Tim Gillis

Tim Gillis

New exhibit of dinosaur bones, dung, art and animatronics educate (and terrify) visitors

A new dinosaur exhibit at the Portland Science Center combines childhood wonders with an art show for the grown-ups. Dinosaurs Unearthed has enough life-sized animatronic dinosaurs, skeletons, and fossils to keep busloads of kids entertained and enthralled for hours. And a decades-long painting project by artist Philip Carlo Paratore will keep the chaperones from getting restless.

Powered by customized mechanical technology and a dynamic jointing system, the dinosaurs, ranging from a Velociraptor to a Triceratops to a juvenile T-Rex come to virtual life in the exhibit, which places each creature in naturalistic indoor landscapes.

Thirteen of the dinosaurs are fully animatronic, and more recent research has led exhibitors to add feathers to several of the creatures.

A couple of short films help ease the introduction for timid youngsters and provide elementary content for teachers to consider adding to their lesson plans.

“We did a teacher preview and the response was phenomenal,” said Matt Stone, the sales and marketing director at the PSC on Commercial Street. “Some of this curriculum has been dropped (in schools). The teachers were talking about how they can bring it back.”

The hour-long tour has parents and educators giving hands-on guidance, making sure the youngest of their entourage don’t get frightened by the sights.

“Some kids are a little bit scared to go in. Kids under six – I’d say about 25 percent of them are nervous. But going in, only 10 percent needed to be calmed down,” Stone said. “It’s noisy. There’s lots of growling.”

The PSC says their show challenges beliefs about how dinosaurs lived, looked and sounded in pre-historic times. “In relatively recent years, paleontologists have come to believe that some dinosaurs are the ancestors of modern birds - leading to the hypothesis that some dinosaurs may have been feathered.”

TJI dinosaurs StegosaurusandTuojiangosaurus skeleton


REAL BONES - In addition to the animatronics, the Dinosaurs Unearthed exhibit features two full sized skeletons of a Stegosaurus and a Tuojiangosaurus.

They hope this new angle will add to the attraction for grade school students. They offer a guide to help educators make connections between the material presented in the tour and national curriculum standards for STEM (or science, technology, engineering, and math) goals.

Students (primarily K-8) can participate in activities, games, puzzles, and six different lessons plans including Mesozoic Math and Dinosaur Detectives, where junior paleontologists dig into a sand pit for skeletal remains at the “Kids Dig Table.”

They can also take in genuine fossils like the egg of an Oviraptor, which is Latin, ironically enough, for “egg stealer.” The most bird-like of the non-avian dinosaurs, its nesting position found in one specimen suggested the presence of feathered wings. The PSC’s exhibit also includes a feathered T-Rex.

Students can check out coprolite, or dung stone, a deceptively valuable item in the exhibit since animal excrement is easily fragmented or destroyed and whole fossilized remains are rare. In addition to the animatronic creatures, the exhibition will feature full-sized skeletons: a Yangchuanosaurus and a Tuojiangosaurus.

Dinosaurs may seem like familiar fodder for museum exhibits, but this is the first time Dinosaurs Unearthed has made it to New England, and perhaps the biggest addition to the show is a powerful series of paintings by Philip Carlo Paratore. As a ten-year-old boy growing up in Manhattan, he loved drawing pictures of animals and taking trips to the American Museum of Natural History.

“I clearly remember that first visit,” he said from South Portland this week. “When I returned years later, I sought to turn it into a project as an adult.”

The resulting decades-long artistic venture is called The Dinosaur Portfolio, with more than 100 paintings rendered primarily in oil paints while some of the works were started in acrylic for the foundation. The exhibit has been shown at The Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia and the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology in Canada.

Paratore, who teaches art classes at the University of Southern Maine, said his personal work and public teaching allow him “ways to discuss several big ideas – extinction, evolution, even global warming.” His art and educational experiences have informed his research, leading to journeys to Stonehenge, the Paleolithic caves at Lascaux and Fonte de Gaume, and the Olduvai Gorge (in modern-day Tanzania).

The most recent and exciting aspect of The Dinosaur Portfolio, he says, occurred when he made the connection between landscape paintings inspired by satellite photographs of earth and his earlier work depicting fossilized dinosaur bones.

TJI Dinosaurs Body LanguageStyracosaur Series Photocourtesy of Philip Carlo Paratore

SCIENCE AND ART - There are over 100 pieces of art in the Dinosaur Portfolio, all of which blend visual elements inspired by landscape paintings, satellite photography and fossilized bones. 

The images “strive to make a connection between science and art, but they are essentially metaphorical and poetic rather than explanatory. Each painting may be viewed as a visual experiment: an interplay of technical symbol, diagrammatic schema, naturalistic representation, and artistic metaphor,” said Paratore, who used to have occasional shows at Davidson and Daughters Contemporary Art Gallery, but has focused on teaching more lately.  With huge prehistoric beasts and the fine, delicate lines of art, the Dinosaurs Unearthed exhibit has exciting sights and lessons for all-aged students.

For information on the exhibition and to purchase tickets, visitportlandsciencecenter.com.

Heavyweight champ Larry Holmes hits town, talks Trump

Larry Holmes, the former heavyweight champion of the world from 1978 to 1983, was ringside for boxing at the Portland Expo last weekend — and he didn't pull any punches in a pre-event interview where he said President-elect Donald Trump struck him as a man "guided by the damn devil."

Holmes grew up in Easton, Penn., which gave birth to his boxing nickname, “The Easton Assassin.” He waged 20 successful title defenses, making him third all time, behind only Joe Louis at 25 and Wladimir Klitschko at 22. Holmes is also one of only five boxers to defeat Muhammad Ali and the only one to have won by knockout.

Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini and Michael Spinks have appeared in Portland before to support the local fight game and help it continue its success across the country. Holmes settled into the action Saturday after receiving a key to the city from Mayor Ethan Strimling.

sports boxing LarryHolmes PhotoByKineoPhotography

Larry Holmes with Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling.

Before the fight, Holmes talked about his career in boxing, what the future holds for young boxers, and his reaction to the presidential election.

“I’m like Donald Trump. I’m in the game. He says they rigged it, but Donald’s in the game. He was talking about the election being 'rigged' and it was – for him. He’s like (Russian President Vladimir) Putin. I think it was rigged for him to win because (Hillary) Clinton knows more about politics than any of those people know. Sixteen years, and you tell me she doesn’t know politics more than anyone else?”

He apologized for getting riled up about the election results, but says he’s mad the country fell for Trump’s phantom punches. “I don’t like politics. I say Clinton got a raw deal. I might not like it, but she accepted it. I know Donald Trump. I boxed at his hotel. His attitude — when you get to meet him — I didn't get a good vibe from him. So what he's rich? Big deal. I guess I know God better than he does. He's not guided by God. He's guided by the damn devil.”

Holmes turned to the positives and said boxing can help young pugilists fight their way out of tough circumstances. “Young fighters — they’re tomorrow. We’re today. (Boxing) can help kids move away from crimes and criminals. I kept my nose clean. I fought for 38 years and you didn’t hear anything involving trouble with me.” He admitted that boxing involves an element of trash-talking, when it’s important ahead of a bout to get into your opponent’s head.

“Sometimes you say things you shouldn’t say, get them going, but you don’t really mean it. After the fight, you hug each other.” He views boxing as a fair way to judge the superiority between two opponents, at least from a technical, physical sense.

“You can see who’s tougher,” he said from his home in Houston, Texas, before traveling to Maine for the Portland Boxing Club’s 103rd match. “Let’s box. There are three people sitting on the side who say if you won or not. That’s the way people get along. I love the game of boxing. You can’t beat it.”

Holmes thinks he was in Maine before but can’t be sure. Either way, he was proud to make the trip in an effort to bring out fight fans and support the PBC’s continued efforts to help youngsters fine-tune their game and use the in-ring code to give structure in their daily lives, “not to curse and be nasty. It will be an important trip. It’s exciting. I get a chance to meet different kinds of people and attitudes. I’m afraid of bears and snakes, so I don’t want to go too far into Maine.”

Holmes says his proudest moment in boxing came in 1978 when he beat Ken Norton in a bruising 15-round fight. “Some many people who know me, people I grew up with, said I could not be champion. I proved them wrong. If you work hard at something, you can accomplish it. I always let people know – jobs are not just about salaries or PhD’s. They’re about common sense. I learned from the best – Ali, (Joe) Frazier, (Earnie) Shavers. I learned how to not take punches, how to not get roughed up so much I couldn’t enjoy my life after the game, with my kids and grandkids.”

Invited to check out the city's noted restaurants, Holmes said, “I want to eat but I can’t eat too much. A couple of months ago I was diagnosed with diabetes. I’m trying to lose some weight, but I just keep eating.”


Russell Lamour Jr. continued his winning ways Saturday night, besting Jaime Barboza in a unanimous decision at the Portland Expo. Bobby Russo, Portland Boxing Club founder, said it was a fitting end to an evening of tight fights. Lamour is the former New England and North American middleweight champion, but lost his title to Thomas Falawo last year. He has since won three matches in a row.

“Russell dropped him in the first round with an unbelievable uppercut. It was near the end of the round, and Barboza survived. Then he got Russell in the second round. This match was the icing on the cake, and there were competitive matches all the way through.”

Another PBC fighter, super bantamweight Jorge Abiague, won by unanimous decision over Basilio Nieves of Lawrence, Mass. In the other pro bout on the night, Casey Kramlich, a PBC fighter out of Raymond, defeated Larry Smith of Texas.

  • Published in Sports

Scott Nash opens "Picture This," an illustration exhibit and workshop open to everyone

A new nonprofit in Portland wants to make learning the illustrative arts more affordable and available to a wider audience, so it’s setting up shop at the Portland Public Library.

Scott Nash, director of the Illustration Institute, says “anyone can join in. That’s one of the reasons we want this in a public place, like a library as opposed to a typical art school or university.”

He hopes the locale and sliding scale fees will attract nascent artists to the workshops, lectures, films, and exhibits that will be held at the PPL over the next 12 months. Then, half of the exhibit will travel to public libraries in Boston, Philadelphia, and Portland, Ore. adding in local works to connect it to the community.

A new $65,000 grant from the Maine Community Foundation will go a long way to aiding their efforts.

“Illustration is a pretty wide field,” he said. “We really want to tap into a more diverse student base. In every city we go to, we’ll actively look for the type of artist who might not traditionally go to art school.”

The institute will charge varying rates. There’s no set curriculum, with visiting artists and speakers suggesting ideas for workshops. It all kicks off with an exhibit at the PPL called “Picture This…” that presents completed works by several local and national artists, along with “process or inspiration boards” that show what the finished pieces looked like in all their earlier stages.

“It’s more than an exhibit,” he said. “It’s part of a program. We want to travel and talk about how illustration connects to storytelling, and bring artists to these cities and make another connection to these illustrators.”

The works in “Picture This...” span a broad range of illustration from children’s picture books to applied illustration, editorial, animation, cartoon and tattoo art. As the title of the exhibition implies, “Picture This...” intends to provide a view into how specific media the public encounters every day are enhanced by illustration and further, how an aspiring illustrator might picture themselves in this fulfilling and diverse profession.

A series of free-range teaching workshops last year prompted Nash to create the non-profit. Nash had invited several accomplished artists, including Bob Mankoff, cartoon editor of The New Yorker, and Emily Flake, an up-and-coming illustrator based in New York, to share their insights with MECA students and alumni.

Afterwards, Bob sidled up to me and told me two alums told him it was their best experience. My nose got out of joint for a second,” said Nash, who has taught at Boston University, Northeastern University and The Art Institute of Boston. “Then I realized this is really good. I remembered that I’d had similar experiences in several ways.”

Flake’s lecture and four-hour workshop “schooled me,” he said. He invited her to come back this year and talk about her work, which is for a decidedly adult audience.

“I wanted to balance it out with darker material as well,” Nash said of the exhibit, which includes some of Flake’s work, as well as the processes involved with tattooing.

Flake grew up near Hartford, Ct. and now lives in Brooklyn. She looks forward to returning to Maine this summer to discuss her craft.

“I can take on some darker things without getting too overweening,” she said. “I can explore darker chambers of the human heart and still make it funny. It’s always been my temperament to approach the heavier things with a lighter approach – in both my work and my life.”

Flake has no particular interest in being edgy but thinks it’s important for any artist to tell the truth. “Not to expose a great human truth in cartoons, but I’m aiming for humor and honesty,” she said.

The idea of opening the arts up to non-college participants sits well with her.

“Art school can be very useful,” she said. “My only hesitation with art schools now is that the cost is getting so out of control. If you want to go the education route, continuing ed classes are a more economical way to do that. You can develop relationships with the peers you admire and from whom you’d like to learn things. One of the most important things about art school is being around other artists, but it doesn’t have to be a formal arrangement. You can go online, get out into your neighborhood, or go to a comic convention. I was very lucky to be able to go to school, but being exposed to an artist’s work ethic is just as important as instruction.”

Nash, who established the Illustration Department at the Maine College of Art and teaches there now, realized that learning about art often happens outside the classroom walls.

“As an artist, I thought back on monumental moments in my art career, with many that were in classes,” he said. “But these experiences where I would meet someone in a studio, where they worked - that has informed me as much as art school.”

The exhibit will show the broad range of illustration, from children’s books to tattoo art, and Nash predicts one of the more popular workshops will be the one on tattooing, presented by Danielle Madore of the Black Hen studio in South Portland.

“She’s doing traditional as well as expressive tattoos,” Nash said. “I think she’s planning to do a roundtable discussion with a number of tattoo artists in the area.”

The new nonprofit will not compete with other art schools, including MECA. “They are a sponsor,” he said. “There’s no competition. This idea is an addition, another way to step into this world.”

A component of the Illustration Institute will be six weeks of intensive workshops called “Maine’s Children’s Book Art,” covering the art of making children’s books. “Not so much on the business side,” Nash said. “We’re more interested in the art and how far we can take children’s books.”

Having worked previously with Nickelodeon, PBS, ABC, Comedy Central, Disney, Mattel, Microsoft, Milton Bradley, and the Boston Children’s Museum, Nash still sees the Illustration Institute as a capstone to his career.

“I’m having the time of my life with this.”


Exhibit Details:

Picture This... The Art and Workings of Illustration Institute will be on display at Portland Public Library’s Lewis Gallery from Oct. 7 through Dec. 17. The Illustration Institute will be providing workshops, lectures and film at the library through October of 2017.


As part of the exhibit, rarely seen “behind-the-scenes” process pieces are included for each final work. “The artists have generously provided early ideas, abandoned sketches, revised and reworked versions based on collaborations with their clients or editors, inviting an intimate look into the artist's studio in order to show the real effort and joy of illustrating for a living,” Nash said.

  • Published in Art

No mystery about Maine's beer craze: Cone offers paean to the 'old guys'

Maine author Kate Cone is climbing on the Brew Bus to tout her new book and join fellow travelers in tasting a wide variety of the area’s best beer.

It’s been two decades since Cone penned her first version of “What’s Brewing in New England: A Guide to Brewpubs and Craft Breweries” at a time when the burgeoning beer scene was experimenting with “microbrews,” a term she said has been replaced by the more fashionable “craft beer.” By revisiting New England breweries, Cone found that much of the current regional success could be traced to brewing roots right here in Portland. For a mystery writer, this was an easy case to solve.

Her first immersion in the process of making beer came while working in a law firm in Brunswick that represented the brand new Shipyard Brewing Company.

“Back then, it was pretty much Geary’s, Gritty’s, Shipyard. Three Dollar Dewey’s and Great Lost Bear were the beer bars. Allagash had just opened,” she said. “Now, there are 10 to 15 craft breweries in the Portland/South Portland area, and as many as 75 statewide.”

A major development came when Maine State law regarding breweries allowed them to brew beer and have a tasting room where they can sell beer. “Many of those have food trucks that appear, so food is available, but the brewery doesn't incur that overhead of a brewpub and they avoid all the regulations of owning a restaurant,” she said. “There’s this new model of newly formed tasting rooms with the brewery out back. Beer is still distributed and packaged, but they can experiment with a lot of different beers at the bar. They can try out new tastes without having to distribute them, so it’s a lot less money from an overhead perspective.”

Cone is from Littleton, Mass. and attended Colby College. She has lived in Waterville for the past eight years with her husband, Patrick Brancaccio, who teaches Italian Literature in Italy. She’s going there in January for research, to enjoy immersing herself in the provincial potables and draw comparisons with her Mainestays.
“My favorite beers tend to be along the traditional British/Irish palate. I love Geary's Winter Ale, Shipyard's Prelude and their flagship Export Ale, Gritty's Stout, and Allagash's Curieux. Of course, I love visiting the new places and will try anything! Smoked and sour beers are not my thing, but I respect the brewers who make them and the people who like them.” She noted that there are some great little breweries getting into the scene, including Lone Pine brewery in Portland, Foulmouthed in South Portland, and Mast Landing in Westbrook.

“Beer tours are great because you get to taste a lot of beers in one day. At each stop, they give you a flight (think drinker’s paint palette) — three to five beers with a wide range of styles and flavors,” she said. “There’s this fascination with hops that’s coming full circle. Very hoppy beers are popular, and some places are making double and triple IPAs. Crafters are experimenting with new tastes all the time. One beer will try to fit into a trend, like ‘hoppy.’ With the other brews, they can create whatever they want. They could try honey, or flowers, or chocolate, or pumpkin — that’s really big now.”

There will be little trouble scaring up a bus full of ready samplers of all ages, swigging in Hallowe’en with nips of Smashed Pumpkin. Cone’s book launch and beer bus tour is a paean to the “old guys,” she says, as the more established breweries refer to themselves. “I started out in the business when they were young or just opening. I thought they deserved some attention after they paved the way for the rest of the younger brewers on the scene. Somebody born 21 years ago, who can drink now — they were introduced to drinking with craft beer. They didn’t have to drink Old Milwaukee all the time.”

Maine Brew Bus | Wednesday, Nov. 9 from 10:30am to 3:30pm | Craft Beer Cellar, Portland; 111 Commercial St. | The tour will visit D.L. Geary Brewing Company, Allagash Brewing Company, Shipyard Brewing Company, and features a full lunch at Gritty McDuff’s. Each participant on the tour will also receive a personally signed copy of “What’s Brewing in New England.” At the conclusion of the tour, Kate will available to the general public signing copies of her book in two locations: 3:00-4:00pm, Shipyard Brewing Company gift shop; 4:30-6:00pm, Great Lost Bear (during an Allagash Brewing Company tap takeover). | COST: $90/pp includes transportation, alcohol samples, lunch, bottled water, and gratuities paid at each stop, as well as a signed copy of Cone’s book.

Home on the Grange: Nirvana bassist gets political vibes from community group, endorses ranked-choice voting

It’s the 25th anniversary of “Nevermind,” the seminal Nirvana album that pushed grunge music into the mainstream.

The band’s bassist Krist Novoselic, of Washington state, is touring the northeast, singing and speaking on behalf of ranked-choice voting, to help raise money and awareness for the initiative (Maine’s Question 5), and to trade on Nirvana’s enduring popularity to reach out to millennials.

He arrived in Portland over the weekend to speak with the press and practice with some local musicians ahead of a fundraiser concert, held this past Monday night at Bayside Bowl. He warmed up with Scott Girouard, Mike Maurice, Chuck Prinn, and Estelle Poole, and Bridgette Semler. They created an original piece of music called “Krispy.”

“It’s a pure jam,” Novoselic said. “We met each other, said “Hello. How are you?’ then got instruments set up and started to make noise. We’re working together and everybody’s strengths come forward. The energy came together. It can be cold jamming with new people. You’ve got to give it a couple minutes before it works, and it did. It’s a blistering tune, a punk rock song.”

He’s been to Maine once before, in 1993, with Dave Grolh and Kurt Cobain while mastering “In Utero,” Nirvana’s third and final album, with ten time Grammy-winner Bob Ludwig, owner of Gateway Mastering.

“With Nirvana, we came out of the punk rock music scene; we weren’t mainstream,” he said. “Next we were the biggest band in the world. Rock-and-roll was vital again. We just changed the rules a little bit.”

Since 1996, Novoselic has been working to change the rules of politics, as well. He became involved to work against anti-music laws in his home state.

“There was a teen dance ordinance in Seattle,” he said. “If you were an adult, from 18 to 20 years old, you couldn’t go see most small scale rock shows. There was also an erotic music law, a censorship bill in the state legislature.”

He was a principal in the formation of JAMPAC, the Joint Artists and Musicians Political Action Committee, which argued that music is an asset that adds economic viability to a community. “I worked with lawmakers, bands, promoters, clubs - and fans, from whom I got my civic education,” he said. “We discovered terrible flaws in the system, with uncontested or uncompetitive elections, protected seats, winners without a clear majority.”

Novoselic joined the board of FairVote (formerly the Center for Voting and Democracy) in 2005 and became chair in 2008. FairVote worked with Portland officials in 2011 when it adopted ranked-choice voting for mayoral elections.

“I want voters to recognize the value of ranked-choice voting. It’s not some new, crazy idea. It’s established and proven, and has a lot of potential.” He cited the impact Ralph Nader had in the 2000 election and Ross Perot in 1992, and that in the last 11 gubernatorial races in Maine, nine of the winners did not have more than 50 percent of the vote.

Grassroots Efforts

Novoselic and his wife Darbury own a farm in Washington. They joined Gray's River Grange in 2003, and he later became the grange master.

“It’s a community group. One of its early tenets, in 1867, proclaimed that woman was equal with man, and could be grange master,” he said of the grange, which is in favor of public utility services, a rural post service, and election reform. They maintain a local cemetery and two parks, give money to food banks, and sponsor a spelling bee.

“There’s a wealth of tradition, ceremony, and pomp,” he said. “A positive message about the individual’s role in the community.”

Novoselic supports Gary Johnson in the national election, but says, “Each person should vote for who speaks to them, not necessarily (from) a major party or who raises the most money. Ranked-choice voting is less negative. It encourages politicians to reach out. The way the system is now pushes towards contention.”

Rock the Vote is an effort to make voters aware of the candidate choices, their backgrounds and beliefs, as well as local and national ballot measures. Krist hopes to Rank the Vote, and spoke about how music and politics often intersect, highlighting that whether you’re in the audience or the voting booth, there’s always something for everyone. With ranked-choice voting, we will feel better about the winner.

“Music can do two things. It can be transcendental or pigeonholed and pasted into a lifestyle. It depends on what is intent of the artist, and what are the needs of the listener,” he said. “If you hear glorious literature in Bob Dylan (like I do), that’s great. If you want just a great rock song, you’re going to find it.”

  • Published in Music

'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

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