The arts have a special place in my heart. As a former trumpet player, I have fond memories of marching band, holiday concerts and the need to clean out my spit valve. When I was a graduating senior at Thornton Academy, I even received the Arts Department Award recognizing my efforts within the arts, specifically with the television station, TATV Channel 3.
The role arts played in my life early on has led me to champion the importance of the arts not just in the Legislature but right here at home.
STEM refers to the importance of prioritizing science, technology, engineering and mathematics in public schools. There is a growing movement to make it STEAM, by adding arts into the mix. Studies have proven direct links between students exploring their creativity in the arts with doing better in academic classes and learning important skills such as team building, communication and self-expression.
Last year, I started the Arts Action Fund, a grant designed to help local arts classrooms with innovative new projects and to help cover supply costs. It’s my way of giving back to a school system that has given so much to me. I am who I am today because of the dedicated teachers and mentors I grew up with.
Our 2016-2017 recipients were Burns School in Saco, Loranger Memorial in Old Orchard Beach, and Saint James in Biddeford. Burns School used the grant money to fund a variety of ethnic instruments. Loranger Memorial started a ukulele program and Saint James purchased a variety of band instruments for students most in need.
This year, our 2017-2018 recipients are: Saco Middle School, Old Orchard Beach High School and Burns School. Saco Middle School is using the grant to reinvigorate and make improvements to its performance arts space: a new stage curtain, performance lights, audio system, etc. At Old Orchard Beach High School, arts teachers are putting their students through a cultural immersion experience by drawing and painting a community mural map of the world. For Burns School, we doubled its strings budget.
In total, we have invested more than $2,500 into classrooms throughout our area with your help and the help of local businesses through my nonprofit organization. Our work is far from over, but hopefully this will continue to spark renewed interest in a subject matter that yields lifelong results.
Justin Chenette is serving his first term as the youngest senator in the Maine Senate representing Saco, Old Orchard Beach, Hollis, Limington and Buxton. He previously served two terms in the Maine House of Representatives. Outside the Legislature, he is the owner of Chenette Media LLC, a marketing & public relations firm, works as the marketing coordinator of Saco Sport & Fitness, and is the president/ CEO of the Saco Bay Center of Civic Engagement, a 501c3 nonprofit service organization. Sign up for legislative updates at www.justinchenette.com or www.Facebook.com/ JustinChenette.
Beyond the Headlines
Weekly Column featured in The Biddeford-Saco-OOB Courier Newspaper by Rep. Justin Chenette of Saco