Tim Gillis

Tim Gillis

'Powered by Girl' community event inaugurates Maine Girls' Academy

The Maine Girls' Academy held its first community evening last week, gathering together educators and activists. The discussion proposed practical ways girls could get involved to change the ways they are misrepresented in media, boardrooms and classrooms.



The monthly program, called “Girls Who Care, Girls Who Lead,” featured Colby College professor Lyn Mikel Brown, an activist and author who has written six books about gender and girlhood. She discussed the relational lives of girls at the intersection of race, class, and gender, the impact of media, and girls' creative forms of activism.



Brown had visited the school 10 years ago, when it was called Catherine McAuley High School. (It became the Maine Girls’ Academy in July.) Brown has been working with girls for 25 years and is the author, most recently, of “Powered by Girl: A Field Guide for Supporting Youth Activists.”


She spoke about activism as distinct from the typical ways that people think of female leadership. Building on the model of Sheryl Sandberg, who wrote “Lean In,” Brown said, “It’s more than just leaning in. We need on-the-ground activist work. The message is that we need more women at the top. That’s true, but we need more women everywhere. And women didn’t get the vote because men had a sudden change of conscience.”


Brown cofounded three grassroots organizations, including The SPARK movement (Sexualization Protest Action Resistance Knowledge), a national group involving 35 girls (ages 13-22) from 14 U.S. states and other countries that assists with girl-powered initiatives. One such effort had a group of girls taking on Google, to get the media giant to look at their daily “doodles” on the home page, which highlight white males, for the most part. They started a petition at change.org pushing for a more balanced representation. They even inspired a new app called Field Trip to help travelers find “Women on the Map,” with more than 200 stories of females who made a difference.


Brown warned against the “commodification of girl activism,” offering examples that ranged from Riot Grrrls to Spice Girls, and included Pussy Riot, the band that had members jailed for two years in Russia because of their guerrilla protests. “They covered their faces so they couldn’t be commodified,” she said, and warned that even women’s magazines tend to skew their content through a male lens. Her work has focused on reshaping these norms, offering a local example of the change that’s possible on a national level: Julia Bluhm and Izzy Labbe, two Maine teenagers whose online petition garnered 84,000 signatures and pressured Seventeen magazine to stop photoshopping body shapes.


After her talk, Brown shared the stage with local activists Emma Spies of Lemonade for Angels (benefiting Angel Flight North East) and Julia Hansen, founder of The Yellow Tulip Project.


Spies, who attends MGA, started selling lemonade seven years ago when she was 10, setting up shop with her neighborhood friends. From the beginning, she wanted to spend the profits of something that really mattered. She credits her parents for supporting her efforts, which have sponsored 48 angel flights, bringing patients in need to distant medical help.



Hansen, a junior at Casco Bay High School, told the audience about her work, borne out of tragedies. She lost two close friends to suicide within a year. Bouncing between despair and rage, she turned her grief into a powerful cause. She created and launched the “Yellow Tulip Project,” planting “hope gardens” to raise awareness of people battling depression and other mental illnesses. Like Spies, she said her parents inspired her to start her project. “They gave me a non-judgmental environment. When it’s more open, I am able to learn who I am,” she said. Passionate about bringing attention to mental illness, Hansen sees herself continuing in the field. Spies agrees, and applied the hope garden analogy to her own efforts. “I want to keep it going,” she said. “It’s been growing over the years, bringing more attention to the Angel Flight program. Even the smallest thing can make such a difference. A bunch of little kids can start something that’s a lot bigger than it seems.”

Maine Cannabis Film Festival explores battles for medical pot across the globe

Next month, Mainers will vote on whether to legalize recreational marijuana for adults over the age of 21. The state legalized medical marijuana in 1999, but since then, several other ballot measures to let one light up without a pot license have failed.



The Maine Cannabis Film Festival, on Oct. 22 and 23 at the Empire in Portland, features 14 hours and 17 different takes on the topic, from documentary to comedy, education to hazy fiction.


Tom Falby, co-founder of MCFF last year and a medical marijuana patient, didn’t know if the film festival would have an impact on undecided voters, but he said, “It would be nice if it did. Our goal is to reach a broader audience of people who don’t have a pressing need to educate themselves about medical cannabis, just so they know what’s going on surrounding cannabis in our country.”


Long and short-form films make up the two-day schedule, different each day, for a $15 pass that allows coming-and-going and caps each night with a Q & A with directors.


One of the long-form winners that especially caught Falby’s attention was “Grass Roots,” a documentary that follows a patient from the UK who has multiple sclerosis.


“Laws surrounding access there are restrictive,” Falby said. “The film shows him trying to treat his condition, having some success, and then frustration with a government and society that’s not allowing him to access something that will make him feel better.”


The patient comes to United States, to California and Colorado. It shows real time developments with his illness. The film depicts the potentially fractious nature of cannabis and familial responses to a relative who medicates with it. “It can drive a wedge into family relationships,” he said. “He has a real time hard time with his dad, who is staunchly against it until he sees the positive effects it has on his son’s life.”


A short film called “The Ripple Effect of PTSD” (featuring Bek Houghton and veteran Michael Harding) is part of a series by Australian producer and director Kym Melzer.


It’s the second set of films she’s created involving veterans and alternative health care.


She met her future stars at a television show “After the Parade.” In Australia, veterans are honored on ANZAC Day (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps), with dawn services parades. As luck would have it, Melzer was sitting in the audience next to Harding’s parents, who were there to see their son speak about alternative medicines, including cannabis and floatation therapy.



“I could see straight away how passionate he was,” said Melzer, who was inspired to submit her resulting film to festivals because of this enthusiastic advocacy, encouraging other vets to find their own alternative ways to help in recovery.



In 2010 during a deployment to Afghanistan, Harding was involved in the Battle of Derapet, a firefight that lasted three and a half hours. A section mate, Jared, was shot and killed. A few days later, Harding was having involuntary, full-body muscular twitches.



“It was a physical manifestation of trauma, instead of an emotional one,” Harding said. “I still wanted to do my job. You know, you just sort of sucked it up, put on brave face and kept doing your job. Some of my mates were like, ‘Dude, you need to get checked out.’ In our culture, when you join the armed forces in a combat role, a lot of training is based on pushing the emotions out of you, to do your job and not question your job, to not be a burden on the rest of your mates. It instills that natural male tendency to not talk about what’s going on.”


He hesitated to tell Houghton, his partner and carer, or his parents of his injury at first, but when he was sent home with a PTSD diagnosis, they could easily see that his illness presented itself physically. “His friends nicknamed him Twitch,” Houghton said.


For a while, Harding tried the traditional medicinal route, what is called the “gold standard” in the film – a treatment of pharmaceuticals and talk therapy. But Houghton knew it was not working. Harding was suffering from chronic injuries, night sweats, anxiety and depression. He had turned to alcohol and drugs and gained weight. Australia has only started considering medicinal marijuana recently, and approving it mainly for young children with epilepsy and people with cancer, according to Melzer.


“The families are picking up the pieces,” Houghton said. “I didn’t feel like I got the support I needed. The doctors told me Michael would be on medication for the rest of his life. They said this ‘gold standard’ helps only three out of 10 people see some significant improvement.”


Legislation there this past August came at the perfect time. Harding began a regimen of medical marijuana, which he smoked, vaporized, ingested and used topically, as well as a reformed diet, meditational yoga, and body floatation (in 350 pounds of Epsom salt in a huge water tank). He quit drinking and using drugs. Much improved now, Harding wants to help others help themselves, and still expects more to be done by government agencies.


“The defense forces are excellent at breaking a person down, for one goal and that goal only. At the end of your service, there’s no training to become human again. You’re still part of the green machine. That’s setting people up to fail.”


The filmmaker wants more people to talk about PTSD and alternative ways to treat it. “The film is a way of keeping that discussion going,” Melzer said, “showing how someone moved from post-traumatic stress to post-traumatic growth.”


Saturday, Oct. 22

11 a.m. Shorts:  All About the Truth; Green Smoke;  Honk
11:35-11:45 a.m. Intermission
11:45 a.m. Game On
1:25-1:35 p.m. Intermission
1:35 p.m. The Green Standard
2:55-3:05 p.m. Intermission
3:05 p.m. Shorts: They Need Us; Princesses; Ripple Effect of PTSD
3:30-3:40 p.m. Intermission
3:40 p.m. GrassRoots
5:10 p.m. Q and A with Directors: Dale Beaumont Brown (GrassRoots) and Clif Lord (Doobious Sources)

Sunday, Oct. 23

11 a.m. Barcelonnabis
12:10-12:25 p.m. Intermission
12:25 p.m. Shorts: Banana Pearl; Board
12:55-1:05 p.m. Intermission
1:05 p.m. Doobious Sources
2:50-3:05 p.m. Intermission
3:05 p.m. Shorts:
Grow Give; Rasta Deer; Dune Rats Video
3:15-3:25 p.m. Intermission
3:25 p.m. Druglawed
5:05 p.m. Q and A with Directors

  • Published in Film

On stage at 12: Django By The Sea festival features guitar prodigy

A musical prodigy takes the stage at the second annual Django By The Sea festival in Kittery and Portsmouth on Oct. 6-9.



Henry Acker, a 12-year-old guitarist from Massachusetts, will be strutting his stuff with Mes Amies at the Thursday night kick-off party in New Hampshire. Jason Anick, founder of the festival, discovered him at the jam sessions during the inaugural event and invited him to play along this time ‘round.


“I first met Henry last year,” Anick said. “He’s an incredible musician. His dad said he started tuning in when he was around 9 years old, when his father was listening to Django Reinhardt. He could hear it and play it back on guitar. Now he already has a lot of the basic elements of a great musician – technique, tone, repertoire, improvisation – things that people usually develop in their 20s. We’re excited to have him at the festival. A lot of people will be blown away.”


Although only playing guitar for three and a half years, Acker has achieved this early success by practicing every day with his father and inspiration, Victor Acker. His instructor is Frank Vignola, part of Les Paul’s later quartet. Father and son met the maestro at a concert at the Regatta Bar in Cambridge when Henry was just beginning to play. “Vignola announced that he was about to play “Nuages,” a Django song,” Victor recalled this week. “I gave Henry a high five, which Vignola saw and invited him to come up and join him. The audience went wild; they thought he was a plant.”


Henry Acker has since strummed with Bucky Pizzarelli and Julien Lage, and considers Stochelo Rosenberg, Bireli Lagrene, and Olli Soikkeli other major influences. Soikkeli is from Rhythm Future Quartet, Anick’s band that will feature at the festival along with John Jorgenson, a multiple Grammy-winner.


A seventh-grader at Duxbury Middle School, Henry plays in the jazz band. His classmates are yet to fully appreciate his guitar talents, Victor said. “It’s kind of an odd genre for seventh-graders.”


Henry first played live at an open mic at the Catbird Café in Weymouth, Mass. “He had been playing for a while, had learned some tunes, so we thought we’d see how he’d do live. The whole room erupted.” Since then, Henry has played at Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City, and will be picking strings in Seattle and Colorado next year.


Music takes up much of his time, but Henry also loves to spend time at the beach, go fishing, and unwind with “a little bit of gaming,” his dad said. “He leads a pretty normal life.” Henry just learned “Ornithology,” a tune by Charlie Parker. He plans to videotape it and send it to Vignola, who is in Cuba right now.


Gypsy Jazz is a unique blend of Eastern European melodies, Parisian Musette, Spanish Flamenco and American Swing that was created and perfected by guitarist Django Reinhardt, violinist Stephane Grappelli and their fellow Gypsy musicians in the cafés of Paris during the 1930s and 1940s. Today, Gypsy Jazz is one of the most distinctive and widely enjoyed jazz hybrids on the music scene, spawning popular Django Festivals around the globe, including Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, New York City, and now Kittery.

Anick was pleased with last year’s two-day festival, and is expanding the lineup and locations this time, with a kick-off party Thursday night at the Book & bar in Portsmouth, where Acker will perform. Next come three days of concerts and workshops at the Kittery Dance Hall, as well as Djam sessions at the nearby Buoy Art Gallery (attached to Black Birch restaurant).  


“We are hoping for nice weather,” Anick said. “We want people playing outside, and to have gypsy jazz surround the area.”


Django By The Sea | Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 6-9 | Kittery Foreside | Tickets for Friday’s and Saturday’s performances at The Dance Hall are $25 in advance/$30 at the door for a single night. Sunday’s Dance Party is $15 in advance/$20 at the door. You can also purchase a 2-night pass for $40 or a 3-night pass for $55. A limited number of $100 VIP passes are available, which include brunch with the artists on Sunday and a donation to The Dance Hall (a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization). For tickets, visit TheDanceHallKittery.org or DjangoByTheSea.com | Django By The Sea is sponsored in part by Bavarian Autosport, Kennebunk Savings Bank, York Hospital, Davis Family Foundation, People’s United Bank and White Heron Tea & Coffee Community.

  • Published in Music

Audio overflow: Waking Windows takes over Portland venues

Waking Windows takes over Congress Street this Saturday, Oct. 1. The all-day audio arts festival hits nine venues with music, comedy and a lit crawl, and runs from noon to the waking hours.


The literary (pub) crawl was curated by Nat Baldwin, a writer and bassist for Dirty Projectors. Wife and husband scribes Noy Holland and Sam Michel will read from their works, as will Portland’s poet laureate Gibson Fay-LeBlanc, multi-genre writer Megan Grumbling, and several others. Annie Russell hosts the comedy stop that features Gary Petersen and W. Will Green, as well as “Cringe! A Night of Hilarious Humiliation” with audience participation. The musical lineup offers an eclectic mix of about 50 bands.


“I think it’s a special thing for Portland,” says Peter McLaughlin, music programmer at SPACE Gallery. “Portland has had an absence of this kind of event, a music and arts festival that encompasses several venues. It’s taking over a downtown area to create an urban festival. We’re able to have a lot of up-and-coming local bands, a perfect fit for the city.”


High note


Born in Israel and based in New York City, headliner Yonatan Gat will shred on guitar at Geno’s Rock Club. He played there in 1997 with Monotonix, an “Israeli garage trio.” Last year he teamed up with Brazilian bassist Sergio Sayeg and drummer Gal Lazer to play at SPACE. They are fresh from the release of their latest record, Director, which blends Brazilian psychedelic punk, maniacal Afrobeat rhythm, and American free-form jazz. The music is born of their geographic roots, and borne up by their live shows, performed in the middle of the audience instead of on a stage. They alone are worth the price of the festival pass.


“We set up on the floor,” Gat said from New York City this week. “We do that because our show is improvised. By setting up on the floor, we can have a more direct communication that doesn’t happen in an obvious way — more of a subconscious way. We ask the audience what song we should play next.”


Music is a communicated experience, and being in the crowd is more of an experience. He feels the only excurse to play on stage is if the space makes it absolutely necessary.


“Even when we play bigger venues, we still set up in the middle to achieve a direct line to the people, to create an atmosphere,” he said. “It’s like a game of ping pong, between the performer and the audience.”

The comparative power of playing live, in and amongst the people, fuels his belief that part of the music industry is drastically changing, perhaps dying.


“Music is losing its meaning. It’s being pushed towards a free commodity. Recorded music is losing its entire value. People are talking about not buying music anymore,” Gat said. “But live music stays strong. A big concert or a smaller one, part of being on the floor is to be able to feed off that feeling.”


Their concerts are completely improvised. “Five minutes before a show, we look at each and decide how we are going to start. But we don’t know what song we’ll play next. Sometimes a song is 100 percent composition. We compose in front of the audience. Really just the song that suits the moment.”


The creation is a flexible show where every night is completely evolving for the band, and an onstage experience for the audience, part of the composition.


“That’s why we like a place like SPACE or Geno’s,” he said. “Good music is a self-discovery journey. One of most important reasons we are in this world is to know ourselves. I don’t look at music as a pre-conceived and conceptual art project. It’s a lifelong project of getting to know yourself."


Also of note:


“Mal Devisa is to me one of the most exciting acts playing the festival,” says McLaughlin. “She has an absolutely incredible voice, spine-chilling. She can silence any room. She’s played SPACE twice and truly melted hearts each time. Some of the most momentous applauses I've heard in the room. She opened up a sold-out show for What Cheer Brigade here in August, and the crowd demanded an encore. Wouldn’t let her leave the stage. ... For the opener! That never happens. You’ll be hearing a lot about her and she won’t be playing rooms as small as SPACE for long. I’d put good money on it.”




Waking Windows audio arts festival | Saturday, Oct. 1 (noon-1:00am) | Kick-off party at SPACE Gallery on Friday, Sept. 30

Musical acts: Vetiver, JEFF The Brotherhood, Death Vessel, The Luyas, The Huntress and Holder of Hands, Rough Francis, Pile, Mal Devisa, Micah Blue Smaldone, Nat Baldwin, and Yonatan Gat.

Venues: SPACE Gallery, Empire, Geno’s Rock Club, Blue, Tandem Coffee & Bakery, Congress Square Park, One Longfellow Square, & The Jewel Box.

SPACE, Tandem, One Longfellow, and Congress Square Park are open to all ages. Geno's, Empire, Blue, and The Jewel Box are 21+.

Tickets: $25 Day Pass to access all venues. Individual venues have varying ticket prices.  Visit www.WakingWindows.com for details. Friday night kick-off party is $5 or free with a festival pass.

  • Published in Music

Greater Portland Landmarks lauding locals: Awards honor passion

Recipients of the Greater Portland Landmarks 2016 Preservation Awards were scheduled to be honored Wednesday, Sept. 28 at the Maine Irish Heritage Center, one of 12 organizations and people being recognized.



“They have a true faith, to believe it would be possible,” Hilary Basset, executive director of GPL since 2000, said of the heritage center. “The people there are so committed, so enthusiastic, so hardworking. They have a true passion and belief and have accomplished extraordinary things. They are a good example of how people take an idea and run with it.”


MIHC, formerly St. Dominic’s Church, along with Meetinghouse Lofts in South Portland, the Clifford Residences, and the Press Hotel, are noted for their adaptive reuse projects.


“Construction began on St. Dominic’s Church in 1888 and was completed in 1893. For over one hundred years, the church was an important fixture in Portland’s Irish community. By the end of World War II, St. Dominic’s congregation had more than 4,000 members,” according to the MIHC website. “The Catholic Diocese closed the church in 1998, despite community protests and efforts to keep it open. The city of Portland acquired the church complex and later sold the buildings separately. In 2003, the Maine Irish Heritage Center purchased and began operating out of the church.”


Since then, a volunteer force at MIHC has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to heat the sanctuary, and expand the Joseph E. Brennan archives and the John Ford Center. They recently received a grant from the Irish government to hire an executive director, but that sole paid position is buffeted by a small crew of dedicated workers freely giving of their own time and talents.


Basset, who previously helped raise $1.3 million for the Portland Observatory restoration, said GPL has been giving the awards for more than 25 years to locals engaged in preserving some of the city’s iconic landmarks.

Other winners this year include the Danish Village Arch relocation effort in Scarborough.

“The arch is all that’s left of a Danish village from 1929, an area of tourist cottages reenacting a real village. The rest of the complex was demolished, but the arch was saved by the town of Scarborough,” Basset said. “It’s a story that wouldn’t have an opportunity to be told without the arch still being there.”


Also in line to receive kudos are Frank and Sharon Reilly, praised for their work with the Friends of Lincoln Park, repairing pathways, implementing a program of events, and installing a contemporary sculpture, a metal piece by artist Judith Hoffman in partnership with TEMPOArt from Portland. It’s the first commission with a temporary installation in the city, a metal work with a rust-colored patina, sculpted in the form of houses, stacked like blocks, called “the American Dream.”


Two reuses of schools will be honored – the Roosevelt School in South Portland was converted into 19 condo units and the Nathan Clifford School has been transformed into 22 apartments.


The awards also recognize smaller projects, like the cast iron work on Mechanics’ Hall done by StandFast Works Forge in Parsonsfield and the repaired balconies above the CVS building across Congress Street.


Diane Davison is being honored twice, as an individual and for her work with the Friends of the Eastern Promenade. Davison, who moved to Munjoy Hill nearly 25 years ago, began getting involved right away. She initiated April Stools Day and Community Cleanup, removing dog waste as well as litter from local parks and neighborhoods. Six years ago, she helped resurrect the summer concert series on the prom, bringing music back to the bandstand.


“We’ve had a fabulous response,” Davison said of the concerts. “This year’s average was 700 people per show. There were eight concerts, every Thursday in July and August, with local musicians like Primo Cubano, the Maine Academy of Modern Music, and Blues Prophets. We try to have a variety of genre to make everybody happy.”


In 2009, the Friends of Eastern Promenade improved the park’s trail network, linking the Fort Allen Trail to the Eastern Prom trail below it. In 2010, on the other end of the park, they worked on the Loring Memorial Trail, “which takes folks from the top of the park to the Back Cove Trail, connects with the Bayside Trail and the Eastern Prom Trail, creating a complete loop on the Eastern Prom,” Davison said.


More recently, they completed work on Fort Allen, just in time to celebrate the 2014 bicentennial. “It’s a premier location in the city, with duck boats, horse-drawn carriages, weddings, and trolleys,” she said, adding that she was aware of the restoration award, “but the personal award blew me away.”


Next up, the group will be working on the Jacob Cousins Memorial Restoration Project, on the border of Fort Allen Park. It’s a tribute to Corporal Cousins, of the US Army (C328th infantry) killed in action at Meuse-Argonne, France, in 1918. He was the first soldier of Jewish faith from Portland to die in battle during WWI. “We’ll be giving it a more dignified setting,” she said. “You now have to stand on the road to see the monument.”

Davison is the chair of the Portland Parks Commission, an advisory board to Portland City Council and staff, for all things related to parks and open spaces.


“From the big open historic parks to the pocket parks, these places are really on the radar these days,” she said. “This is the reason people want to live here, for the park experience in an urban setting.”


All Award Recipients



■ Diane Davison, Friends of Eastern Promenade

■ Sharon & Frank Reilly, Friends of Lincoln Park

■ John Turk, Architect and Preservation Advocate



■ Fort Allen Park, Portland

■ Danish Village Arch Relocation, Scarborough

■ Iron Details at Mechanics Hall & W.T. Grant Block, Portland



■ Merrill Memorial Library, Yarmouth

■ George S. Hunt Block, 66o Congress, Portland



■ Meeting House Lofts, South Portland

■ Maine Irish Heritage Center, Portland

■ Nathan Clifford Residences, Portland

■ Press Hotel, Portland

Farmer's market meals: Outing provides ingredients, people add the spice

We wandered into the Farmers’ Market on Monument Square last Wednesday, tasked with finding a day's worth of meals from the produce here and at the Deering Oaks Saturday market. My friend was going to help with the grocery lists, shopping and cooking, so everything seemed in good stead. Breakfast for me usually consists of coffee and cigarettes so the notion of eating well for at least 24 hours was a fresh idea.

Dick Piper, of Piper Ranch in Buckfield, was setting up shop. A retired construction worker, Piper started farming 17 years ago. He and his wife, Lynn, have been selling at the market for the last six years. She has a commercial kitchen called Lynn's Good to Go.

“She's the boss,” he said, referring to his wife but implying my friend as well, I could tell.

I told him about the assignment and asked for suggestions on the main meat. The Pipers raise cows, pigs, chickens and quail, born on their farm. They sell quail and quail eggs to Boda restaurant in Portland. They buy the chickens in Maine and have them shipped when they’re a day old.

“I go to the post office and pick up a hundred of them,” Piper says. I imagine that scene and decide to go postal, choosing chicken and asking him for a recommendation. He suggested half chickens, “The Martha Stewart Special.”

A customer named Kati Christoffel was browsing the nearby stands for that night's dinner, entertaining guests from out of town. Originally from Albany, N.Y., she moved to Portland last December from northern Maine, and has been hitting the farmer's markets regularly since then. She doesn’t buy all of her groceries on visits here, but could easily see making a meal of it.

Ryan and Meg Mitchell run South Paw Farm, located in Freedom. They have been selling at the Portland markets for seven years. From them, I bought red potatoes, leeks, garlic, onions, summer crisp lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers, several of the main ingredients for lunch and a few sides for dinner.

Josh Berry, executive chef, and Matt Duley, assistant chef, of the Union Restaurant at the Press Hotel, were shopping for the end-of-season rush. They say the nearby farmer's market is a weekly necessity, to stock up on the freshest ingredients for their new restaurant. Berry is a Maine native, and worked in Switzerland and Italy before coming home.

The market has a constant connection between youth and experience, bringing together modern sensibilities on healthy cuisine and age-old experience of drawing out the earth’s best bounty. Eddie Peterson is a fourth generation farmer with Beckwith's Farm, started by his grandfather. They've been selling at the Farmer's Market since 1978. Customer Susan Walsh, from Melrose, Mass. is vacationing on Peaks Island. She was perusing the vegetables at Beckwith’s stand and gave us some ideas for a novel salad, a spring mix with fresh berries perhaps, or a Caprese.

Cashed out, we looked to refrigerate and reorganize at Saturday’s market.

Deering Oaks was a typical swirl of farmstands and sellers, shoppers with strollers, dogs straining at the leash. There was one inexplicable sight: a woman with a tie-died shirt and a red Make America Great Again baseball hat.

David Koubek has worked the Good Shepherd’s Farm in Bremen for five years and has brought his produce to the Deering Oaks Farmer's Market for the past two. From him, we bought freshly milled bread called “Harvest Basket,” made with potato, caramelized onion and garlic. We got fresh eggs from the stand run by Tourmaline Hill Farm in Greenwood, between Norway and Bethel.

We were looking in vain for mozzarella for our lunch idea when we stumbled upon a cool source for distinctive food and flavors at the Fresh Start Farm stand, run by farmers whose lives provide quick and simple rejoinders to the baseball hat.

Cultivating Community, the Portland-based food co-op and education program since 2001, is partners with Fresh Start Farms stands, selling vegetables from local, shared gardens of the immigrant and refugee farm collective. From them, I bought a bag of fresh garlic, tiny potatoes and collared greens.

Rebeka Tombe, originally from Sudan, has lived in Portland for 16 years. She and her husband, John Yanga, have worked their farm for eight years. Christine Pompeo, of South Sudan, has farmed for five years, and lived in Portland for 10. “I started with a little garden, for my family only,” she said, “And then I thought, ‘This is a good business.’ All of my family are farmers.”


Products of the Produce:

Breakfast: eggs over medium on braised collard greens, thinly sliced on a biscuit (inspired by Bayou Kitchen), and roasted tiny potatoes

Lunch: tomato, mozzarella (we got at the grocery store) and basil with olive oil on Harvest Basket bread – a Caprese sandwich

Dinner: Roasted Chicken (New York Times recipe) in a big roasting pan. Roast chicken and potatoes after they’ve been marinated with olive oil, sriracha, and cumin. Halfway through, we added leeks tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon zest. After roasting to a crisp, golden brown, we drizzled yogurt with grated garlic over hot chicken, potatoes, and leeks. Topped off with arugula and fresh dill. Finally, a drizzle of whisked lemon juice and olive oil over greens, completing the perfect one-pan meal.

Bon appétit!

Botto's Bakery anchors East Deering: Longtime business adjusts to changing tastes

When the Korean War ended in 1953, Bob Mathews returned home and began working for Joe Botto, founder of Botto’s Bakery.


Mathews managed the store until 1983 when he bought it from Botto, keeping the name with the aim of maintaining the neighborhood knowledge of its fresh bread.


“When my grandfather retired in 2000, he was still here all the time,” says Jessica Mathews. That year, Bob transferred ownership to his sons, Steve and Bob, Jessica’s father. She joined full-time last year after a major occupational shift.


Jessica, who expanded the pastry side of the business last May, had been a social worker for seven years, working in Massachusetts. “I was super burned out and decided to go to culinary school,” she says of Le Cordon Bleu in Boston, which closed last year. “I had always cooked and baked, but I never dared risk opening my own business. I always swore I would never work at the bakery, but I needed a change, and the idea that I could do this as a living, something I did as a hobby – well, I have to love what I do.”


Her father and uncle also love their work, as can be evinced by their long hours at the bakery, baking late into the night and covering shifts when workers call out. And their dedication has paid off. They number their wholesale accounts around 300, including buyers from Kennebunk to Lewiston and out into the Sebago Lakes region.


Now they are pushing to get the word out about the retail side of the business, making sure local customers know what other baked offerings they have.


“A lot of people know we do bread. They come in and say, ‘I didn’t know you made pastries,’” Jessica said. Their Washington Avenue location sees a lot of foot traffic from the neighborhood and the morning commute. The storefront business, with a quaint design and a couple of tables and chairs, has tripled since they expanded and upgraded their equipment in 2002, she added. They now bake everything in-house, switching from offering a few frozen items.


“Since Jessica joined, we’ve expanded everything,” Bob says. “She got us on social media, and the response has been a really great way to reach people who never knew we were here. It used to be if you thought Botto’s, you thought bread.”


Steve and Bob start the day at 4 p.m. and work through the night, finishing up around 6 a.m. “There are not too many bakers left who work our schedule,” Steve said.


When they arrive, they collect orders, print out the recipes, and start the mixing process. Although they make similar products each night, the orders vary in volume.


They have had the same storefront since 1960, when the grandfather would meet up with friends who stopped by after church. “Sundays were always busy,” Steve remembers. “Churchgoers from St. Pius, St. Peter’s, and the Cathedral would come by and get Italian bread for their Sunday dinner.”



One thing that has changed over the years is now customers are far more interested in artisan bread. They see competition in this area from the area’s several micro bakeries like Standard, Scratch and Rosemont Deli.


“Over the last 20 years, it has changed like night to day. Back then, we didn’t slice one thing,” Bob says. “Italian rolls, hot dog rolls – that used to be 90 percent of the business. Now we make loaves of wheat, marble rye, sourdough.”


This new taste for healthier foods has necessitated the change, but the bakers don’t sweat the adaptation.


“Portland has such a youthful scene right now,” Jessica says. “It’s great because we're not located in the Old Port. In East Deering, this is it in terms of scratch-made bakeries.”


They make the cannoli fresh to order, using straight butter, not margarine or shortening.


“It’s more expensive, but it just tastes better,” Jessica said. Next month, they are going to start making cannoli shells.


That commitment to taste has a long history with the Mathews’ family, a third generation business that’s rare these days.


“At one point Steve, Bob, my grandfather, and I were all working here,” Jessica said. Bob's wife's, MaryBeth, handles all the account. In the summertime, there are as many as nine Mathews on the payroll. The tradition seems here to stay. With area food businesses closing, they have picked up a lot of accounts.


“And Portland is such a foodie city,” Jessica says. “So we always have that.”

†he Peruvian connection: Portland artist to join indigenous art exhibition

Portland artist Mei Selvage has been invited to participate in an Intercontinental Biennial of Indigenous and Millennial Arts exhibition in Piura, Peru. The Chinese native will travel there from Oct.10 to 20.


She met Jorge Ivan Cevallos, the founder and director of the exhibit, while attending a First Friday event at the Portland Public Library last year. Bruce Brown, curator emeritus at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art, had encouraged her to attend the exhibit opening. Cevallos, also known as Crazy Horse, was with the exhibit as it traveled from Toronto, Canada, and Jessheim, Norway, before stopping in the Port City. It showed in Chicago this year.


“I am collaborating with Jorge on an art installation related to inter-connection,” she said of the work, entitled Five Elements, five works on 12-inch x 12-inch canvases in acrylic that depict space, earth, wind, fire and air. “In addition, I plan to interview some indigenous artists when I am in Peru. They are doing some really amazing artwork, but they’re little known to the English-speaking world. I would like to help them and be a cultural bridge.”


Inty Ñan, or Path of the Sun, as the conference and exhibit is known this year, is co-sponsored by The Indigenous School of the Arts Community of Learning and Foundation in Ecuador and the Cossio Del Pomar Arts Association in Peru. The philosophy behind it is rooted in the belief that the “vast traditions of the millenarian (or thousand year) cultures make up one of the most valuable living heritages of humanity,” according to the call for submissions. “Despite being of inestimable social value, it is one of the riches most rapidly disappearing, due to such factors as general extinction and failure to create new talent, disloyal appropriation, imposition of foreign uses and customs, and intolerance and alienation.”


In creating the biennial, Cevallos wanted art to be inspired by the millenarian culture, and came up with the idea of a combined exhibit and arts performance, which began conservatively in 2004 with a pilot project on a small scale, meant to set up n Native America Musical Opera, named Ayahuashca, by the Canadian-Ecuadorian musician and composer David West.



“We could have started at once on the international biennial, but considering its implications, we decided to give it a try first,” said Cevallos. “We officially invited artists in 2006, with the first edición, that took place in Quito, Ecuador.” The biennial exhibit, now in its sixth incarnation, is “like a festival, with art exhibitions, cooking displays, workshops, performance artists, craft food, and a medicine fair,” said Selvage, who hopes with Cevallos that the traveling gallery will return to Maine in the future, but that is uncertain.


“We are looking for a partner and sponsorship to go back to Portland. We would love to, and also we know that the Portland community will appreciate our visit,” Cevallos said. “We would like to do it in the summer of 2018, but it is still just a dream.”


American artists Scott Hill-Oneida, a painter, and Roy Kady, a Navajo weaver with join Selvage in Peru. The Portland-based painter was born in Sichuan, China. She moved to Missoula, Mont., in 1997, to attend the state university there where she studied business administration, graduated, and was hired by IBM. She moved to Portland in 2010. Currently working as a research director at Gartner, Selvage is the inventor of more than 30 patents.



Selvage and Cevallos are working on a collaboration project. Her paintings provide the inspiration for his poetry. The title of their installation is “Thread by Thread, We Connect,” which comes from a Chinese phase. The concept is about the “interconnectedness” for indigence people all over the world.



“Even though we don't often see and feel these connections, they exist nevertheless. It is also a Buddhist concept,” Selvage said. “As far as the art work goes, I made a Chinese accordion book including my ink painting. The covers are traditional Chinese fabric, and I add a strip of Peru fabric, which you gave to me. The top circle uses Peru fabric, too. I still need to stitch a mudra using red threads to match with the threads connecting the top and the bottom part.”


Selvage’s work encourages Cevallos to invite more artists like her who are incorporating their native culture and heritage into their creations.


“We have not yet had the chance to expand the invitation to many more Native American artists, due to the lack of money to make sure that their work will go all the way to South America,” Cevallos said. “As we all know, the United States has an enormous diversity of Native Nations, full of talent in all the fields of the arts. We wish at some point to find the sponsorship to make this happen. Meanwhile we hope to keep visiting this beautiful country with the Travelling Gallery.”

  • Published in Art

Health through art: Maine Music & Health taps musical interest to spur well being

Students in Jean Davis’s ninth grade Gorham High School English class were assigned a research paper on a topic of their own choosing. It just had to be something they were interested in.



“I chose teaching music to blind and deaf children,” recalls Kate Beever, founder of Maine Music & Health, when reflecting on her occupational roots. “We interviewed people for the paper, and I discovered that music therapy was a whole field in healthcare.”



She’s pursued that healthy interest ever since, studying music at the University of Southern Maine and working for Frank Glazer, who was a pianist of international renown and longtime Bates College artist-in-residence. After college, Beever moved to New York City and received her master’s degree in Music Psychotherapy from N.Y.U. She returned to Maine to open MM&H, working with clients of all ages with health issues like cancer, autism, cerebral palsy, depression and dementia. Still motivated by that childlike desire to share the fruits of her first research paper, Beever sought to enlarge the audience.


She created a conference to bring like-minded health-through-art advocates together, to share vignettes, best practices, and integration ideas. The aim of the Creative Health Conference, now in its third year, “is to spread the word about arts therapy, educate the public, and help medical professionals incorporate the arts into healthcare,” she said. Speakers this year include Carla Tanguay, from Modulation Therapy in Bar Harbor, who will discuss music therapy for people in hospice care, as well as dance therapist Dr. Maryam Mermey, of Morning Glory Arts Therapy in Manchester, who will present a workshop on working with people in a spiritual dimension. Jamie Sylvestei of ArtVan gives a talk on mobile arts therapy in under-resourced and urban neighborhoods.


“Music therapy has been around since World War II,” Beever said. “They started using music therapy with returning soldiers who had PTSD, and then started discovering the correlation between music and the brain. It’s an effective way to work with people's emotions.”


Arts therapists work with people with brain injuries, trauma, developmental disabilities, even at-risk teenagers at correctional facilities. “There’s a huge range of where these therapies work,” she said. “It’s complimentary (or integrative) health; you wouldn’t stop going to your doctor or taking medications. But arts therapy speeds up the recovery process.”


A 15-year-old girl we will call Alicia offers a good example. Alicia was living in a shelter. She’d just found out she was pregnant, but she didn’t want to work with a social worker. She had a lot of boundary issues, and did not trust people who said they would help her. “Even working with me, one-on-one for the first three sessions, she was basically silent,” said Beever, who then tried to guess — based on Alicia’s age and where she was brought up and furthermore, what music she might like.


“The stuff I played for her (hip-hop) was way off,” Beever laughs. “She suggested Aerosmith and the Rolling Stones. I printed off lyrics to 'Dream On' and 'Gimme Shelter' and we listened to them. We rewrote some of the lyrics to capture her own dreams.”



The transformation was not immediate, but Alicia’s progress was. “I had a guitar and keyboard and taught some of the basic chords of the songs. She started on keyboard but then really took to the guitar. That’s when I noticed her first smiling. When she started playing the instruments and learning some notes, she completely changed. She started showing up on time. She walked straighter. And she started greeting everyone in the office.” One more reminder of the benefits of an all-encompassing healthcare approach.


Success stories like this one will be shared at the Creative Health Conference, Saturday, Oct. 15 at the USM Lewiston Campus, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Attendees get continuing education credits. For more information and to register for the conference, visit mainemusicandhealth.com/catconference.

  • Published in Music

'A better connection': Bulgaria Redux brings vibrant dance to Mayo Street

When Mayo Street Arts began its International Heritage Music Series four years ago, they set a high standard for performance value, attendance and community enthusiasm.



Kabile, the Bulgarian husband and wife team of Nikolay and Donka Kolev, played traditional songs and instrumentals and romped in the historic Danish church, drawing the packed house from their seats to join them in dance.


In September, the duo returns to Mayo Street with their new incarnation, Bulgarika, which includes Vassil Bebelekov and Dragi Dragnev, instrumental specialists in the Bulgarian bagpipe, shepherds flute, large drum and keyboards. The Kolevs are award-winning performers from folk music conservatories in Bulgaria.


“The series started because of Kabile,” says Blainor McGough, Mayo Street executive director and founder with her husband, Brian Arlet. “They were one of the first international concerts, so we made the decision to bring them back. People still talk about that show, which went from a concert with people packed in the benches to this swirling mass of dancing. They started on the stage, as big part of the Bulgarian tradition, and then walked down into the room. People were dancing around them in circles.”


Matthew Schreiber, a musician and friend who now lives in New Orleans, had recommended the group; and McGough said the show was a turning point for the East Bayside performance venue, exhibit space, and community center. “There was a range of people from the neighborhood — kids, grown-ups and a pocket of people who are into Balkan dance.” The latter group, associated with Downeast Friends of the Folk Arts (DEFFA), craves the music of Bulgaria, known for hauntingly expressive melodies, fascinating irregular rhythms and fiery dance tempos. And the Kolevs were inspired by the night, as well.


“We like to be among the people. That’s a better connection,” Donka said, who specializes in Bulgarian folk music and dance from Trace, the region of southern Bulgaria, northeastern Greece, and part of Turkey. “The most popular dance and easiest to learn is the Pravo Horo. It’s in 2/4 time. What is different in Bulgarian music is the rhythm. For example, a 7/8 dance called Ruchenitsa, a 9/8 dance called Daichovo Horo.”


Professional musicians in Bulgaria, the Kolevs moved to the United States in 1995, and found an immediate audience. “We were surprised but felt good they were interested,” she said.



Donka sings. Nikolay plays the traditional Bulgarian instrument the gadulka. She started in music at age 5. He started at age 10. Their paths converged when they attended a special folk school with a musical specialty, to learn about Bulgarian folk and traditions. They fell in love, were married and moved to the U.S. They began performing across the country in 1996 and are now on their 13th nationwide tour.


The Bulgarika concert is part of the International Heritage Music Series. “Based on the idea that music is inherent to strengthening community in cultures around the world, the series celebrates regional music and dance traditions," according to a grant report. “Performances will showcase leading artists in Arabic folk music, French and El Salvadorian violin music, Scandinavian choir music and more.” Mayo Street Arts receives funding from the Davis Family Foundation and the Brooks’ Family Foundation, which support local and international music.



Each year, the series offers eight to 12 international concerts from Sept. to May, with the summer months devoted more to children’s programs and puppet shows. Musicians have hailed from such places as Scandinavia, Burundi, Turkey, Romanian and Brazil.


“International music reflects the neighborhood here, and the population we have been working with,” McGough said, and she expects a big crowd again for Bulgaria Redux.


International Heritage Music Series: Bulgarika | Sunday, Sept. 18 | Mayo Street Arts, 10 Mayo St., Portland | 7:30-8:15pm concert; 8:15-8:30pm intermission; 8:30pm dancing | For more info, visit mayostreetarts.org

  • Published in News
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