Portland School Notebook: Oct. 26

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Local activist, teacher to be honored by ChIME at Oct. 28 event

A Portland teacher, social activist, and LGBTQ youth champion, will receive the Planetary Chaplain award Friday, Oct. 28 at Chaplaincy Institute of Maine’s annual fundraiser entitled “OMcoming.” 

According to ChIME spokeswoman Patricia Ellen, Betsy Parsons was chosen for the award because of her courageous leadership, since the 1990s, when she became one of the first public school teachers in Maine to “come out” to her colleagues, students and their families. It was a time when a great number of LGBTQ youth were dying by suicide because of the harassment and discrimination that greeted them each school day. Establishing Gay, Straight Transgender Alliances has been proven to reduce youth deaths by suicide, and Parsons was in the forefront of that movement through the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network.  Earlier this year, she was also one of the grand marshals in the Portland Pride Parade.

According to ChIME, “Planetary Chaplains are people who, by their work and influence, bring the divine in service to alleviate suffering, bring joy to others, and/or to serve others with the intention of strengthening spiritual well-being.

The public is invited to attend the event, which will include a light supper and social hour at 5:30 p.m. followed by the award ceremony at 6:30 p.m. and a celebration with music, dancing and drumming  from 7-9 p.m. at The Portland New Church, 302 Stevens Ave. in Portland. Tickets are available at the door, or at chimeofmaine.org/events

Work by Portland teachers included in Painting for a Purpose auction 

Portland Public School teachers are among the more than 40 local artists whose artwork will be auctioned off at the Painting for a Purpose annual fall auction on Nov. 3. Some of the artists’ work – in the form of whimsical, colorfully hand-painted wooden fish – can be seen on display before the auction at Arabica Coffee’s Free Street Café in Portland.

Proceeds from the Painting for a Purpose auction, which will run from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at DiMillo’s Floating Restaurant in Portland, will go toward PFP’s 2016-17 service learning grants for students in Portland Public Schools.

This year, the theme is “Fabulous Fish and Sensational Salad Bowls.” The artists have created one-of-a-kind painted salad bowls and wooden fish, along with other original art.

Participating artists this year include Mary Wellehan, art teacher at King Middle School; Peg Richard, art teacher at Casco Bay High School; Ellen Handelman, art teacher at Lyseth Elementary School; Audrey Rolfe and Kathryn Robertson, art teachers at Deering High School; Barbara Loring, art teacher at Portland High School; Allison Villani, art teacher at Reiche Community School; and three teachers at the Portland Regional Arts and Technology High School: Diane Manzi, PATHS commercial art instructor; Jane Krasnow, fashion marketing instructor; and Jill Irving, woodworking instructor.

In addition, students in Irving’s woodworking class at PATHS created wooden dog bone ornaments for sale at the auction and the students in Manzi’s commercial art class are painting them.

Painting for a Purpose brings together artists, parents, students and educators to create and sell original art and objects for the home, many refurbished out of old furniture. All proceeds are invested in community initiatives that students propose and complete.

Last year, PFP grant awards to Portland Public Schools’ students funded mindfulness and meditation training for high school students; planting fruit trees; an elementary school “buddy” program; an endangered species art book; a climate change workshop; an art cart; a self-defense class for young women; and a bee awareness project.

“Through art, we are able to fund some exceptional youth-led initiatives that benefit our community,” said Tina Clark Edwards, who co-founded Painting for a Purpose with Jane Ellis. “Students bring their own creative spirit and positive energy to improve their schools, neighborhoods and lives.”

Edwards was a long-time consultant with Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound in the Portland schools and the statewide Kids Consortium. Ellis taught middle school health for many years, capping her career as director of Portland High School’s Mentoring Alliance.

After retiring, the two began painting and selling old chairs to fund student grants for elementary, middle and high school students, recruiting local artists to help. Many gather on Wednesday mornings in a classroom studio at Portland High School to paint together and create products. In years past, wooden wall clocks, mirrors, lobsters and other items have helped raise about $10,000 a year for the student grants program.

For more information, contact Tina Clark Edwards at tinacedwards@gmail.com or 865-3642 and visit Painting for a Purpose’s website www.paintingforapurpose.net.

Betsy Parsons, who is a longtime advocate for LBGTstudents, will be honored by the Chaplaincy Institute of Maine Friday night.