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Portland Students To Benefit from $1.9 Million Arts Grant

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Portland Students To Benefit from $1.9 Million Arts Grant
Posted on 10/22/2014

PORTLAND, Maine (Oct. 21, 2014) – A new four-year, federal arts education grant of more than $1.9 million will provide students at the Portland Public Schools’ Reiche, Ocean Avenue, East End and Riverton elementary schools with greater exposure to the arts through their everyday curriculum.

Side x Side, a Portland educational nonprofit formed in in April 2013 by parents and artists in Portland in order to promote academic excellence through comprehensive arts integration, and the University of Southern Maine Art Department jointly announced the award of the grant on Wednesday, Oct. 22 at Reiche Community School in Portland.

The U.S Department of Education (DoE) Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination (AEMDD) grant of $1,911,849 goes to Youth in Action: Side x Side, in conjunction with the University of Southern Maine, for Project IMAGINE.

The award of this federal grant brings distinction to Maine, the city of Portland and the Portland Public Schools and USM. Less than 20 percent of 105 applicants were awarded new AEMDD grants, and this marks the first time that Maine has received this highly competitive award. “We are thrilled to be one of only 18 national recipients (of such a grant),” Beth Wilbur Van Mierlo, Side x Side executive director, said at the event.

Side x Side and USM will pilot and evaluate Project IMAGINE in grades K-5 at Reiche, Ocean Avenue, East End and Riverton elementary schools as a framework for broader arts integration, increasing proficiency in mathematics and reading and strengthening learning for all students.

“For many of Portland’s economically disadvantaged students, school is their only access to the arts and arts instruction,” Portland Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk said. “This grant will help provide a comprehensive arts integration program that promotes academic excellence.”

Speakers at Wednesday’s event included Portland Mayor Michael Brennan; David Galin, chief academic officer for the Portland Public Schools; Dr. Manuel Avalos, dean, USM College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences; Dr. Kelly Hrenko, USM assistant professor of art education and USM Art Education Program coordinator; Maine Sen. Justin Alfond, president of the Maine Senate; and spokespersons for U.S. Sen. Angus King and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree.

Portland Public Schools Chief Academic Officer David Galin said, “Whenever our educators and our community members collaborate to support our students' creative and academic growth we all benefit. Portland Public Schools' students and staff will continue to develop a more creative Portland.”

Portland Board of Public Education Chair Sarah Thompson also was in attendance at the event. "This grant will help ensure a well-balanced education for our students. Studies point to math achievement and other positive learning outcomes as building off the arts," Thompson said. "Schools are an important access point to the arts for many students, giving them exposure to such places as museums and symphony halls, and integrating the arts with their everyday curriculum will only enhance that."

In his speech, Mayor Brennan said, “It really is looking to the future about the way the world is going. Nothing is siloed. What this does is take education to the next level.”

He noted that he has been working with Michael Dixon, Executive Director of Portland ConnectED, a cross-sector partnership of organizational leaders committed to building a citywide infrastructure and culture to support high quality education for Portland residents. ConnectED’s goals include increasing student reading and graduation levels by 2017. Brennan said, “This grant is going to do everything to help us achieve (those goals).”

Side x Side and USM conducted a pilot project at Reiche Community School over the past year. They worked with Reiche teachers to pilot three multidisciplinary arts integration programs for grades 2-5. In the study, 11 teachers, 240 students, several artists and experts participated in Moving Oceans, Designing Portland, and Telling Stories. Students appeared highly engaged and exit interviews with teachers indicated they saw first-hand the value of arts integration programs.

Project IMAGINE now will be in four schools and will eventually impact 1,700 students and 80 teachers. It is designed to increase students’ art instruction exposure by aligning the art curriculum with the classroom curriculum and thus simultaneously reinforcing art concepts, curriculum, and the core content.

For example, the art teacher can teach about geometric designs in art, while an architect/expert talks about geometric designs in buildings and the classroom teacher teaches the historic significance of the buildings using relevant non-fiction reading and writing and focuses math instruction on the geometric concepts embedded in the study of architecture. By co-designing the curriculum, the classroom teachers learn and utilize the relevant art language and concepts.

The project has two main objectives. One is to design, develop, and test a set of comprehensive arts integration programs for elementary schools to create a system of professional development supports and resources for teachers. The second is to obtain evidence about the model’s usability and effectiveness.


Reiche third-grader Chae-Hee Park holds a sculpture of a marine animal crafted as an art project and provides some scientific background on it.


Phoebe Knoll, a Reiche third-grader, provides some scientific information about lamprey eels while standing near sculptures student made of marine life.


Sculptures of marine life made by Reiche Community School students in a project integrating art into the regular curriculum.


Various stakeholders gathered at Reiche School for the announcement that Side x Side, a Portland eduational nonprofit, and the University of Southern Maine are the recipients of $1.9 million federal arts grant that will help integrate the arts into the curriculum at the Portland Public Schools' Reiche, Riverton, East End and Ocean Avenue elementary schools. Pictured are (front row, left to right) Dr. Kelly Hrenko, USM assistant professor of art education and USM Art Education Program coordinator; Annette Kraus, Side x Side dirctor of program development; Principal Marcia Gendron of East End Community School; Dr. Manuel Avalos, dean, USM College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences; Beth Wilbur Van Mierlo, executive director of Side x Side; and Maine Sen. Justin Alfond, president of the Maine Senate. In the back row (left to right) are Travis Kennedy, regional representative for U.S. Sen. Angus King; Reiche School Lead Teacher Lorraine Bobinsky; David Galin, chief academic officer for the Portland Public Schools; Cricket King, daughter-in-law of U.S. Sen. Angus King, who read a letter of congratulations from the senator; and Skeek Frazee, constituent services representative for U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree.