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Maine Arts Commission grant helps students explore maps

From map art to altered globes, students in Pam Crawford’s Personal Geographies class explored all sorts of terrain thanks to a grant the University of Maine at Presque Isle received from the Maine Arts Commission as part of the commission’s Creative Aging Program. Final projects from the class are on display in UMPI’s Center for Innovative Learning through Sept. 14.

The MAC grant allowed Crawford, a teaching artist, to offer a free, 6-week class at UMPI this summer for nearly a dozen students age 55 and older. The oldest student who participated in the class is 88. During the class, participants explored maps—their meaning, purpose, use, and creation—and then created them from scratch, altered them, and crafted things with them. For the grand finale, each student altered a world globe.

According to Crawford, the class was based on the work of Jill K. Berry in her three books, Map Art, Making Art from Maps, and Personal Geographies.

“Students used a variety of techniques to collage, illustrate, paint, letter, ink, and more to alter and create maps and map projects that tell the story of our vast life experiences,” Crawford said. “These maps of the imagination record journeys of the past, present and future; backyards and neighborhoods; travels; and hopes, dreams and plans.”

Examples of work include using German paper cutting techniques to turn a map into an image of a girl sitting under a tree, and a colorful, by-hand town map painted onto a charger plate. While a number of map art projects were undertaken, altered globes served as the culmination of the class.

The globes, currently on display in the CIL, have themes such as music, genealogy, butterflies, and disco. One globe has become a bulbous iguana; another, a bird house. Still another is made out of one-inch squares of recycled compact discs.

“The Center for Innovative Learning is thrilled to have the globes from the Personal Geographies class displayed on the first floor,” Roger Getz, UMPI Director of Library Services, said. “It has drawn the interest of the whole UMPI community as we are returning to a full schedule of classes for the fall. The unique interpretations are very interesting and it demonstrates to our students how personalized our experiences are throughout our lives.”

All are encouraged to view the altered globes while they are on display in the CIL. For more information, contact Getz at 207-768-9595 or roger.getz@maine.edu.