Big Thanks: Auction 2010

Group of friends enjoying auction night.
Auction night is more fun with friends! (Photo by Stpehen Quirk)

Each year starting in early October, our volunteer friends committee spends endless hours planning and preparing for our annual auction. The auction raises funds for the Museum & Theatre’s exhibits and educational programming, is rewarding to work on as a volunteer and fun to attend as a guest. This year’s auction, which was held this past Friday night at the Holiday Inn by the Bay was a big success, in spite of our fairly sluggish economy. Over 25 dedicated volunteers worked extremely hard to secure over 400 fabulous donations, including family getaways, sports and concert tickets, parties, jewelry, and much, much more. Approximately 300 guests attended, bid and won both live and silent auction items, and feasted on delicious appetizers, mini sandwiches and ice cream sundaes.

I would like to thank all of our incredible sponsors, White Rock Distilleries, Spectrum Medical Group and Sudzie Autowash for their outstanding support in Auction 2010. I would also like to thank all of our auction volunteers, guests, bidders, and winners and our extremely loyal donors- all of whom made this event possible.

Bidding in the silent auction
Guests peruse the tables just before closing to get in their last-minute bids. (Photo by Stephen Quirk)

I hope YOU will consider attending next year’s auction which will be held on Friday, April 29th, 2011. Stay tuned for more updates throughout the summer and fall. For more information on how you can get involved, please contact Alicia at or 207-828-1234 x242.

You can see many more photos from auction night on our Facebook page:!/pages/Portland-ME/Childrens-Museum-Theatre-of-Maine/91981131578

UPDATE 4/6/10: The results are in and Auction 2010 exceeded our budgeted goal by over 15%!  Donations were outstanding – more than 300 local businesses and individuals donated goods and services valued at a total of over $105,000 to this year’s event.

Meet a Member Family: The Surkins!

The Surkin family in We Are Maine

You may have spotted the Surkins (mom Morgan, dad Dave, and son Sawyer, almost 3) around the Museum & Theatre – if your eyes move quick enough! When Sawyer explores the “zeum” (that’s his nickname for us), he almost never stops moving; Morgan and Dave do their best to keep up. The Surkins live in Portland, just a few blocks from the Museum & Theatre, so they visit a lot, even if it’s just for a few minutes in between errands (like Saturday’s visit, which was after Sawyer’s first haircut!). Morgan and Dave may look familiar to Greater Portland sports enthusiasts – when they’re not chasing after Sawyer (and sometimes even when they are!), they run PortSports Social Club, a recreational sports league for grown-ups – so they know a lot about play!

This weekend, I tagged along on their visit to the “zeum” and managed to grab a few photos and a quick chat – read on to learn

Playing in Discovery Creek

a little more about this active member family!

Q: How long have you been members?
Dave: Since October of 2009.

Q:  What’s Sawyer’s favorite part of the Museum?
Morgan: He always flocks to the fire truck – there and the water exhibit on the 2nd floor.
Dave: The ball room is a big highlight of every trip.

Q:  What’s the silliest, least “grown-up” thing the Museum inspires you to do when you visit?

Sawyer and Dave learning about birds in the Ranger Station

Morgan: Play like a kid alongside Sawyer, especially when he’s climbing in the Treehouse!
Dave: I like to go in the Space Shuttle and flip all of the switches. It is similar to bubble wrap – there is something so satisfying about flipping 20 switches that light up!

Q:  What’s your favorite family event that you’ve attended here?
Morgan: Last year we brought Sawyer to his first theatre show and he loved it at only two!  He also love the What About Whales? opening party.

Q:  What has Sawyer learned at the Museum & Theatre?
Dave: Sawyer learned to count past 10 by walking up and down the numbered steps of the museum.

Q:  Have you gotten to know the staff and volunteers at the Museum & Theatre?
Dave: Louisa introduced Sawyer and I to a snack from Guatemala. We got to drink Papaya Juice and eat a cookie. It was a perfect way to have a snack and take a break and learn about another culture.

Q:  What does the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine mean to you?
Morgan: I remember going to the Museum as a kid and loving the grocery store, back when it was on Stevens Avenue.  It’s great that Sawyer will have those same memories as he grows up.
Dave: Growing up in Baltimore I never had a really great children’s museum like this to go to. We had one that never changed for 20 years and is no longer there. I love how well run the Children’s Museum is and how often it’s updated with new exhibits. The dedication to the children and to the membership base is very clear and impressive.

Q:  What do you think it means to the community?
Morgan: I think that it’s a valuable resource for the community and I wish that we could get there more often to take advantage of all the programming. It’s a great way to socialize your kids and mingle with other parents and caregivers, too.
Dave: Having only one child and not having a lot of friends with children his age, the Museum is a great place to give Sawyer the social interaction with other kids that he needs before he reaches school age.

Would your family like to be featured in a “Meet a Member Family” post?  Contact me at or 828-1234 x222.

Let your child take the stage!

Whether your child is a natural actor or a wallflower, creative play and theatre activities will inspire your whole family to play together.  The benefits of introducing your child to dramatic play at an early age are numerous.  Dramatic play improves cognitive development, social skills, communication, motor skills and emotional development. Young children have vibrant and  active imaginations;  do you play a role in your child’s imagination games?  You can!

Begin with your favorite book.  Read it out loud a few times over the period of a week to get a feel for the story.  Younger children will learn key dialogue moments just from repetition.  Older kids might enjoy the task of adapting the story, and writing out the dialogue.  Ask the question, how can we act this out?  Brainstorm ideas together.

The next step is to act it out.  Pick characters.  Parents should definitely play roles too. If there are too many characters, have each actor play multiple roles.  If there aren’t enough characters in the story for your family, add some more.  Theatre teaches us to be team players and problem solvers.  How can everyone take part in the story?  Make sure to listen to your child’s ideas, and try them out.  You may have a budding director on your hands. Rehearse your story a few times.  Like anything else, the sillier you are by changing your voice, exaggerating your movements, the freer and exaggerated your child will be.  Theatre can teach us communication skills.  Ask questions like, “How can you use your voice to tell the audience about your character?” “How can we use your body to tell the audience what happened next?”

Now for the flourishes; dig though your closet to find something that signifies the character.  You don’t need to go overboard, use common items you can find around the house!  Set the stage.  How can you transform your living room rug into a duck pond?  You could even invite your friends and extended family to come watch the play in your living room!  Make posters and tickets!  Imagine how confident your child would be after putting on their own show for family, friends or neighbors.  After bowing to that applause they’re sure to be a few inches taller!

Auction 2010 Preview: Fireboat Ride!

Fireboat tour of Casco Bay

Item #258 Fireboat ride for 10!

Get an exclusive tour of Casco Bay aboard a City of Portland fireboat! Make it the perfect day for your aspiring firefighter or treat family and friends with 5 large pizzas and 2 cases of bottled water.

Donated by: Portland Fire Department, Papa John’s Pizza and Poland Spring Water Company

To bid on this item and so much more, join us at the 2010 Auction: Make Dreams Come True this Friday, March 26th! To reserve your tickets, contact me at 828-1234 x242 or or click here to register online.

Introducing…Where Science Meets Art

Body maps

The interaction between art and science is a multifarious one, and seemingly most fluid in the minds of youth. The idea of visualizing imagined worlds is often the first step in an artistic or scientific process. The labors of both fields rely heavily on interpretation of the natural world; observation, interpretation and rendering nature.

Perfect Perspective Drawings

In recognition and celebration of this, the Museum & Theatre is excited to introduce a series of programs titled “Where Science Meets Art.” These Saturday activities will explore the symbiotic relationship of these fields.

Paint Lab

The program is not so much about using art as an illustrative tool for scientific concepts, but more so the exploration of method, materials and themes.

There appears to be a point when society, or age, or maybe just language begins to separate the innate connections and similarities of the artistic and scientific themes. Here at the Museum we would like to celebrate these universal parallels.

Shadow Fun!

Join us Saturdays at 12:30pm for programs such as Body Maps, What’s in a Fingerprint? Paint Lab, Gravity Painting, Perfect Perspective Drawing, Art Forms In Nature and Chromatography.

Cinderella Audience Reviews!

I had the pleasure of interviewing some young audience members as they were leaving Cinderella last Thursday.  The Dress Up Theatre was packed, but both Leo and Jai had front row seats on the bolsters!  Jai even got to go up on the stage when the Fairy God Mother (played by 11-year-old Bridget Fehrs) did magic tricks at the beginning of the play!

Jai sitting in the Emperor's throne.

Leo watched the play with his brother Sam and his Mom Eden. Jai watched the play with his Grandmother.  They were both eager to talk to me afterward and tell me what they thought!

You can listen to the full interview here.  Here are a few of my favorite parts:

Reba:  What did you think of the play?
Jai & Leo:  Good!!!!

Reba:  What was your favorite part?
Jai:  In the end.
Leo:  The end!

Reba:  Why the end?
Leo:  Because they married each other.

Leo enjoying a snack after the play.
Leo getting into the royal mood with a bag of jewels!

Reba:  What was your favorite costume?
Jai:  The Prince’s
Leo:  Cinderella’s!

Reba:  Why Cinderella’s?
Leo:  Because it was pretty.

I’ve seen Jai and his Grandmother at several plays and Leo and his brother Sam have even taken a Teensy Weensy Theatre Class with me.  It’s exciting to see young people engage with and enjoy theatre at an early age, a sign that they’ll value the arts for life!

Say Cheese- Animal Friends!

I love the animal programs here at the Museum & Theatre. I was brimming with excitement as I made my way down to the Ranger Station last Friday for Animal Friends with David Sparks. What furry or feathered animal would David bring today? As I walked in, I found two 12-day-old pygmy goats!

Soon, the little bleats drew dozens of families into the Ranger Station to learn more about these little guys. David Sparks showed everyone how to pick up the goats and even tried to feed them some milk! But they were much too excited to take a food break. It was great to see parents and children alike playing with the pygmy goats.

There are two more animal programs in March: Animal Fun with the Animal Refuge League is on Thursday, March 18 at 11:30am and Pets & More with the Animal Welfare Society is on Saturday, March 20 at 10am.

Join us to discover a new animal or learn more about an old friend.

Auction 2010: new time, new attitude!

This year, the doors to Auction 2010: Make Dreams Come True will open at 6:30pm in the Grand Ballroom at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in downtown Portland

Feast on delicious hors d’oeuvres and specialty martinis from the cash bar, while perusing over 400 Silent Auction items and packages, featuring:

  • Original artwork (Items 100-127)
  • Overnight getaways, entertainment tickets and coastal adventures (Items 200-255)
  • Jewelry, accessories, gifts and spa services (Items 300-384)
  • Sports tickets, outdoor adventures, electronics, tools and services (Items 400-462)
  • Kids’ activities, services, toys and clothes (Items 500-583)
  • Gift certificates and gift baskets from local restaurants, markets, bakeries and breweries (Items 600-696)

New Time! The Live Auction will begin at 7:30pm and will be hosted by Auctioneer, Kaja Veilleux.

New Attitude! With our national economic situation in mind, we will be featuring over 30 Live Auction packages at a variety of price points – there’s something for every kind of shopper! Check out a few of these budget-friendly items that make supporting the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine fun and affordable:

  • Romantic Boston Getaway for 2 at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel (Item 2)
  • Private Chinese or Japanese Cooking Class for 8 with Chris Toy at Now You’re Cooking in Bath (Item 4)
  • Boston Celtics Tickets for 4 (Item 6)
  • Ladies’ Spa Day for 4 at Akari Salon & Day Spa (Item 7)
  • L.L. Bean Camping Gear for a Family of 4 (Item 11)
  • Lemonade stand (Item 15)
  • Maine Red Claws Honorary Ball Boy/Girl Experience and Tickets for 4 (Item 18)
  • Sunset Cruise and Lobster Dinner for 10 (Item 22)
  • CedarWorks Indoor Playset (Item 25)

Click here to preview the 2010 Auction catalog!

Click here to register now!

Meet Julie Chevalier, 2010 Auction Chair!

Each year since the late 1980s, our annual auction has raised much-needed funds to keep our Portland-based organization a premier cultural institution for all children and families, regardless of need. For the past four years, we have had one particularly dedicated auction volunteer who has made a huge contribution to our auction leadership team. Her name is Julie Chevalier and she is this year’s auction chairwoman. I asked Julie to share some of her reflections on the auction with us:

Julie Chevalier, 2010 Auction Chair

I moved to Maine in August of 2006 and in October I attended my first Children’s Museum meeting. A friend of mine, whom I had just met, said I had to come because I would meet some fun ladies – and I did!

I jumped in with both feet that year and became the Captain of the Kids category for the annual auction. I had never worked on an auction before – I had never even made a real solicitation call before, either! I was nervous and excited all at the same time.

I did have some great women to help me that year who had worked on the auction for many years and who were able to guide me along. I was amazed when the big day finally came and we set up the whole room with all the silent auction items. I could not believe how many items we had all put together! The night seemed to be the icing on the cake – a really fun night with friends to celebrate our hard work.

Working on the auction allowed me to find all kinds of businesses in the Portland area that might otherwise have taken me years to find. I found myself seeking out restaurants and toy stores that had donated to the auction; I wanted to give them my business in return for their donation. It also helped me to pass a long Maine winter – I found that suddenly it was March and the auction was almost here and the snow would soon be gone! Continue reading “Meet Julie Chevalier, 2010 Auction Chair!”

Cultural Cuisine: How does it teach?

My parents have a video (quite a few videos, actually) of me “helping” my dad make bread on Christmas Eve. The year is 1989 and I am three years old, kneading the bread by lying on top of it and occasionally sticking my chin into the dough. We make this bread every year in our house – Russian egg bread flecked with golden raisins. The smell of it baking and the taste of it, toasted and buttered, will always remind me of Christmas.

Food is one of those things that everyone has in common. In my “Cultural Cuisine” program, I share a simple drink or snack common to another country with museum visitors. Recently this was Moroccan mint tea, with a little added brown sugar. In Morocco, tea is a part of life. It is an offering to houseguests, a cause for an afternoon break, and something that has been consumed there for centuries. I tell our littlest visitors that it’s OK not to like it – it’s just great to give something new and different a try! I can usually get even the most hesitant kids to take a sniff, and eventually a shy little sip. Their eyes widen: “This is good!”

Of course, there are children who don’t always like everything I offer, but this is to be expected. The goal is about exposing them to food (and, therefore, a piece of a culture) that is outside their realm of familiarity. The more comfortable children are with the idea of different cultures’ foods, the more comfortable they become with each others’ cultural differences – and more aware of what we all have in common.

Make a kid-friendly version of Moroccan mint tea at home!


  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 1-2 handfuls fresh mint
  • 2 Green Teabags
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar

Pour the boiling water over the mint, green tea, and brown sugar in a heat-proof container (large Pyrex measuring cups or a teapot both work great). Stir until combined. Pour and enjoy!