Area Artists 2015

The Atrium Art Gallery at the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College presents the work of 93 artists from Androscoggin, Franklin, and Oxford counties in the biennial exhibition “Area Artists 2015” beginning January 16 and continuing through April 4.

Included are paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, and works in clay, wood, fiber, metal, and mixed media. The exhibition features work in a variety of styles from representational to abstract, with landscapes, figure studies and portraits, still lifes, and sculptural work. The opening reception, free and open to the public, is Friday, January 16, from 6-8 p.m.

Longtime sponsor for the exhibition series, Spiller’s president, Ray Martel, remarks that his company is proud to support the exhibition and the advancement of the arts and artists in the tri-county area. The exhibition series began in 1994 and over the years has highlighted hundreds of artists in Androscoggin, Franklin, and Oxford counties.

The juried exhibition was open to all artists, age 18 and over, who could submit one or two pieces in any media. Juror for the exhibition was Robyn Holman, curator for the Atrium Art Gallery, with over 35 years of developing and organizing art exhibits, jurying, and consulting.

The Atrium Art Gallery is located in the hub of the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College at 51 Westminster Street in Lewiston, offering interdisciplinary bachelor and graduate degree programs with both on-site and online classes.

The exhibition continues through April 4. Gallery hours are Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m.- 8 p.m.; Friday, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m; closed holidays. For more information contact Robyn Holman, curator, 753-6554, or the gallery’s website

Posted by on January 8th, 2015 Comments Off

USM LAC Hosts Suicide Prevention Awareness Night

The Druker Office of Community Engagement (DOCE) at the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College recently collaborated with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI Maine) to host an interactive session about suicide prevention with USM students and members of the community on November 9. The session was funded by a grant from USM and created a safe space for those in attendance to engage in open dialogue around suicide and mental illness. The event included a dynamic presentation from Heather Carter, Suicide Prevention Senior Trainer from NAMI Maine, as well as personal stories from family members with experience with mental illness, suicide survivors, and an informative presentation from Dr. Robert Small of USM Cares.

A student who attended the session remarked “I have some background knowledge on suicide prevention, but hearing the personal stories shared puts it all in perspective. This was a powerful event. It will stay with me forever.”

The event was facilitated by USM Students Tonya Bailey-Curry, Savannah Beaudry, Carmen Edwards, and Steven Doyle. The event was made possible in part by Lewiston House of Pizza.

USM LAC’s Druker Office of Community Engagement sets a unique standard as a student-faculty collaboratively led office coordinating LAC’s multi-tiered community engagement work. For more information about DOCE, please visit their website:

Posted by on December 3rd, 2014 Comments Off

Communication skills honed through higher education

Denise Scammon

Denise Scammon

Denise Scammon, a 2012 graduate of the Arts and Humanities program at USM LAC, gave a presentation on how she uses her degree at work and in the community, at the Lewiston campus as part of the Alumni Lecture Series.

Scammon pursued her A&H degree while working full time as an editor at the Sun Journal, part time as a special projects writer for USM LAC, and as a volunteer historian for the Woman’s Literary Union of Androscoggin County.

She began her presentation by defining the humanities, using this definition from Stanford University: “The humanities can be described as the study of how people process and document the human experience. Since humans have been able, we have used philosophy, literature, religion, art, music, history and language to understand and record our world.” She added that the humanities tap into the human experience.

Scammon encouraged the audience to consider taking humanities courses whenever the opportunity arose. She said that humanities courses offer opportunities to learn to write well, organize work, manage time, meet deadlines, convey meaning precisely, summarize, debate, research, analyze, present information, think logically, and search for ambiguities and context.

Infusing her presentation with humor, Scammon shared an image of a scientist gleeful for having cloned a dinosaur followed by an image of a dinosaur chasing the scientist. The caption stated, “Science can tell you how to clone a tyrannosaurus rex, but the Humanities can tell you why this might be a bad idea.” Her point is that science needs the humanities in research, analysis and critical thinking.

Scammon described her work at the newspaper. “The work I do as special sections editor in the advertising/marketing department at the Sun Journal includes producing over 80 newspaper supplements each year. I come up with story ideas, hire freelance writers/photographers, and curate editorial content from subscription services and other sources. I also design newspaper supplements.” Occasionally Scammon has opportunities to write feature stories and take photos for the special sections at the newspaper.

While many of the special newspaper sections are repeated each year and she has weeks to gather the editorial content, Scammon is also an Encore editor for the newsroom department and has a daily deadline for finding entertainment content. “Organizational skills are essential when you face daily and multiple, overlapping deadlines,” she said.

Joking with the audience about the press releases she receives at the newspaper that are missing important information such as names, street addresses, and dates of upcoming events, or are filled with spelling errors, all capital letters and exclamation marks, Scammon shared some press release writing tips. “Make sure you include the five “W”s in your press release: who, what, when, where, and why. The ‘why’ is where you can include information such as whether the event is a benefit event or whether it is a first-time or annual event — why people should attend your event?”

Briefly describing her experience as a student and freelance writer at LAC, Scammon said “Lewiston-Auburn College provides undergraduate and graduate degrees through an interdisciplinary curriculum. I was one of its many non-traditional students from 2007-2012. I had a great experience as a student here.” She continued, “I have worked for Dan Philbrick at USM LAC on special projects for Dean Joyce Gibson for about four years including the 25th anniversary timeline and commemoration booklet.”

Scammon has also interviewed and written profiles on LAC faculty, alumni and students which have been printed in several publications as well as posted online. “These profiles are a terrific way of communicating the school’s brand to targeted audiences,” she said. Scammon is a member of the USM Alumni board and has participated in its mentor program at LAC.

The Woman’s Literary Union of Androscoggin County has been one of Scammon’s favorite nonprofit organizations to volunteer at since 2010. Its mission is to promote the intellectual, cultural and educational advancement of its members. She first became involved in the organization when she was invited to WLU’s historic, beautiful clubhouse, the Foss Mansion in Auburn, to take photos for a special holiday section published by the newspaper. “One of the members gave me a tour of the mansion. She opened a closet door that revealed a disorganized pile of scrapbooks, ledgers, meeting minutes and stuff that had been accumulated by WLU since it was established in 1892. She said the club didn’t even know what was in all that stuff.”

Scammon created an independent study course in which she researched WLU and its history. She wrote a successful Maine State Archives grant that funded a professional conservationist to help organize WLU’s collection of historical documents and hold a workshop on future preservation. The historical documents in what is now called “the research closet,” revealed important information about WLU that members had forgotten.

“As early as 1898, WLU members started the movement to add kindergarten to the public school systems in Lewiston and Auburn,” Scammon said.

“In 1905, WLU members held a round table with educators and school superintendents to discuss the matter of adding domestic science and manual training to the public school curriculum. And, in 1907, WLU members established three public playgrounds in Lewiston and Auburn, purchasing the playground equipment with funds they had raised. The club members maintained the playgrounds and ran recreation programs for local children for many years.”

More recent WLU activities include a Mother-Daughter-Doll Tea which allows young children to attend a tea that includes a theatrical performance at which they get to see acceptable public behavior and dress. The Tea is WLU’s biggest annual fund raiser and attracts about 400 attendees each year.

For the last three years, WLU has hosted Bunco parties, a game introduced to its members by Scammon. Bunco is a dice game that originated in 18th-century England. It requires a minimum of 12 people as it’s four people to a table and at each table are two teams. “It’s a great way to socialize and meet new people because your partner changes with each round,” said Scammon, noting that 12 rounds are played. Prizes are given to winners of various categories at the end of the game and tea and snacks are served afterward. “People who have played Bunco ask us when WLU is having the next one because it is so much fun.”

New this year, WLU held its first prom gown giveaway event followed by a pay-it-forward thank-you tea for high school girls from any school. “In three weeks’ time, 255 prom gowns were donated by community members who expressed their gratitude at finding a use for their gowns that had been sitting in their closets with no expectation of ever being worn again. The event was a great success,” said Scammon.

Scammon then spoke about the history of the Foss Mansion and presented biographical information on Horatio and Ella Foss, the prior owners of WLU’s clubhouse which was bequeathed to WLU by Ella upon her death in 1941.

Scammon described her latest foray into volunteerism as an elected vice president of the board of L/A Arts. She shared the board’s mission statement: “L/A Arts’ agenda has always been to promote the power of the arts, use its credentials to stimulate economic revival, maintain a diversity of programming in our community and realize a high quality of life for all within the community.”

“L/A Arts provides art engagement in the community through its programs which include Arts in Education, Public Art, Artwalks, and the Ice Festival. The organization is a valuable resource,” said Scammon.

She finished her presentation by repeating the skills she gained through her studies in the Arts and Humanities program at LAC and how she uses those skills at work and in the community. “These are important skills in today’s job market,” she said. “Humanities studies enable students to become better communicators.

Posted by on December 3rd, 2014 Comments Off

Julia Sleeper Speaks About Tree Street Youth

Julia Sleeper

Julia Sleeper

Julia Sleeper got her bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Education from Bates College in 2008 and her Masters in Leadership Studies at the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College. While at USM LAC, Sleeper co-founded Tree Street Youth with Kim Sullivan, who was a senior at Bates College at the time. Tree Street Youth is a successful nonprofit organization that supports youth in downtown Lewiston through academics, arts and athletics.

Sleeper gave a presentation in October 2014 at USM LAC as part of its Alumni Lecture Series. She began by explaining her background. She’s from the Bangor-Brewer area. Her parents did not go to college — they were successful artists who spent a lot of time on the road peddling their wares. Sleeper originally wanted to be a veterinarian but she struggled with chemistry.

As part of a 30-hour internship while a student at Bates College, Sleeper worked in an ELL class at Lewiston Middle School. She was so enthralled with the work she did in the classroom that she got her 30 hours done in record time. Her next foray into Lewiston’s ethnic community was at Trinity Jubilee Center’s soup kitchen.

It was through her affiliation with Trinity that Sleeper began noticing that the downtown youth needed a place for after school and summer programs to help them with school and provide access to arts and athletics. “I wanted to run an after school program for 10 kids. I ran that program for five years seeing 60 to 80 kids a day. Initially, we began by providing homework help but I started thinking beyond that program,” said Sleeper.

She added a summer camp for at-risk kids and their families. There was an outpouring of support so she knew these programs were much needed in the community. “The first summer camp served 80 kids,” she said. Sleeper hired four college interns, and recruited eight street leaders to help with the camp. Today, the programs at Tree Street Youth serve 120 to 150 kids each day in grades kindergarten through 12. “It’s just insane how much the programs have grown, but it’s based on a need,” said Sleeper.

“Lewiston-Auburn is one of the coolest places I’ve lived,” said Sleeper. “Going from being a ‘guest’ in L-A to becoming a resident was powerful.”

Sleeper stated that Tree Street Youth recently purchased the whole building where it is located. Prior to this purchase, the organization was using a portion of the building. “The potential of having the entire building for our programs is huge, exciting and challenging. I feel privileged to be working with these kids,” said Sleeper.

Noting that the work involved in running the organization takes a lot of hands, Sleeper said that Tree Street Youth needs volunteers to help run its programs. “We have an internship program for this purpose,” she said.

She said she often gets asked, “What is the most difficult part of your job?” She answers that question by saying she has to be prepared for the unexpected. “Sometimes this job is like holding Jell-O. Plans go astray. It’s important to know what is in your control and what isn’t.”

Sleeper sees a lot of potential for Tree Street Youth because the community believes it offers important resources to youth living in downtown Lewiston. “Rather than seeing the glass as half empty or half full, I like to say that ‘You’ll see it when you believe it.’” Sleeper clearly believes in her mission.

Posted by on December 3rd, 2014 Comments Off

USM LAC Students and Family Members Support NAMI Maine

Students and family members from the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College recently took part supporting community partner National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Maine in their 12th annual “Walk the Walk to Start the Talk” event at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland. The event is NAMI Maine’s largest anti-stigma and fundraising campaign. 100% of the money raised from the walk stays in Maine to provide community education, support, and advocacy to all Mainer’s affected directly or indirectly by mental illness. NAMI Maine is the state’s largest grassroots support, education and advocacy organization committed to the issue of mental illness. NAMI Maine is an active voice for families, individuals and professionals whose daily lives are impacted by mental illness.

NAMI Walk particpants


Pictured (left to right):  Savannah Beaudry (Social and Behavioral Science), Katherine Currie (Occupational Therapy), Carmen Edwards (Social and Behavioral Science), Steven Doyle (Social Work), Laura Personette (Leadership Studies), Tonya Baily-Curry (Social and Behavioral Science), Lynsey Wood (USM Alumni), and Steve Thibeault.


Posted by on September 23rd, 2014 Comments Off