Celebrating children of all ages
Hope — Six months after it opened, Sweet Tree Arts, at the corner of routes 105 and 235, is preparing for its first community event since its February launch. Back then, the arts center held a story slam with several local storytellers and workshops for teachers to mark its opening.
Sweet Tree will host the Hope Children’s Festival, featuring face-painting, open art activities, a drum circle and Japanese dance, Saturday, Aug. 24, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Center director Lindsay Pinchbeck said the main feature of the day will be children’s author, illustrator and puppet maker Ashley Bryan, a resident of Little Cranberry Island.
Bryan, 90, grew up in Harlem and has spent his life creating books drawn from African-American tales and spirituals, Pinchbeck said. In preparation for his appearance at the festival, she has asked several local librarians to share Bryan’s books with young patrons and invite them to make pictures based on the books to honor him at the festival. Bryan, she said, is “a very, very profound speaker.”
There also will be performances by local musicians, a martial arts demonstration and, since the event is a fundraiser for Sweet Tree, a raffle with gift certificates from many local businesses.
This is the seventh time Pinchbeck and her brother, Andrew Stewart, owner of the Hope General Store, have put on the festival, and the first time that it has been held at Sweet Tree. Last year’s event drew 250 families, she said.
Pinchbeck’s artistic background is in printmaking and photography. She has taught at the Maine Photographic Workshops and was in charge of the photography program at the Riley School in Glen Cove. She said Hope is a good place for the center because the Midcoast has "a lot of creative energy." She and her husband, Chris Pinchbeck, built the two buildings that house Sweet Tree and Pinchbeck Pipes, where Chris builds bagpipes, collectively known as the Sweetland Center.
The name is a bit of Hope history: the Sweetland Tavern, built in the 1800s by Wade Sweetland, was formerly on this site, Lindsay said. When the Pinchbecks took over the property, they saved the original frame of the tavern and used it in the interior of the building that now houses Chris’ business. Sweet Tree is a reference to the earlier Sweetland, Lindsay Pinchbeck said.
The center houses a low-residency master’s degree program of Lesley University, based in Cambridge, Mass. The program offers a master of education in curriculum and instruction degree focused on integrated teaching through the arts. Students attend classes one weekend a month for 22 months. Pinchbeck is the host and recruiter for the program based at Sweet Tree; she has enrolled the 12 students necessary to have the program there. Students help with the center’s programs, and Lesley pays rent to have the program there.
Sweet Tree’s offerings for children and adults are varied, ranging from science programs for preschoolers through eighth-graders to visual and performing arts offerings for both children and adults. Some invite parents to create right along with their children. In the fall, Pinchbeck said, she hopes to offer martial arts and music classes.
This eclectic approach reflects Pinchbeck’s sense of herself as straddling the line between artist and educator, wanting to offer alternative learning opportunities and foster creativity in the lives of people of all ages.
“I am very interested in the cognitive effects of the arts and how the arts has the power to bring people together, how it can encourage community and friendship and allow people to take risks and try new things,” she said in an email.
For example, she said, combining science and art touches “all the core curriculum areas naturally,” with scientists and artists sharing a hands-on, experimental approach to learning.
She said she hopes to hold another storytelling event for the center’s first anniversary in February. In the meantime, she encouraged local families to come to the center’s open studio times, Mondays and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. through August, and the same hours on Mondays in the fall. With a variety of different activity stations, she said, artists young and old can “come make a mess on our floor, not theirs.”
Admission to the Hope Children’s Festival is free, with donations to the center’s scholarship appreciated. For more information on Sweet Tree Arts, visit sweettreearts.org. All ages are welcome.
Sarah E. Reynolds is a reporter for the Camden Herald.
Sarah E. Reynolds has been a reporter and writer for more than 20 years, winning awards from the Maine Press Association and other professional organizations. She loves to read, hike and play word games.
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