Friday, October 14, 2011

South Berwick Residents Show How Passion Can Build Buildings

You don’t have to be Rockefeller to give a generous donation to a cause that means a lot to you. Just ask Marilyn Ladner, a retired woman who lives on a fixed income and has pledged more than $10,000 to building a new library in her hometown.
“I really believe in libraries,” said Ladner, who pledged the money over a three-year period and is putting a modest monthly charge on her credit card. “When I was four years old my mother began taking me to the library in Gardiner, Maine, every Saturday morning. That was the highlight of the week.”
Ladner is one of several South Berwick donors who have given significant infusions to the Capital Campaign for the new South Berwick Public Library, just as the Town got set to welcome residents to a celebration of the new library’s progress on Thursday, Oct. 13.
Dave and Mary Stansfield, who have been involved in local efforts to build a new library since the late 1990s, made an even larger donation.
“When it looked like it was starting to become a reality, we were in a position to make a significant gift,” said Dave Stansfield, a member of the Town Building Committee that helped guide the initial stages of the project. “I remember when the town library was at Berwick Academy before it turned private. Then it moved downtown to the Jewett-Eastman House. People always said that was supposed to be a temporary location, but it’s been there over 40 years.”
Stansfield became involved, in part, because of his commitment to the physical space. “I’m a person who wants to be able to reuse an old building if at all possible, and I was very, very excited when the verdict came back: it’s feasible,” he said of the former church. “It’ll be less expensive than tearing down and building new.”
He noted a lot of people in town already have a connection to that building. “It was a well-established Catholic Church, and a lot of people grew up there and had their kids baptized there,” he said.
Another couple making a major gift to the new Library are Sandy Agrafiotis and Carl Pehrsson, who both grew up in families of readers. They recently discovered something they hadn’t realized about each other: as 10-year-olds, the first place they ever went alone on a city bus was to their local library, she in Manchester, NH and he in Westbury, NY.
“The library was important to me when I was young. I loved to go up the big marble staircase to the art room where I’d sit on the floor and pull out oversize books on painting and sculpture. I remember loving Cezanne, Van Gogh and Brancusi,” said Agrafiotis, an art history major and professional photographer.
“A library is a safe and welcoming place in the public world where children and adults can feel comfortable,” she said. “It really is a safe zone for children, and a place that doesn’t involve spending money. I agree with the concept of the public library as the community living room.”
Each of these families – plus several others who have given between $5,000 and $25,000 – has played a part in advancing the vision of a new, expanded and modern library at the former St. Michael’s Church on Young Street.
In August 2010, the Friends of South Berwick Library started its Capital Campaign to raise $1 million toward the $2.25 million cost of the new Library. South Berwick voters approved a $1.5 million bond, which is funding the bulk of renovation and construction costs.
According to Patti Mitchem, president of the Friends, the funds raised by the Capital Campaign will complete construction and cover all costs of turning the completed building into a library, including furnishings and computers. Funds raised in excess of expenses will be used to help pay down the bond, she said.
Photo caption: South Berwick residents Mary and Dave Stansfield, and Marilyn Ladner are major donors to the Capital Campaign for the new Public Library at the former church on Young Street. (Courtesy photos)

Art Teacher & Program Spotlighted by ‘Worlds Largest Kids’ Art Museum’

Wells Elementary School Art teacher Sandy Brennan has been notified that she is the recipient of a “Leadership Award” from Artsonia, an online school children’s arts museum. According to a press release from Artsonia, Brennan received this recognition “for outstanding leadership in the area of Arts Education at Wells Elementary School.”
As a result of Brennan’s leadership, Artsonia rates the gallery devoted to WES artwork on second in Maine. Currently, Artsonia displays over 12.5 million student images from around the world.
The release also states: “The Leadership Award presented to Sandy Brennan honors teachers who go beyond the classroom walls to encourage family and community involvement in arts education. The award also recognizes significant achievement in the area of technology integration within the school arts program.”
“I am so pleased that Wells Elementary School students can be recognized for their hard work in Art classes by Artsonia,” commented Brennan. “I thank Maryanne Foley and parents Marcia Ciorra, Ashley Breton, Betsy Stevens, Christine Brickett, Nicole Iannillo, and Alicia Goodwin for their help in photographing the student works. I couldn’t do the Artsonia program without them.”
During the 2010-2011 school year, Brennan posted 1,455 pieces of student work in the art gallery reserved for WES. Recently, this gallery has been viewed over 5,700 times yielding more than 115 comments. The WES gallery address is:
“While teachers in more than 100 countries showcase their student artwork on Artsonia, Sandy Brennan has created a school community deserving of recognition,” stated the release.
Artsonia was founded in 2000 and is based in Gurnee, Illinois. Their site,, also serves as a resource for educators and students. In addition, Artsonia sells mugs, t-shirts and other keepsakes with individual artwork imprinted. Fifteen percent of the money received for this service is donated back to the student art program.
Photo caption: Sandy Brennan with showcased student art. These colorful figures are Pueblo Native American “Kachinas.” (Photo by Reg Bennett)

Opening Scenes: ‘50/50’

By Chip Schrader
Movie Reviewer
“50/50” begins with a shot of moving pavement; a hand holding an iPod moves into the frame. As the camera pans back, we see a man in a sweat suit running along a waterfront with the Seattle skyline on the other side. The man stops at the “Do Not Walk” light, while another jogger runs by him to cross the street, regardless of the sign. The light changes and he proceeds.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays as Adam, the cautious jogger who doesn’t drive because it is the fifth leading cause of death. In spite of his prudence, he is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer where mutated genes formed into a tumor along his spinal cord. When telling his 50/50 chance of survival to his best friend Kyle, played by Seth Rogen, Kyle tries to maintain his composure, stating Adam would have better chances than anyone in Vegas with those chances.
The cast is stellar with Anjelica Huston, Anna Kendrick, and Bryce Dallas Howard (The Help) supporting the painful and complicated journey of a 27-year-old cancer patient. Anjelica Huston is Adam’s mother, a worrier whose husband is marooned in the latter stages of Alzheimer’s disease. For her own survival, she seeks her son to allow her to care for him, but his girlfriend, played by Howard, leaves viewers scratching their heads with her care-giving methods.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s por-trayal seethes with pain, despair and loneliness until the adversity knots into the viewers’ guts. Just in time, Kyle comes into the scene, insists that his best friend exploit this illness as a means to live his life fully, and uses his vulgar humor to steer the audience and his best friend’s demeanor into lighter territory.
“50/50” will likely introduce Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen to Oscar-conscious audiences and filmmakers. Rogen’s character, in particular, displays that the comedic actor has the chops to be funny in a serious film with this subtly nuanced character. The scenes in the treatment center, Adam’s scenes of private pain, and his anger are very real to those who have witnessed the nature of the disease. Huston shines in the doctor’s office after Adam finally lets her into his private battle; this is the first of many scenes that bring goosebumps in the last third of the movie as Adam’s road to wellness narrows.
Bottom line: “50/50” should not be missed. Viewers will get chills from the deep humanity of the male friendship that inspired this story, and the struggles of a patient who always had to play protector. Scenes with an icy physician and a young psychologist needing a case study for her doctorate subtly indicate the commonplace shortcomings of healthcare. But, the sweeping political commentary is kept at bay as the heart of the story is the most inspiring. This film will make audiences hurt, hate, love, and laugh many times over. “50/50” is based on a true story and makes us revel that friendships like this really exist. 4.5 out of 5.
Photo caption: (Courtesy movie poster image)