New Exhibit Now Open: the Be Well Center!

A visitor to our opening celebration examines slides using the video microscope!

A visitor to our opening celebration examines slides using the video microscope!

 

With the support of the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center, the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine just opened our newest exhibit: the Be Well Center! This new exhibit features an Ambearlance, real medical equipment such as stethoscopes and a video microscope (with slides of real cells!), and plenty of teddy bears to rescue and make better. Here you can pretend to be a doctor, nurse, or EMT (the people who drive the ambulance and get you to the hospital!). You can use real scales and stethoscopes to give a teddy bear a check-up, and then record the info you find on the bear’s very own medical chart!

Our own Chris Sullivan, who was in charge of making the Be Well Center, said that the Be Well Center is designed to encourage kids to explore, work together, and learn to be nice to people who are hurt, sick, or have to go to the doctor. Dr. Lorraine McElwain, Associate Chief of Pediatrics at Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital said that the idea is  “…to engage children and their families in their own health and wellness, and maybe make a future visit to a hospital or doctor’s office less intimidating.” She’s also hoping that maybe some of the kids who play here will grow up to be real doctors and nurses!

 

 

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A group of visitors works together to take care of their patient.

Here kids can act out everything from a medical emergency to a regular doctor’s visit, learning about their own bodies and the jobs of medical professionals along the way. There’s all sorts of medical stuff you can play with, like an exam table, scale, a height chart, and a movie showing what’s really happening when you move parts of your body!

 

 

 

A young 'EMT' hangs up the phone after communicating with the Ambearlance.

A young ‘EMT’ hangs up the phone after communicating with the Ambearlance.

 

As a permanent part of Our Town (right next to the farm), the Be Well Center is included with regular entrance fees. Come join in the fun!

 

ABOUT OUR SPONSOR

Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center is a non-profit organization benefiting from generous community support. From routine check-ups and immunizations, to the treatment of life-threatening illnesses and injuries, Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital provides comprehensive, family-centered healthcare for all of northern New England. With 109 beds, including 31 Level III NICU Beds and 20 Level II Continuing Care Nursery beds, it is Maine’s premier referral hospital, offering services not available elsewhere in the state.

 

 

The new exhibit.

The new exhibit.

 

 

Now Playing at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine: The Witches!

Reba as a Witch

Theatre Director, Reba Short, joining in the witchy fun!

“Oh, is my tongue blue?” Here’s what our Theatre Artistic Director and director of our production of The Witches has to say about the play… Want to see more? Get your tickets to The Witches here and for our own special interactive adaptation of the story for preschool ages, How to Spot a Witch, here!

From the Artistic Director, Reba Short:

Why would a theatre company produce The Witches anyway? The themes are dark, the images are gruesome; for goodness’ sake, there’s a chorus of witches talking about crunching children’s bones! The Grandmother in the story seems alright, but she’s smoking black cigars! How could this possibly be a children’s play? Has the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine lost all its good sense?!

 

As Theatre Artistic Director, I say not in the least! We are producing the work of Roald Dahl, hailed as one of the greatest storytellers of the 20th century. He received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1983, and Children’s Author of the Year from the British Book Awards in 1990. The themes in Dahl’s books are so dark, they’re funny. The witches are so terrible, they’re loveable. The plots are so preposterous, they can’t be serious, and they aren’t, at all. That’s Dahl’s magic as a storyteller. He pushes the boundaries of his make-believe world to its furthest corners, and then keeps pushing. His imagination goes to dark and wild places, and he invites the young reader with him and counts on them to know what is fantasy. Today we are asking the same of you, our audience. Join us for this wild and awful annual convention of witches and know that it’s just pretend.

My favorite part of Roald Dahl’s books are his heroes. Always unlikely, they may seem weak at first. They are usually children who use courage and cleverness to become strong. In our play, it’s a small-boy-turned-mouse that receives the call to adventure. (It would be impossible to find a smaller hero!) If the witchy plot wasn’t so awful, it wouldn’t be necessary for the boy-mouse to save the children at all. This is a story that begs the audience not to take it too seriously, but to find inspiration in the acts of courage and magical ways that the even small heroes can save the world.

Matt Heaton Live: Children’s Music Concert for All Ages!

Audiences may not realize Matt Heaton’s children’s music is “children’s music!” First and foremost, it is groovy, engaging and fun. Playing with skill and whimsy on guitar & banjo, Matt brings in elements of rockabilly, folk, soul and surf to entertain adults as well as kids. With shockingly listenable versions of classics like “Wheels on the Bus” alongside original compositions like “Outside Toy,” Matt’s shows are a high energy explosion of all ages enjoyment and education. Warning: Singing along may take place!

Heaton is a skilled entertainer for kids, with a repertoire of kid-friendly folk & surf-inspired originals and reworked classics. Like musicians before him, he took a keen interest in music for kids after the birth of his son, leading engaging sing-alongs that he hoped adults could enjoy, too. Armed with a bundle of new and traditional material, he organized a whole lot of extra babysitting and created his new CD, “Happy You Made It.” Matt Heaton also performs in the well-known Irish music duo of Matt & Shannon Heaton.

$5 per person plus admission. For tickets call 828-1234 x231 or stop by the front desk.

Save the Date – Annual Auction 2015

Save the date!

2015 Annual Auction
Friday, May 8, 2015 from 6-10pm
Holiday Inn by the Bay
88 Spring Street, Portland

Tickets will be available March 30th.

For more information about Auction 2015, including sponsorship opportunities, making a donation, or volunteering for the auction committee, please contact Alicia Gaudet at (207) 828-1234 x242 or alicia@kitetails.org.

All proceeds from the Annual Auction benefit the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine’s educational exhibits, programming and theatre productions. It also supports families in need through our scholarship membership program.

Lunar New Year Celebrations

Make your vacation week special by celebrating the Lunar New Year with us! Come learn about this holiday celebrated in China, Korea, Vietnam and other countries. We’ll explore customs and traditions through interactive art projects, cooking classes, stories, and more.

Throwback Thursday: Featured Photographer Michael Odokara-Okigbo

Perhaps you know him as Michael O., of Dartmouth College’s Dartmouth Aires, the singing group that landed second place on NBC’s The Sing-Off in 2011. Perhaps you know him as the founder of the Mugadi Foundation, which provides necessary funding for education, clothing and more for children in Africa. Chances are, if you don’t know the name of this Portland native yet – you soon will, as he is making strides worldwide.

In 2005, Michael Odokara-Okigbo was a student at Waynflete School in Portland, ME, and was showing his photography exhibition, Mugadi (I Will Live), at the Children’s Museum on July’s First Friday night. In 2004, when he was only 14, Michael took a trip to the West Africa region (Nigeria, Ivory Coast, and Ghana) with his mother Shalom, a speaker at World AIDS Day events. This trip would mark the founding of the Mugadi Foundation; during this visit, the photographs Michael took and stories he collected from children whose lives had been drastically changed by HIV/AIDS became the exhibit that showed here at CMTM along with other locations such as libraries, hospitals and schools. “It is estimated that a child is orphaned by AIDS every 14 seconds,” we reported in our quarterly Kitetails issue that year. “Many countries in Africa are at risk of losing the next generation.”

Fourteen tales were told in the exhibition, but several lives more have since been touched by the generosity of the Foundation. On First Friday in July 2005, Michael spoke at a free opening night reception about his photography project. The Mugadi Foundation (taking its name from “I will live” in Igbo), now ten years old, continues to assist children in need.

You can learn more about the Foundation, their good work and how to donate to their cause at their website here.

Follow Michael O.’s musical career at his website here!

Currently located in Los Angeles, Michael’s first EP, In The Beginning, debuted in 2013, and in 2014 he landed a role in Pitch Perfect 2 alongside actor Anna Kendrick, another Portland native. Congratulations to Michael – we wish him the best in all of his endeavors!

You may see many other photography exhibits gracing the halls here at the Museum & Theatre – keep your eyes open for chances to be a photographer yourself, and learn the art of telling stories through photographs in some of our upcoming 2015 programs!

A modern Maine explorer

Maine Museums: Art, Oddities & Artifacts

Janet's book will be available June 6.

As my friends and family can attest, I’m a bit nuts about museums. Day trips and vacations are never complete without discovering a new museum or two. One of the things I love about working in public relations here at the Museum & Theatre is giving tours – when I guide someone through our exhibits, I find that I get to rediscover it for myself, too! Over a year ago, I met writer Janet Mendelsohn, who was working on a book about museums in Maine. Janet had visited us before to write this neat article for the Boston Globe about our Camera Obscura, but this was the first time she explored the Museum & Theatre from top to bottom, asking insightful questions and observing our visitors at play. She went on to do that with dozens of other museums and has now published the resulting book, Maine Museums: Art, Oddities & Artifacts. I wanted to learn more about her journey through Maine and get tips on which museums to hit on my next day trip, so I asked Janet to share some of her findings with us.

Lucy:   What made you decide to write about museums in Maine?

Janet:  When I travel, I visit museums—Boston, New York, Paris, Madrid,

Janet Mendelsohn (photo by Stu Rosner)

 Atlanta, Washington. While obviously there are great collections in all those cities, my favorites are in Maine. People here feel and express a more powerful connection to both this place and the past. The stories they choose to tell through fine and folk art, history and memorabilia, from logging equipment to scrimshaw, is the story of Maine and the nation and it’s most often told on a personal level. In local history museums, we hear from mill girls and women struggling to hold on to their homes when their young husbands went off to fight in the Civil War. Here at the Children’s Museum, kids can ‘try on’ what it’s like to be a farmer or to work on cars. Moreover, Maine’s museum directors, curators, staff and volunteers are excited about what they do. They’re happy to answer questions, even if you don’t have a reporter’s notebook in your hand. It was a fun project.    

Lucy: For many people, being a travel writer sounds like a dream job! How did you find success in this field? 

Janet:  I wish I could say I’m one of those lucky journalists who get to travel the globe and someone else picks up the bill. I’m not. But as a freelancer, when I travel I can often interest an editor in a related story and get paid for writing it, which is what I love to do most. My first freelance piece about Maine, about 12 years ago, was for Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors, a wonderful magazine. I had gone to the Isles of Shoals, off Kittery and Portsmouth, to visit the recreation of Celia Thaxter’s Island Garden. It’s so remote and simple but magical, with old fashioned flowers like those she described in her book. I tried to capture that sense of distance, real and historical. I guess it worked because I’ve been writing for Maine Boats ever since.

Lucy: Clearly you have a love for museums (and, given my occupation, so do I!). What do you say to someone who thinks that museums are old-fashioned or stuffy? How would you convince the contemporary consumer of the relevance of museums in our current, high-speed culture?

Janet: Another reason I wrote the book is to help kids and adults discover

Nowetah's American Indian Museum in New Portland displays Native American arts and crafts of all the Americas. Photo by Janet Mendelsohn.

 that museums today are fun. In this economy, they can’t survive if they don’t get creative about using new technology, installing multimedia exhibits, and planning events that engage people (including parents!) with shorter attention spans. We’re all so attached to our cell phones. Video games keep setting the bar higher for visual effects. Plus many of us have less money to spend on travel and entertainment, so it had better be worthwhile if they’re going to get us in the door. Museums in Maine are now lending visitors iPads and installing high tech kiosks to enhance what we see and do in the galleries. Many have terrific summer and vacation week programs for children and adults, special events like logging competitions and military reenactments. As for relevance?  Until you see a great painting or the craftsmanship of a Native American basket up close, you can’t appreciate its beauty. Until you’re face-to-face with textile looms, whaling gear or ice harvesting tools, you can’t appreciate what those jobs were like.   

Lucy: The “oddities” part of the title makes me very curious! What did you discover on your journey through Maine that was most surprising – your “oddest oddity,” shall we say?

Janet:  I’d have to say the Umbrella Cover Museum on Peaks Island, although the Bigfoot specimens at the International Cryptozoology Museum are right up there. But they’re not the only ones. [Note: the Criptozoology Museum is just a few blocks west of us on Congress Street! -Lucy]

 
 
 

Would-be sea captains and sailors find plenty of hands-on activities at the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport. Photo courtesy of Penobscot Marine Museum.

Lucy: Are there any hidden gems for families – spots parents could take children that seem to be under the radar?

Janet:  Maine Maritime Museums in Bath has a one-weekend family boatbuilding workshop, a pirate ship to climb all over and lighthouse and nature cruises on the Kennebec. Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport has a hands-on marine science lab and the “Peapod” where kids can dress up in 19th century clothing, play with ships models and learn to tie knots. The Wendell Gilley Museum of wood carving, on Mount Desert Island, has art, natural history and wildlife protection programs, including carving lessons for ages 11 and up.  

Lucy: Which destination was your personal favorite? Was there one place you connected with more than any other?

Janet: You want me to choose? The Portland Museum of Art and the Farnsworth Art Museum are national caliber, the Colby and Bowdoin college art collections probably are, too. The Saco Museum brought history alive for me with its personal stories. The Osher Map Library collection is full of exquisite rare art that served a practical purpose. Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village was especially interesting. It’s the only active Shaker community left in the world. I could go on and on.

Lucy: Are you already thinking about your next writing adventure? What topic would you like to explore next?

Janet:  I recently visited Louisa May Alcott’s home, Orchard House, where she wrote Little Women. I keep thinking about how I felt standing beside the little desk in her bedroom where she wrote the book. It’s telling me something but I’m not yet sure what.

Want to win a signed copy of Janet’s book? Visit our Facebook page and keep an eye out for the question we post on June 7. Answer it and you’ll be entered in a drawing to win a signed copy of Maine Museums: Art, Oddities & Artifacts (Countryman Press).

Cool member perk: explore Maine museums for free on May 14!

Saturday, May 14 is the first ever Maine Member Day. Twelve museums throughout the state (including this one) will be offering free reciprocal admission all day. If you’re a member of any participating museum, everyone included in your membership will be admitted for FREE to any other participating museum!

A restoration project at the Owls Head Transportation Museum.

Margaret Hoffman at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens came up with this idea and I think it’s terrific in two ways: we’ll see a lot of new faces here, which is always exciting; AND our members get to be “members for a day” at someplace new!

I’ve listed all the participating museums here. Don’t forget to bring your membership card with you, and check their hours in advance since everyone’s are a little different. Now enjoy your adventure!

Abbe Museum, Bar Harbor

Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine, Portland (that’s us!)

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, Boothbay

Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland

Maine Discovery Museum, Bangor

Maine Historical Society, Portland

Maine Maritime Museum, Bath

Maine State Museum, Augusta

Owls Head Transportation Museum, Owls Head

Portland Museum of Art, Portland

Victoria Mansion, Portland

Wendell Gilley Museum, Southwest Harbor

February Vacation Week Tips

If you’re planning a trip to Portland during February vacation week or just looking for some fun things to do, I’ve got some useful tips!

When you’re walking around Portland and you suddenly wish you had a map or directions, stop into the Portland information center in Deering Oaks Park, which is open 7 days a week from 10am-3pm (see map for location).

Note: the Visitors Center located in Ocean Gateway terminal will reopen in March so if you find yourself walking or driving towards the building with the giant clock, it won’t be open!

Parking in Portland doesn’t have to be an obstacle course if you plan ahead! Click here for a useful map of all the parking garages in the city and learn how you can get discounted parking with a visit to the Museum & Theatre. Portland Downtown District offers additional parking discounts here.

If you want a planned activity or itineraries of “must see places,” a really great website I used when I first moved to Portland is www.visitportland.com or you can check the daily events on www.mainetoday.com.

Of course, we have lots of programs for families during February vacation week at the Museum & Theatre, including a special puppet show about Custard the Dragon!   Keep an eye on our calendar of events and stay tuned for an upcoming post with more information about our schedule. Happy vacation planning!