AUGUSTA – Gov. John Baldacci proclaimed Wednesday, March 8, as Arts Education Advocacy Day. On that day he and First Lady Karen Baldacci presented the Maine Alliance for Arts Education’s annual awards. Selected for this year’s honorable mention were Jacinda Cotton-Castro and Mary Jo Marquis of Fiddlehead Center for the Arts of New Gloucester.

Cotton-Castro and Marquis were honored by the governor, the first lady and the Maine Alliance for Arts Education during a ceremony in the State Capital’s Hall of Flags.

“We are truly honored to have the opportunity to do this work and share a piece of our heart and vision with everyone.” said Cotton-Castro.

The honorable mention is given to an artist/educator or community member who has made significant contributions to the arts in schools; shown outstanding commitment and dedicated service in arts education; exemplified talent and professionalism as an artist or arts advocate; and been an inspiration to students, teachers and the community.

“The arts have been used as a tool’ in teaching other areas of education. Subject matters are brought to life by using an art project to communicate information, and what was once an abstract idea becomes a concrete reality,” said Marquis.

The alliance is a statewide organization whose mission is to encourage and strengthen educational excellence in all the arts. Executive Director Carol Trimble said, “We are delighted to honor the work of these outstanding arts educators and to celebrate the work being done across the state in schools and organizations as we all work toward the goal of arts every day for all Maine students.”

When Cotton-Castro and Marquis joined efforts, they created Fiddlehead Center for the Arts as a nonprofit organization in January 2002. Their vision is to bring art to the forefront of youth by offering after-school programs in the arts. Since 2002, more than 3,000 young people and adults have participated.

In March 2001, they set out to find other community members and established a board of directors and a volunteer core of more than 35 individuals. The first after-school session offered in January 2002 started with 92 students.

Since then, enrollment has increased to include more than 100 students in private music lessons and more than 60 students in foreign language classes, with more than 400 students enrolled in each session.

Cotton-Castro’s and Marquis’ vision for the program was further realized when Fiddlehead Center for the Arts, in collaboration with SAD 15, was awarded a 21st Century Grant in 2003. The award made it possible for arts and science programs at Fiddlehead Center to become accessible to all youth within the Gray-New Gloucester communities.

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