DEER ISLE — Twenty-three years ago, when Charlie Johnson was the art teacher at Deer Isle-Stonington High School, he helped start the Studio Based Learning program at the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts on Deer Isle.
The idea was to bring Maine high school students to the internationally known crafts school for three days of studio workshops taught by professional artists and craftspeople.
Johnson has now been an art teacher at Mount Desert Island High School for 14 years. But this is the first year the school has been invited to send students to Haystack’s Studio Based Learning program.
Five MDI High students were there Sept. 18-20, learning and creating in the medium of their choice. Piper Charron and Emerson Jeffery chose metalsmithing and enameling; Corrine Simis made cloth collages; and Elizabeth Dalton and Brooke Long worked in ceramics and created mosaics.
“It was much more immersive than I anticipated,” Long said, adding that she enjoyed learning from someone for whom “this is their day job; this is what they do.”
Long, who lives in Hancock, is a junior. Asked if she would like to go to Haystack again next year, she said, “Absolutely. It’s definitely worth it.”
Johnson, who was a chaperone for this year’s workshops, called the Studio Based Learning program “pretty intensive.”
“The students were in the studios working for two three-hour sessions each day and 2-1/2 hours in the evenings.
“Haystack gets really good people to work with the students,” he said. “The instructors were from all over the country.”
In addition to the crafts that the MDI students chose to focus on, workshops were offered in wood carving, blacksmithing and book arts.
Johnson said that at the end of the three days, the head of Haystack’s Studio Based Learning program told him that MDI would be invited to send students again next year and that the school might be allotted more than five slots.
From Sept. 15-17, the three days prior to the start of the student workshops, Haystack hosted the fall conference of the Maine Art Education Association. Johnson and MDI High School’s other art teachers, Dan Stillman and Liz Keenan, participated in the conference, as did art teachers from several of the elementary schools in the MDI Regional School System.