News, schools, and views from a uniquely Lowell perspective

What’s up on Shattuck Street

The Revolving Museum has done it again: they see a need and fill it! I was amazed at how few art classes for adults seemed to be available in the area, and now I see that there will be several classes offered by the Museum in September. They will have drawing, beading and sculpture taught by highly-qualified Massachusetts artists; see the brochure for class descriptions and fees. In addition, they will be offering an interesting course entitled “Everything You Wanted to Know About the Creative Economy but Were Afraid to Ask”. Taught by UML Professor Bob Forrant this looks to be a provocative analysis of the current economic situation in the region with an emphasis on how creative individuals contribute. This should be of great interest to all stakeholders in the Valley. Bob Forrant doesn’t sugarcoat things either, so expect some stimulating discussion and bold ideas.

posted in Art, City Life | 2 Comments

Barcelona – sister city in art!

When I was in Barcelona last year, I marvelled at the amount of public art that enlivens that city; there are new and exciting pieces around every corner which refresh the eye and stimulate the mind.  Thanks to the wonderful Revolving Museum, Lowell is on it’s way to becoming a ‘mini-Barcelona’ – well, without the ocean and the fabulous, fresh seafood, the Gaudi buildings and Picasso and Dali museums  - okay, maybe it’s a stretch, but still, public art is a great thing, for tourists and residents, that we should celebrate! Tomorrow afternoon, at 4:00 pm,  come on downtown for the latest installation by the museum’s Teen Artist Group (TAG).  For sixteen months, the young artists have been working on panels reflecting concern for the environment that will be placed side-by-side between Enterprise Bank and Sovereign Bank on Merrimack Street. The completed mural, entitled “We Are One…Love Our Mother Earth,” is the fourth Merrimack street mural installed by TAG.  At the opening ceremony, you can meet the artists and learn about their thoughts, concerns and hopes for the future.  In addition, Gunther Wellenstein from Lowell’s Recycling Department will be on hand to share green solutions for everyone. 

posted in Art, City Life, In the News, Youth | 0 Comments

Art & poetry from the Revolving Museum

All roads lead to the Revolving Museum this week, starting tonight! This is short notice but you can join other poetry lovers at the museum from 6-10 pm, to celebrate the release of local poet Walter Bacigalupo’s new book of poems, A Trip Down Salem Street. Congratulations, Walter!  (Free and open to the public; beer, wine and light refreshments will be served). Tomorrow night, from 6-9 pm, the Lowell Canalwaters Cleaners will hold an open house fundraising event to raise money for the cause of clean canals as well as awareness about their mission.  There will be raffles, an auction, wine bar and finger foods and a lot of fun for just $20, payable at the door. 

Finally, tomorrow afternoon, at 2 pm, you can see what else the Revolving Museum folks have been up to by visiting the Molloy Alternative High School (125 Smith Street) to see the old building transformed by the artwork of its students.  Part of the Revolving Museum’s Visionary School which provides a community arts curriculum to high school and college students, this yearlong project, entitled “Taking the Right Path” celebrates students’ identities, while a garden labyrinth symoblizes the challenges many of the Molloy students face.  The email notice from the museum reminds us that:

The building’s namesake, Hugh J. Molloy, was Superintendent of public schools in Lowell for 21 years, before his death in 1933.  Molloy was a well respected educator, who was renowned for his close relations with students and faculty alike, and for his commitment to the quality of education provided to the residents of Lowell.  That legacy continues at the school which bears his name.   

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Bartlett program teaches “whole child” after school

Imagine if schools were judged not only for their MCAS scores, but also for how well they encourage student creativity, health, and engagement in a variety of activities—from debate teams to science fairs and art festivals. Given today’s tough fiscal climate and the narrowing of curriculum to meet test standards, this concept may seem like a fantasy, but the reality is schools need to do more than simply focus on reading and math. Last week, I attended a meeting on educating the “whole child,” an initiative of the Mass. Assoc. for Supervision and Curriculum Development (MASCD), the state chapter of a national group. In Lowell, our youngest students spend more time on math and reading that ever before—obviously important skills; but they no longer have science in the elementary grades, and across the district, music, art, gym and hands-on programs have been the most impacted by years of budget cuts.

Yet at the Bartlett School, due to a successful partnership with UMass Lowell, students enjoy art, dance, theater, fitness, and science experiments after school.  A week ago, I visited the program and was truly impressed. For instance, I watched as a spellbound audience of parents and children were transfixed by a student performance of The Untold Story of Little Red Riding Hood. Later, a group of youngsters did a riveting dance to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. As shown by the photos below, the quality of art work, created by children no older than eighth grade, was exceptional. 


These youngsters were engaged in painting, dancing, and experimenting with concepts of flight and electricity as an extension of their school day. With so many children checking out of school, either by literally dropping out or simply not trying, providing more opportunities that interest and engage them in learning is not only necessary for a 21st century education, it’s vital preparation for their role as future leaders.

Another group focused on improving education statewide, Citizens for Public Schools, is sponsoring a campaign around educating the whole child; the whole child initiative is also part of Governor Patrick’s readiness project for improving public schools.

posted in Art, Education, National issues, Youth | 1 Comment

Start talking BEFORE they start drinking

My 15-year-old son went to his first concert last night (Paramore and Jimmy Eat World) at the Tsongas Arena, and this Friday he’ll attend his first high school dance with a girl… I have now fully entered the Twilight Zone of parenting a teen. While I don’t pretend to know all about setting appropriate boundaries and have not completely forgotten my own youth, I can relate to my parents’ confusion in raising a beloved stranger in an alien culture. As with all my endeavors, I’ll give it my best shot, which means being involved in his life and informed about the world around him. To that end, I’ll attend tonight’s forum on Underage Drinking and Prescription Abuse at the Senior Center, 276 Broadway, 7-8:30 p.m., sponsored by the Lowell Substance Abuse Round Table. Attendees will learn current trends in substance abuse among youth as well as participate in a panel discussion, interactive games, and activities designed to help us learn how to prevent substance abuse. Parents, teachers, youth and community members are invited.

On your way home, stop by the Revolving Museum at 22 Shattuck Street for the opening of their new show, Artbotics, and experience more than 20 interactive works of art produced by students from the Lowell Public Schools and UMass Lowell.

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MRT – season closer

THe MRT has had a great season, with several stand-out plays, such as “2 Pianos 4 Hands” and “The Pursuit of Happiness.”  My favorite was “Tunney/Shakespeare,” but, overall, subscribers who have struggled to stay loyal in recent years were rewarded with a quality line-up of well-directed offerings for the MRT’s 29th season.  That made it easier for us to go inside yesterday afternoon for the matinee performance of “The Four of Us,” the last play of the season, and fortunately, it is well-written, funny and thought-provoking.  The material is somewhat slight, it is the story of a friendship and the tensions that develop over time between two would-be writers, one with a best-selling novel and movie, the other a struggling playwright. There are no depths plumbed, but the surfaces are teased – the differences between the two and the history they share are examined and re-examined through clever use of of flashbacks and a play-within-a-play motif. I especially like the sprinkling of references to the past that are dropped into the dialogue only to be fleshed out later on in the flashback scenes.  It’s a hook for the viewer and also builds a realistic sense of their shared memories.  The playwright, Dave, as played by Joel Orlemann, has a goofy, boyish charm and carries the play in the beginning, when the cooler, more cerebral and distanced novelist, Benjamin, mostly repels. A careful build-up of impressions generates more sympathy for Benjamin and insights into their friendship.  I expected more from the ending, some hints that were dropped were not fulfilled; however, on the whole, we all liked the play. (Through May 11, call the box office 978-654-4678).

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That fifties musical at LHS this weekend

Whatever your plans are this weekend, try to make time Friday or Saturday night to enjoy musical theatre complements of the Lowell High Fine Arts Department, which presents Grease at 8 p.m., in the Cyrus Irish Auditorium. Tickets are $10 for general admission, and $5 for students and seniorsan absolute bargain for an enjoyable evening of family entertainment. These kids are talented, enthusiastic, and fun, and their performances never fail to entertain. (No, I’m not biologically connected to any of the performers, yetI happen to live with an arts-oriented sixth grader who wouldn’t think of missing an LHS show.) If you’ve never been to a show at the high school, you should give it a try: You know how athletically and academically gifted our kids are? Well, they can also dance, sing, and act, and Grease just happens to be an all-time classic for showcasing those talents. I got chills just thinking about it! 

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Now we have a Lowell Film Festival and it looks great! This FREE event takes place this weekend, April 4 and 5, check out the schedule to see times and venues. There is an opening reception Friday night at the Revolving Museum. The theme of Globalization and Immigration couldn’t be more timely or more perfect for Lowell.  The “Headliner Films” on Friday (Sacco and Venzetti) and Saturday evening (Bamako) have limited seating which is going fast.  To reserve for these showings, email getinthefilm@lowellfilms.org.  Other offerings include The Green Square Mile, about the Irish of Charlestown; Sentenced Home, about deported Cambodian teenagers; and The Busker, which I’ve been wanting to see for years.  So, I’m kicking myself for having other plans this weekend. I’m going to miss the whole thing.  I hope others can take advantage of this unique local event.

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Call for actors

Let’s take a break from the superintendent search to talk about what the Image Theater is up to.  They  always think out of the box, and their next project is a presentation of seven short plays, “Tales from a Tavern,” to be performed upstairs at the Old Court on May 16, 17, 23, 24 (don’t worry we’ll remind you when it gets closer).  The exciting thing is that they will be holding auditions next Monday, 3/24, and Tuesday, 3/25 at 7:30 pm. They are looking for “versatile actors (4 men and 4 women of varying ages) who have the ability to play more than one role.”  To make an appointment call Jerry Bisantz at 978-886-2125 or email jbisantz @ comcast.net.  Just don’t forget about us when you become famous!

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Kerouac’s back!

Last year, Jackie and I saw the Image Theatre do a ’staged reading’ of Patrick Fenton’s play Kerouac’s Last Call, which we loved (and blogged about). Now Jerry Bisantz and his crew are bringing it back as a World Premier production.  This play has it all – drama, humor, pathos, historical resonance, cultural insights, and for us in Lowell, it’s a chance to see it before it hits the big cities.  Here is the description from the Image Theatre website

“Last Call” recalls a party held at a friend’s home in Northport, NY in 1964, just before the writer’s move to Florida with his mother.  It is based on an actual reel to reel tape recording of that night recorded by neighborhood friends, a tape that Mr. Fenton is honored to have heard. It depicts the Jack at the end of his road, with glimpses of  the  forces that drove him, the people who moved him, and his own strong opinions  on fame, his travels,  and the “new” generations of readers who idolized him. Populating the play are characters from his past and present, and the play is filled with the music that accompanied his travels across America. Mr. Fenton’s words are reminiscent of Kerouac’s own writings….

It’s at the Old Court, this weekend and next, tickets are $20 at the door, or $19 if you call ahead:  978-866-2125. Seating is limited! As with all of the Image Theater productions, especially those at the Old Court, things are informal and friendly. At last year’s production, we got to meet the author and read articles he wrote about Kerouac. 

posted in Art, City Life, Local Groups | 2 Comments

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