years, bringing in many new classes to include AP Studio Art, Digital Art, Street Art among many other upper-level offerings like Painting II and Ceramics II. I have also had firsthand experience in hiring some of the most talented and child-centered art teachers in the state who love what they do both as studio artists and teachers, and very committed to inspiring young people to find their passions in life.”

Like the other art teachers, Bell has had students enter many contests in the past. One in particular was through the Maine Region Scholastic Arts Award where one of his students won the Silver Key Medal in the Congressional Art Competition and had their work hung in the Halls of Congress. Another award was given at the Maine Student Film and Video Festival in Waterville when he was teaching the Video Production class. His video students entered and won the Jurors Awards (second place) for best short video.

“I personally think both the visually and performing arts should be at the core of our academics at the high school just like English, Math and Science,” says Bell. “The arts are fundamental to truly learning what it is to be human. It develops our creative and problem-solving abilities, fosters true respect for one another’s uniqueness and gives us a way to process who we are in the world.”

James sees how important their classes are for kids at WHS.

“It gives them a true chance to explore their own identity and skill. It also provides an environment that is void of right and wrong answers.”

All the art classes are 100 percent project based and hands-on; many of the students need that in their day,” she said. “I love teaching an art form that is also a very lucrative profession. I feel that I am helping some students find a career interest. Many of my students go on to be Digital Communications majors or minors and I am seeing a growing interest in kids seeking a creative career.”

McLaughlin’s hope is that students develop art skills as well as interpersonal skills, which will serve them well beyond high school.

“Regarding their artistic processes, I want them to take risks and work outside their comfort zones. I also want them to be able to view and respond to art intelligently,” he says.

For Bell, he wants to get the message across to his students not to accept mediocrity.

“Instead, strive to become loving, accepting and intelligent individuals who want to go out into the world and explore everything they can,” he says. “Life is short and so precious.” <

Wonder into the New Year

By Gail Hamilton
For The Windham Eagle

What better time to talk about wonder than during the holiday season and to start a fresh new year!

Gail Hamilton created a new
driveway for an accessory
apartment to be attached to her
home and a stone wall alongside
it became a functioning piece of art
Where do you feel wonder? Is it when you’re wandering in the woods, enjoying the fresh air and mother nature surrounding you? Is it when you’re welcoming a newborn baby into the world or watching a cat finally come flying out from under a bag to grab a dangling shoelace?

I love that feeling and started noticing what’s shifting in me when I feel that way. Openness. Beingness. Presence to the moment. Innocence really. So now I’m choosing it more deliberately.

Here’s an example of wonder that I’ve found. I live in the woods of Windham and enjoy that nourishing beauty, so when I created a new driveway for an accessory apartment to be attached to my home, it cut sharply into a big banking.

I wanted to heal that disruption in the land, with rocks of course because I love all that granite in my yard, and I stashed all sizes of rock in piles off to the side as the drive was formed through the woods.

What grew is a wonderous functional artwork, self-expression with loved materials. And it grew and it grew, and it grew.

After a sizable chunk of wall had formed, I was really enjoying the wavy shape of the current highest edge, so chose to build in a narrow ledge which I could line with pieces of slate topped with moss, preserving the wonder of that line. About 75 feet later, I had a wall that looked like a riverbed on its side with a beautiful wavy line through it.

What a wonder to see the wholeness.

As this new year dawns upon us, would you resolve with me to see and hear with new eyes and ears and enjoy the wonder of our creation? <

Friday, December 16, 2022

Raymond’s hockey history of dubious distinction

By Ernest H. Knight

In the early days of this century most country towns had hometown baseball teams which gave players and fans the enjoyment of competition. But Raymond and Casco once, for a short while, had a unique sporting activity, though of limited and long forgotten impact, in its “Down East Hockey” teams of the first part of the 20th century.

The depression years of the 1930s were difficult ones for most people, work and wages being minimal with pleasures being limited to inexpensive and spontaneous events. Inspired by “Squire” Hussey of Raymond and recruited from Raymond, Casco, and Windham, 30 or 40 men and older boys were divided, whenever and whoever present, into two groups, for their play.

The central location for these hockey games was Saddlebag Pond, locally called “The Bog,” behind the Horsin’ Around saddlery shop on Route 302. It was a small body of landlocked water which froze early in the fall and was sheltered from wind and weather.

Hockey uniforms were limited to work boots and street clothes, while hockey sticks were fashioned from odd-shaped saplings or branches to suit the maker’s fancy, almost anything could serve as a puck and skates were considered as an unnecessary nuisance.

Organized hockey rules not being known or followed, there was no need to do other than “what came naturally” to afford a good time for all.

Fun on the ice soon expanded to enjoyment for any spectators and rough approximations of teams developed. They picked names for no good reason, such as the “Skowhegan Yokels” and the “Bucksport Pointers.”

While their first motive was for something to do in the winter months, it had escalated in response to public interest into the possibility of fame or fortune, or both. Its unorthodox nature soon caught the attention and imagination of the promoters of professional hockey, then as now with the followers of that sport, as a stimulant to ticket sales, and the teams were off to such places as the Boston Garden in Boston, Massachusetts, and the Municipal Auditorium in Providence, Rhode Island.

Enthusiasm ran wild, and the more ridiculous the antics, the greater the public response. Fallen players sprawled on the ice were unceremoniously dragged off by their heels.

Chasing another player, from one’s own or the other team, with upraised sticks and Indian war whoops, created favorites or scoundrels, especially if one played the giant bully and the other the wimpy shrimp.

Referees were an endangered species with little influence on the players or respect from the crowd, and scoring depended more on subterfuge than skill. A contest typically ended with both players and spectators in a state of exhaustion ready for the relative peace and quiet of the scheduled game of the day or night.

Herman Verrill of Raymond was captain of the Yokels and B. Merrill of Windham captained the Pointers. Players hailing from Raymond included Will, Merton and Donald Foster, Squire Hussey, George Knight, and Leslie Foss. From Casco came Ernest and Bela Edwards, Donald Hanscomb, Mark Leach, and Bill Webb.

Windham supplied Paul Manchester, Charlie Smith, “Big Boy” Wescott, Merrill Frank, Ron Shaw, Hank Emerson, and Eben Lamb.

Travel to their engagements was by auto and train, and some wives went along to protect their menfolk from the hazards of the cities, with some degree of success, and also to enjoy some of the fun themselves.

For the moment the cares of the times could be forgotten in the interlude of enjoyment. Raymond and Casco outlived the flurry, possibly of their names being kept out of the publicity surrounding the teams. Fame, being elusive, did not follow them.

By the start of World War II in 1941, these impromptu hockey teams ceased to exist and the uproar about the games were long forgotten in the Lakes Region. < 

This article was written by the late Ernest H. Knight, one of the founders of the Raymond-Casco Historical Society and contained in his book “Historical Gems of Raymond and Casco.” It was submitted by the Raymond-Casco Historical Society and articles about Raymond history from the historical society will appear regularly in The Windham Eagle newspaper. To find out more about the Raymond-Casco Historical Society, call Frank McDermott at 207-655-4646.

Friday, December 9, 2022

Holiday favorite poinsettias shine through season and beyond

Few plants are as iconic as the poinsettia. The eye-catching blooms are a holiday tradition around the world. But the blooms are not a flower at all, they’re the leaves, or bracts, of the plant.

Red remains the most popular color for poinsettia flowers,
making up about 80 percent of all the poinsettias grown 
internationally. The poinsettia is a traditional holiday
favorite in America. COURTESY PHOTO  
Poinsettias are native to Central America, and in 1825, those stunning red leaves captured the attention of the United States ambassador to Mexico. A century later, the poinsettia was brought to market as a Christmas season plant in the U.S.

Today, red is still the most popular color for poinsettias, making up about 80 percent of all the poinsettias grown. Breeders around the world are developing new varieties that offer more color choices for holiday décor.

But nowadays shoppers can choose from brilliant whites, deep burgundy hues, sparkling pinks and a number of other specialty colors of poinsettias.

“Breeders are also enhancing features that make the plants more enjoyable for everyone,” says Diane Blazek, executive director of National Garden Bureau. “They’re developing varieties that bloom earlier, have longer-lasting blooms and unique bract shapes.”

Here are a few tips for choosing, displaying and caring for this holiday plant.

Choosing your poinsettia

There are a few things to look for when choosing your poinsettia. “Make sure that the small yellow flowers in the center of the bracts (called cyathia — you can use that in your next cocktail party trivia!) are fresh and not turning brown,” says Matt Blanchard, product manager with Syngenta Flowers. Poinsettias with withering or missing center flowers are past their prime.

Next, be sure both the leaves and the bracts look healthy. “The foliage can tell you a lot about the health of your poinsettia,” says Lisa Heredia, marketing and key accounts for Danziger North America. “Look at the lower foliage and make sure the leaves are green and healthy. Check to make sure the overall plant is well hydrated; you don’t want to see any droopy leaves.”

Don’t overwater

Experts agree overwatering is the most common problem when it comes to poinsettia care. “In the typical home, poinsettia only needs water every five to seven days,” says Rebecca Siemonsma, North American product manager for Dummen Orange. “Pick up the pot and if it feels light, then you want to water it.”

The decorative pot covers most varieties are packaged in can add to the problem. They can hold too much water, something poinsettias do not like. Experts recommend punching holes in the bottom of those covers and adding a saucer. Be sure to empty the saucer so the plant is not standing in excess water.

Pairing poinsettia

Beautiful all on their own, poinsettias are also a natural for pairing with other holiday plants. “During the holiday season there is no better way to bring natural color into your décor,” says Delilah Onofrey, marketing director, Suntory Flowers. “Mix them in dish gardens with other greenery such as ferns, and other foliage plants. Pair them with other blooming plants such as cyclamen and orchids. Or, have several of the same color in decorative pots for a tablescape.”

Not poisonous

It is a common belief that poinsettia plants are poisonous. But the fact is, they’re not. An Ohio State University study, conducted in 1971, debunked this myth. Researchers found the plant is not toxic, even in high doses.

Saving the plant for next season

In most areas of the county, poinsettias are considered houseplants. They cannot tolerate temperatures below 50-degrees. If you live in a warmer, more tropical climate, you can plant your poinsettia outside. But, experts agree, it is tough to get them to look as good as they do when you purchase at a garden center. They require very detailed growing conditions. “I am a poinsettia breeder, and I don’t even try this at home,” adds Siemonsma. “I just throw the plant away at the end of the season and buy new next year.”

There really is something for everyone when it comes to poinsettia. “I love the really warm festive feeling you get from the bright beautiful poinsettias on dark December days,” says Sirekit Mol, marketing manager and global head of product trade at Beekenkamp Plants. < (BPT)

A matter of historical record: a rich history but decades in decline, a make-over may finally be underway for South Windham-Little Falls

By Walter Lunt

It’s been obvious for a long time that South Windham village was in need of more opportunities and a serious face lift, more specifically, new life, vigor and well-balanced growth. A new progressive and rehabilitated look may be in the offing over the next five to 10 years, fueled by a planning process now in the works called the Little Falls-South Windham Villages Master Plan, a collaborative effort between the towns of Windham and Gorham, North Star Planning of Portland and citizens.

The Hanson House in South Windham is the red building
shown. In the 1800s before the three buildings to the left
were constructed, it was a vacant lot for public use. Known
as the 'village common,' it was used for ball games, traveling
show presentations and for grazing cattle and sheep.
The goal is the development of a community-guided vision for improvement in the neighborhood of South Windham village and Little Falls in Gorham which spans the boundary of the Presumpscot River. Part of any future design will hopefully include keeping its history. The neighborhood’s historic roots are deep and rich. It is Windham’s oldest industrial area, and its early success provided assurances that the tiny hamlet of New Marblehead would grow and prosper following its difficult beginnings on lower River Road in the mid-1700s.

The revitalization group has recommended that the 200 years of rich heritage be captured in some way as the rehabilitation progresses. A comprehensive history of the villages would easily fill 500-plus pages, but a quick overview of its busy and robust times gives one an informed appreciation of what was once the hub of Windham’s living and working environment.

A saw mill was erected at Little Falls some time prior to 1756 by Maj. William Knight who claimed to have been the first settler on the Windham (New Marblehead) side of the river. The Presumpscot was also known to have accommodated logs that were floated down to Westbrook from the Sebago Lake region, prodded along by pole-wielding “rivermen” – a dangerous occupation.

The later 1700s and into the 1800s experienced a surge in the construction of saw mills, grist mills and carding mills. Saw mills at South Windham operated 24 hours sending board lumber down the Cumberland & Oxford Canal to Portland (the canal bisected the main road at Little Falls on the Gorham side). In 1832, a cotton mill was built, employing more than 150 men and women. The employer, Casco Manufacturing, built tenement housing nearby to house many of the workers. Twenty-four years later, in 1856, the mill caught fire; its factory bell sounded the alarm and rang until flames burned through the rope.

Two structures on lower Main Street in South Windham that today are considered among the most prominently historic are Oriental Hall and the Timothy Hanson building. They were built 65 years apart – the Hanson house in 1838 and Oriental Hall in 1903. Hanson’s three-story brick house, which is now painted red and located on the corner of Main and Depot Streets, was home to several generations of the family; his son, Jonathon, opened a grocery store on the ground floor. In the 1900s, it became a sandwich shop, laundry, and beauty salon.

The sizeable two-story Oriental Hall, located three lots north of the Hanson House, was built by the Knights of Pythias and provided residents with a multitude of family events that included dances, silent movies, and basketball games.

In earlier times, these lots adjacent to the Hanson House were vacant and set aside for public use. Known as the “village common,” ball games and other sports were played there along with traveling show performances and, occasionally, it was used as a grazing ground for cattle and sheep. Main Street in those “horse and buggy” days was a dirt road; pedestrians walked on plank sidewalks.

Across the street on Depot was the “public house,” or tavern, which served up tankards of rum to the scores of mill workers. Much later it became Patsy’s Market, home of Windham’s first and best Italian sandwich.

A short distance up Depot Street, which was once named Cross Street (as in “crossing from Main Street over to River Road”) was the town railroad station, or depot. Mill products and raw materials were shipped in and out of town daily. The trains also carried passengers. Residents living today remember standing on the depot platform waiting for the Maine Central train to arrive at South Windham. Many veterans of World War II arrived home in 1945 and 1946 on the South Windham train. Depending on wind and weather, farmers who lived along River Road or at Windham Center could hear the train whistle as it arrived or departed. Many swore that if they could hear the whistle, it was going to rain.

Little known about the cultural history of the village is the diversity within its population. Well into the 1900s, the community was a linguistic laboratory consisting of individuals and families of numerous languages and countries of origin. One longtime resident of South Windham said, “You could always tell if someone was from the village by their accent.” Another resident observed how all the people interacted as one big family.

Since first settled over 275 years ago, the South Windham-Little Falls neighborhood, or village, has turned out innumerable businesses and careers: sawmills, grist mills, carding mills, a cotton mill, woolen mill, grocery stores, sandwich shops, taverns, carriage makers, carriage and sleigh repair, a bank, apothecary, carpenters and joiners, blacksmiths, stables, brick makers and masons, wood pulp producer, iron foundry, wood flour, retail stores, post office, firefighters, doctors, millinery shops, an undertaker, boarding houses, lending library, church leaders, barber shops – not to mention the trades associated with the later advent of the automobile. Just about every mode of transportation known to mankind was utilized in the village to move people and products: horses, oxen, horse and carriage, canal boats, trains, buses and electric cars (the trolley ran from Portland/Westbrook into Little Falls with a waiting room at Sawyer’s Variety).

As mentioned years ago in an article by the late Windham historian Kay Soldier, “the village was a busy, busy place.”

North Star Planning and the town has expressed an interest in somehow including history in the revitalization plans. There are many possibilities. Perhaps a small park near the river with informational kiosks summarizing the rich history of Little Falls. Another idea surfaced during a recent virtual public hearing: a boardwalk connecting Main Street at the bridge to the Mountain Division Trail to the east; one can picture a river walk with lighting, benches and kiosks. Also, many of the buildings are among the oldest in Windham and Gorham. Renovation and preservation, instead of teardowns, would probably add much character to the upgrade.

Judging from the citizen feedback thus far, parking and growth density seem to be the main concerns. May we add history? <