I was surprised to read in the Sept. 20 edition of the Times Record, a piece penned by Jonathan Crimmins titled “Hand in your pocket.” The opinion piece about a recently awarded Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant to the Farnsworth Art Museum and two other Maine organizations, contained many inaccuracies.  

The award, from IMLS Museums for America Learning Experience program, was given to strengthen the Farnsworth’s Arts-in-Education flagship project, Stories of the Land and Its People. The grant, in the amount of $215,139 over two years, is a matching grant — meaning that every Federal dollar received will need to be matched by the Farnsworth. The process is rigorous and judged very carefully.  

Stories of the Land and Its People is a yearlong arts-integration initiative that benefits a large swath of the Midcoast community. The Farnsworth, through Stories of the Land, facilitates in-depth partnerships with many local schools, artists, and community members to connect the arts to curricular learning standards. This program, now in its ninth year, explores student and teacher curiosity through art, inquiry, creativity, and interactive learning experiences. Stories provides professional development opportunities for teachers and artists, free online resources for all educators, one-on-one arts integration consultations, and various multi-visit arts-integration programs led by the Arts in Education Program Manager — all offered free of charge. Over the past eight years, the Farnsworth has directly served over 1,500 students at 17 schools while working with an average of 150 teachers per year! 

This year, and for the eighth consecutive year, the Farnsworth is celebrating Stories by featuring the works created by the participating students in a fully curated exhibition, in one of its main museum galleries. The 2019 exhibition includes the work of over 155 elementary and middle school students and teachers who took part in the 2018-2019 academic year. The student show opened on May 19 and will run through Oct. 27 of this year. During that span, the exhibition will have been viewed by over 47,000 visitors.  

A recent economic impact study concluded that the Farnsworth Art Museum provided upwards of $58 million annually to the local midcoast economy. This figure does not take into account the enormous value that a program such as Stories of the Land and its people brings to the midcoast community. I hope the writer will take the time to visit the Farnsworth, talk with local educators and get a better understanding of what the museum does with these federal dollars before another one of his pieces appears in print.  

John C. McDonald is the Regional School Unit 13 superintendent of schools in Rockland.

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