MOUNT DESERT — Shannon Westphal has been chosen to succeed Carol Shutt, who is retiring after 27 years as art teacher at Mount Desert Elementary School .
Westphal, whose hiring was approved last week by the Mount Desert School Committee, has been teaching visual and performing arts at Ellsworth High School. She previously taught alongside MDES Principal Gloria Delsandro when Delsandro was principal and a teacher at Vinalhaven School.
Westphal has a bachelor’s degree in arts education and studio art from the University of Maine.
New Arts Garden
Shutt’s parting gift to Mount Desert Elementary School is a small garden at the edge of the patio outside the cafeteria. The origin of the garden goes back nearly a decade, when the family of a former student who died shortly after graduating from college established a memorial fund to benefit the art program at MDES.
“We’ve had a healthy budget for art materials, so it didn’t make sense to just put more money into that,” Shutt told the School Committee. “So, my idea was to bring in visiting artists to give the kids experiences.”
The first visiting artist, who conducted workshops during the school’s annual Arts Week, was sculptor Christine Hall. She created a sculptural bench in the shape of the front part of a snake. She returned the following year and built the middle and the tail.
A few years later, mosaic artist Char Hogan came for Arts Week and covered the snake sculpture with colorful tiles.
“It slowly evolved into a very neat space, plus the kids got experiences with artists,” Shutt said. “In my final year here, I sort of wanted to have closure and in some way mark how this was all made possible.”
She used the remaining money in the memorial fund to buy plants and do some seeding and to install a small plaque that, in her words, “acknowledges what inspired this garden.”
The plaque will read: “Arts Garden, a place for creativity and quiet reflection, inspired by the memory of Gwen Schwartz, who loved the arts when she was in Mount Desert Elementary School.”
Shutt had some large rocks moved into the spaces between the sections of the snake, and she affixed small patches of mosaics to the rocks to create a sense of continuity.
She said some students already are using the garden for sketching or reading.
“And it’s now become a space for events, for small gatherings. And there’s enough seating for a class to come out and read together or do writing or art.”