BAR HARBOR — One of the area’s best-known arts programs has a new leader, a new home and a renewed focus on bringing out the best, most creative side of area youth.
Summer Festival of the Arts (SFOA), now in its 37th year, has long been a mainstay of creative summer programs on Mount Desert Island. The organization is not resting on its laurels. It hopes to up the ante with added outdoor programming, field trips and greater collaboration between disciplines, said Executive Director Alex Newell Taylor.
“There are so many amazing summer programs on the island. I just think what we offer is really unique,” Newell Taylor said. “I want to see us continue to spread the gospel of the importance of arts education. Our goal is to revitalize the program to make is exciting to kids in a way that in the summertime sounds like fun.”
One of the biggest changes for SFOA this year will be the location. The program for many years has been held at Mount Desert Island High School. But because of planned renovations to the driveway and parking lots there this summer, the location has been changed to the Conners Emerson School in downtown Bar Harbor. The new location offers much in the way of connection with the broader world, Newell Taylor said.
“It’s going to be fun to be in town and be part of all that is going on in Bar Harbor,” she said. This might include programming at different venues in town, collaboration with the Criterion Theatre and other field trips, she said.
Newell Taylor is no stranger to SFOA, having been both a student and a teacher in the program for many years before taking over the helm last fall.
“I love SFOA. It’s so easy for me to talk about this program because it has been my passion for over 20 years already. I remember as a kid … just planning my whole year around being there for three weeks. I really do feel passionately about its importance and its value,” Newell Taylor said.
SFOA offers much variety in arts education and gathers a number of experienced artists to share their work with students every year. This year will be no exception, with all manner of the arts represented during the three-week program.
“This summer, a kid could spend their day starting with ballroom dancing, and then doing rock band, then making a video, weaving and acting in a play,” Newell Taylor said. “It’s kind of neat that you can do all those things in one day, and I’ve always loved that about the program.”
SFOA will be holding a fundraiser at Sips restaurant in Southwest Harbor. On Tuesday, April 14, the eatery hosts “A Night at the Diner,” featuring blue-plate specials, milkshakes and a pie cart. The evening will include music by Shane Ellis and other student and staff alum, along with an art contest. Entrants may either bring a piece of art or create one at Sips. Tickets for the evening are $35, with a $5 entry fee for the art contest.
The event begins at 6 p.m. For reservations, call Sips at 244-4550.