Students attending the RSU 13 Alternative Education program had the privilege June 9 of meeting Ibiyinka Alao, an artist from Nigeria who serves as the Arts Ambassador to the United Nations for his country.

Alao, has been visiting Rockland to study the works of the Wyeths at the Farnsworth Art Museum and contacted program director Michael McGuire in May about visiting the school because, he said, he has a particular fondness for alternative education.

Alao spoke to students about his home in Ponyan, Nigeria, noting, among other things, that the coldest it gets there is about 60 degrees and during the summer temperatures can reach 120 F.  He laughed that last winter in New York City he thought he would freeze when the temperature plummeted to zero.

Using a PowerPoint presentation, Alao explained his approach to his art, mixing in stories from his childhood in Nigeria. He noted that in his country, art is considered “music frozen in time.” He displayed one piece of his work which, unrolled, stretched for more than eight feet. His paintings are filled with vibrant colors that, he explained, are traditional in his culture. Students and teachers also joined him in singing a traditional Nigerian song.

Alao hopes to obtain a grant that will allow him to return to the Midcoast for an extended stay through next fall. If the grant is awarded, he plans to partner with the RSU 13 Alternative Ed program and possibly other local schools for week-long art residencies. For more information about the artist, visit his website,

VillageSoup Art/Entertainment Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email to