Wednesday, May 16, 2012

On the Campaign Trail: Merrimack Graduate Makes Local Impact

By Katie Thompson
Gordon College News Service
May 1, 2012
(This story appeared Sunday, May 13, 2012, on page 1 of the print edition and online of the Boston Globe North section.)

NORTH ANDOVER— When MaryRose Mazzola was in eighth grade, her parents drove her to Howard Dean’s presidential campaign rallies and around town to put up signs. But the Mazzolas weren’t campaigning for Dean; their 14-year old daughter was.

Now 21, Mazzola of Chelmsford, Mass., has been working for political campaigns ever since. Graduating May 20 from Merrimack College, she has deferred her acceptance to a master’s program at Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute. Why? So she can continue as campaign manager for State Senator Barry Finegold’s (D-Andover) re-election bid in November, a role she’s juggled with a full time class load since March.

“It’s a rare and invaluable opportunity,” Mazzola said. “I definitely wanted to take advantage of it with this gift Senator Finegold has given me.”

In a leadership position often reserved for staffers twice her age, Mazzola has spent her final spring semester working 35-40 hours a week on Finegold’s campaign while completing her course requirements. And as graduation celebrations end, she’ll continue to recruit volunteers, collect signatures, and plan events and community outreach opportunities for the senator.

Mazzola said her inspiration for public service came from her grandfather, William Hogan, former chancellor of UMass-Lowell who helped to revitalize the city during his 25-year tenure.

“The big strides that Lowell saw in the 1990s were my first hand experience of seeing state and local politics working,” she said.

She was hooked from then on. After Dean’s campaign, she went on to hold signs, make phone calls and report to campaign field directors from voting polls for U.S. Sen. John Kerry, Gov. Deval Patrick, Rep. Niki Tsongas and President Barack Obama in their respective elections.

Salem State Graduate Works for Change at Home and Abroad

By Kate Goodale
Gordon College News Service
May 1, 2012
(This story appeared Sunday, May 13, 2012, on page 7 in the print and online edition of the Boston Globe North section.)

SALEM—As many political science students focus on the country’s presidential campaigns, Kelsey Utne is looking overseas. After graduating from Salem State University (SSU) May 19, Utne, a political science, history and economics triple major, will spend her summer studying Hindi in India through a Critical Language Scholarship, a fully funded language immersion program supported by the Department of State.

For Utne, 26, of Marblehead, global issues are a natural extension of her political interests. A member of Salem State University’s Honors Program, Utne took a few years off before entering college. As a result, she dove into campus life with a candidate’s determination. This year, she is the current president of SSU’s Political Science Academy (PSA), a club that promotes international and domestic political awareness through panel discussions and voter registration drives. She helped form SSU’s first chapter of Amnesty International, an organization that fights social injustices worldwide.  And last month, Utne even launched a “Congress to Campus” event where retired Congress members visited campus for a forum, open to both local high school and Salem State students.

“Being older than most students graduating in my class means I approach things differently,” Utne said. “If I’m studying on a Friday night, or going to bed when my friends are ready to go out, I’m okay with that.”

Though she only recently focused her studies on Southern Asian politics, Utne says her international interest began in fourth grade when she read a book called, Zlata’s Diary. In it, a young girl describes the hardships she faced while growing up in the midst of the Bosnian war.

“The girl I was reading about was around the same age I was at the time,” Utne said. “I was struck by the idea that we have no say in the world we grow up in.”

From that point on, her global passions grew. While attending Marblehead High School, she participated in the Model United Nations, an event where students simulate the debates and decisions of UN ambassadors. One of Utne’s teachers there, Michael Horgan, challenged her to confront the wrongs she saw in the world.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Is a College Education worth it?

By Katie Thompson
May 9, 2012
Gordon College News Service 
(This opinion piece was published in May 15, 2012, in the Boston Globe, Beverly site, and Tuesday, May 29, 2012, in the print and online editions of the Gloucester Times.)

A recent story by the Associated Press* reported that 1 in 2 new college graduates is jobless or underemployed. As a senior preparing to graduate this month, it’s an understatement to say this is concerning. Did I just waste four years and an exorbitant amount of money for nothing?

The article seems to say yes, and it only got worse when I read that while the science and health fields are flourishing, the arts and humanities are struggling. As a communication arts major, those odds aren’t in my favor either.  The story cited a report that said only three of the 30 occupations with the largest projected number of job openings by 2020 will require a bachelor’s degree to fill the position. Most openings were in professions like retail sales, fast food and truck driving.

Congratulations to me, I now own an approximately $150,000 diploma that will get me a job somewhere I could’ve worked without one.

But fortunately (or maybe unfortunately), I don’t feel as cynical about the situation as others might. For one thing, I don’t doubt that I’ll eventually find a job that I love. Secondly, I would argue that my college education was worth it even if it doesn’t get me the career it “should” right away.

I can hear the collective sigh of parents and those older than me who are thinking that I’m being unrealistic. “Wait until the bills start piling up and you won’t feel the same,” they might say. Maybe that’s true, and maybe I’m being naïve, but I’ve learned more life lessons during my four years on a college campus than I probably would have anywhere else.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

North Shore’s Creative Culture Benefits Local Economy

Downtown Beverly is attracting more artists, and business. 
By Kate Goodale 
Gordon College News Service
April 5, 2012

(This story appeared April 9, 2012, in the Boston Globe, Beverly, Salem, Peabody and Danvers, sites, and April, 16, 2012, in the print and online editions of The Salem News.)

After moving from Seattle to take a position at Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, Lucas Spivey soon discovered something was missing for local artists: working exhibition space. So he created 17 COX.

“There is no shortage of artists or audience in Beverly,” said Spivey. “I saw a need for a private gallery space and there was a market for it. In a sense I found a niche within the community.”

Spivey is not the only one who has noticed the North Shore’s creative culture and opportunities. Despite the national economic downturn, the region’s creativity is on the rise, helping the local economy and enriching the quality of life. According to a recent study from the Enterprise Center at Salem State University, there are over 2,200 creative economy businesses on the North Shore bringing in over $3 billion dollars in revenue.

Spivey, 27, of Beverly, founded 17 COX in October 2010 with the intention of highlighting the experimental or underrepresented ideas of the struggling or established artist. Based in the warehouse of a former taxi dispatch on 17 Cox Court in Beverly, the gallery got its start with the help of numerous local volunteers, including Spivey’s landlord who provided rental credit for renovation supplies.

“It’s not a traditional gallery,” said Spivey. “I don’t even want to call it a gallery; it’s more a laboratory workshop, a mixing pot for local, regional, and national artists.”

But the creative economy is not constrained to the arts. It also includes any business using creativity to produce wealth and generate revenue for the community, according to Christine Sullivan of Salem, CEO of the Enterprise Center at Salem State University.

Local Cooking Store Helps North Shore Companies Spice It Up

Executive chef Liz Walkowicz (left) and chef instructor Alexandra Riccuiti (right)
 in the kitchen at Eurostoves
By Katie Thompson
Gordon College News Service
April 5, 2012

(This story appeared April 18, 2012, in the print and online editions of The Salem News.)

BEVERLY—Are things about to boil over at the office? Try taking it to the stove.

Eurostoves, a gourmet cooking store in Beverly, has a unique recipe for bringing the community into the store while helping businesses build better office dynamics at the same time. Through the sometimes difficult art of cooking and preparing a meal, the store offers corporate cooking events in their kitchen for team building and group exercises.

“In the office, people are not always collaborating as much as they should,” said Eurostoves’ chef instructor Alexandra Ricciuti, 37, of Beverly. “[Cooking classes] are a nice chance to work together and it’s fun to create something everyone enjoys.”

In early March, Linda McGrath, assistant to the head of controlling at EMD Millipore Corporation, a biomanufacturing company in Bellerica, took a team of 42 employees to Eurostoves for a chance to get out of the office and into the kitchen.

“I was looking for a fun, interactive team building event,” she said. “It was an all around great night.”

For many of her employees, it was the first time they met face to face.

“Even though they’ve emailed and talked on phone, they had an opportunity to talk to each other in a more informal atmosphere,” McGrath said. “They got to know people on a personal side that you don’t always get to do at work.”

Ricciuti said that a few times a month different companies bring a group in, ranging from 10 to 50 employees, for a night of cooking. An event typically lasts for three hours, which gives teams time to prepare a meal and a dessert with a chef instructor and present their plate before a panel of judges.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Volunteers Give Back While Looking for Work

By Katie Thompson
Gordon College News Service
March 27, 2012 

(This story appeared March 28, 2012, in the Boston Globe, Beverly site, and April 7, 2012, in the print and online editions of The Salem News.)

After 23 years working on the switchboard and later in access services at Beverly hospital, Linda Riley lost her job in 2010. During the first five months of unemployment, she struggled to find full time work and eventually took a part time shift at Stop and Shop in the evenings.

“It’s one thing when you have a job and are looking for another job,” she said. “It’s another thing when you don’t have one and you’re looking for something before unemployment runs out.”

But Riley, 59, of Beverly wanted to stay productive while looking for work, so she started to volunteer. Since then she has been volunteering at the Beverly Council on Aging where she serves as a receptionist and as a teacher in the computer lab.

“I really love helping elderly people,” she said. “They so appreciate the company and the help.”

Riley is one of many in the area who are looking for ways to contribute while still searching for work.
The benefits of volunteering are two fold, said Mark Whitmore, executive director of the North Shore Career Center. The Career Center—which has offices in Salem, Gloucester and Lynn—works with both job seekers and businesses to help both sides better understand what is needed and available in the job market. Whitmore said the Center constantly emphasizes the value of volunteering at job seeking events.

“As it gets further from the last job the individual had, they become somewhat unattractive to businesses,” he said. “Volunteering is a great way to fill that gap, to learn some additional skills, and to be able to contribute as an active member of that workforce.”

Whitmore said that besides helping to keep jobseekers marketable to potential employers, volunteering also has an intangible value.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Salem Dancers Jig to Belfast this March

Billy Petrocelli, center, with
Micoletta and Julianna Bremer at
the Bremer School
(Photo by Kate Goodale)
By Kate Goodale
Gordon College News Service
March 8, 2012
(This story appeared March 9, 2012, in Boston Globe, Salem site, and March 15, 2012, in the Daily News of Newburyport.)

SALEM – This St. Patrick’s Day, keep an eye out for some of the world’s best Irish dancers here on the North Shore. Dancers from the Bremer School of Irish Dance in Salem will be performing locally to celebrate the holiday and six Bremer students will head to the World Championships in Belfast, Ireland.

Billy Petrocelli, 12, of Georgetown, has been dancing at the school, located on 87 Canal St. for seven years. Petrocelli has seen more of the world than most kids his age through his dance competitions, known as a feis (pronounced “fesh”) and he said Dublin is his favorite city he has visited so far. This year will be his third time competing at the World Championships (Worlds).

“I’m feeling excited mostly,” said Petrocelli. “It’s nerve-racking on the big stage, but it’s really fun. I like the sport and meeting people at the competitions.”

Maggie Osbahr, 19, of Nahant, Siobhan O’Neill, 15 of Lynn, Meghan Phelan, 15, of Lynn, Micoletta and Julianna Bremer, 11 year old twins of Swampscott are all students of the Salem school returning to Worlds.

Irish dancers compete for a regional title, in this case New England, before proceeding to the World Championships. Over 5,000 qualifying dancers ranging from ages 5-22 travel from all over the globe to dance and win the title of the world’s best. The 2012 Championships will take place in Belfast, Ireland, beginning March 31 and ending April 8.

“This is an extremely busy time for us,” said Sheila Bremer of Swampscott, teacher and owner of the school for 13 years. “We have St. Patrick’s Day performances, some of my students are trying out for a dancing documentary in Brooklyn and Worlds at the end of the month.”

Monday, March 5, 2012

How Women’s History is Good for Business

Bonnie Smith (courtesy photo)
By Kate Goodale
Gordon College News Service
March 5, 2012

(This article appeared March 6, 2012, in the Boston Globe, Salem site.)
SALEM—For businesses wanting to increase sales, Bonnie Hurd Smith of Ipswich, historian and author of the book,
We Believe in You, thinks National Women’s History Month might be the answer. Featuring women’s history in your business, she says, can attract women clients, members, and donors, and Smith sees history as the key to success personally and professionally.

As a result in 2010, Smith founded History Smiths, a public relations and marketing agency that incorporates history in service to organizations, businesses, communities, and individuals on the North Shore.

She says every business or organization—for profit or not-for-profit—wants to attract customers and their loyalty as well as media attention while also developing a positive reputation. Many also want to make a difference in their communities.

“Getting involved with history can do all of that for you,” Smith said. “Studying women’s history makes us feel less alone. We can see the experience of women who succeeded and how they achieved their goals.”

To highlight such successes and to honor National Women’s History Month, Smith will explore the experiences, insights and relevance of women poets, essayists, abolitionists, and suffragists on Wednesday, March 21 at 7:30 pm as part of Salem’s Old Town Hall Lecture Series at 32 Derby Square in Salem. The series is sponsored by the Gordon College Institute for Public History.

Smith will discuss the lives of Anne Bradstreet, Judith Sargent Murray, Maria Stuart, and Lucy Stone, all women with links to the Boston area. But Smith sees these women as more than local role models; they were excellent writers, speakers, networkers and organizers with useful tactics applicable for today.

“From an early age all of these women had a sense of life purpose, what they were good at and who they were,” she said. “They had courage in taking action despite obstacles.”

In order to increase visibility and/or revenue, Smith suggests companies could celebrate such courage by sponsoring a women’s history talk at a local library or school. Non-profits could hold a women’s fundraising seminar, or retail stores could create a special sale event. At a women’s clothing store in the Boston area, for instance, Smith gave a talk on women’s history. The company provided refreshments, and offered items on sale. She says new customers came in for the first time, existing customers showed up, and the store increased sales and status.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Diving In: North Shore Proves a Hotspot for Scuba Culture

By Katie Thompson
Gordon College News Service
February 29, 2012 

(This story appeared March 5, 2012, in the Boston Globe, Beverly site, March 6, 2012 in The Gloucester Times, and March 7, 2012, in the Salem News.)

BEVERLY—Instead of taking to the ski slopes this winter, Vinny Egizi took to the water. And not by boat.

“I like to get lobsters,” Egizi, 46, of Beverly said. “You go down and grab them with your hands from the back and put them in a bug bag.”

Egizi can be found on the weekends squeezing into his wetsuit, strapping on a diving tank, mask and flippers and submerging into Salem Harbor. He’s a certified scuba diver, and though the North Shore is far from the warm waters of tropical islands usually associated with scuba diving, Egizi said that’s not a problem for many in the area.

“There’s a big diving culture in the winter,” he said.

He should know. Egizi is the treasurer of the North Shore Frogmen’s Club in Salem, the oldest diving club in the country. Founded in 1957, the diving club currently has over 100 members. The “Froggies” meet every Thursday at Palmers Cove Yacht Club in Salem to socialize and talk about diving, listen to guest speakers, and plan future trips. The club goes on weekly dives every Sunday morning, and has special events like a New Year’s Day dive and an underwater Easter egg hunt.

Egizi—whose ‘real’ job is director of operations at MKS Instruments—loves the challenge of trying to catch lobsters (which he is licensed to do) without getting pinched. He also likes to look for antique bottles on the ocean floor, which he does regularly in Salem.

“It [bottles] was trash in the 1800s and now its treasure,” he said.

Egizi has gone on approximately 100 dives since he was certified in 2008, including trips to Cancun and river dives in Vermont, but 75 percent of those have been off the North Shore. He said he always enjoyed snorkeling, but after seeing a dive flag got curious about the sport.

“I was tired of seeing the tops of fish,” he said.

Meg Tennissen, 33, of Salem is an associate at Vertex Pharmaceuticals and the president of the North Shore Frogmen’s Club. Certified in 2005, Tennissen said she fell in love with the sport while practicing in a pool.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Food Banks Find Innovative Ways to Fill Pantries

Volunteers Lisa Brown (l) and Bethany
Petrusky(r) at Beverly Bootstraps Food Pantry
work to fill more bags with les
s food.

Photo By Katie Thompson

By Katie Thompson
Gordon College News Service
February 20, 2012
(This story appeared February 24, 2012, online in the Boston Globe, Beverly site.)          

BEVERLY—Kathy Kirlis knows about the economics behind supply and demand. As food pantry supervisor at Beverly Bootstraps Community Services Inc., she has learned that supply should ideally exceed demand, but too often lately the organization has found itself on the wrong side of that equation.

In 2010, for instance, Beverly Bootstraps distributed 20,529 bags of food at its pantry on Cabot Street. That amounted to approximately 140,000 pounds of food.  But in 2011, they distributed 23,253 bags of food weighing 120,000 pounds. That’s 2,724 more bags distributed with 20,000 fewer pounds of food available.

“The community’s biggest time for donations is in November and December and there is no walking room [in the pantry],” said Kirlis, 52, of Hamilton. “In the summer, shelves are bare and we’re shopping day to day.”

Bootstraps receives about 30 percent of its food donations from the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program (MEFAB), a program funded by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources that helps over 800 food pantries in the state. Kirlis said Bootstraps also applies for grants through Project Bread, a Boston organization that sponsors various anti-hunger programs, but for the most part, the pantry relies on neighbors and friends.

The problem, Kirlis said, is that private donations from the community have decreased in large part because families who once donated are now trying to keep themselves afloat.

But Kirlis said that where private donations have gone down, corporate giving has gone up. She believes food that corporations would otherwise throw out is the answer to a lot of the problems food pantries face.

“Now local companies like Stop and Shop and CVS are giving us salvaged food that’s still good,” she said. “There’s a lot more awareness on the corporate level.”

Non-Profit Leaders Get Boost at Upcoming Training Institute

Trustees at last year's Institute. (Courtesy photo)

By Kate Goodale
Gordon College News Service
February 22, 2012
(This story appeared March 1, 2012, in the Boston Globe, Danvers site, and March 6, 2012, on page one of the print version of The Gloucester Times and online.)

DANVERS—Over 2,500 non-profit organizations employ almost 45,000 people on the North Shore, providing a valuable part of the economy and much needed resources for residents going through tough times. But leading a non-profit is not always easy.

Trustees need time to focus on their dedication to their organization and renew energy to do their jobs better, according to Julie Bishop, vice president of grants and services for the Essex County Community Foundation (ECCF), a Danvers-based organization that works to educate and develop local non-profits.

“If the board is strengthened, everything an organization does will be stronger,” said Bishop.

Karen Keating Ansara of Essex, a mother of four adopted children, knows this firsthand. After witnessing poverty in South America through the adoption process, Ansara and her husband, Jim, became committed to ending poverty overseas through local platforms.

Now co-founder and board member of three non-profit organizations, The Ansara Family Fund, New England International Donors, and The Haiti Fund, Ansara wants to become a better leader herself. One of her tasks as a board member for The Haiti fund determines where grants can have the most impact, and is responsible for the construction of the only national teaching hospital there while also providing aid for additional relief and reconstruction efforts.

As a new board member, I need to learn about my legal and fiduciary responsibilities,” said Ansara. “As chair of steering committee I need to understand how to most effectively partner with staff and manage that relationship.”

To address such issues, the ECCF will hold its third annual Essex County Institute for Trustees training conference on Saturday, March 24. Designed for trustees like Ansara, the meeting helps leaders become better board members for their organizations. Ansara will be the keynote speaker.

“I’m going to talk about passion and what motivates people to service,” said Ansara. “I’m also attending the event. As a new board member myself, I really need to learn.”

A day-long forum of workshops and discussions, the Institute will be held at the Pingree School in South Hamilton. Members must register online at; the cost is $65 dollars per person, which includes resource materials and meals.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Women Filmmakers Make History at Salem Film Festival

Chicago Based Film maker, Xan Aranda

By Kate Goodale
Gordon College News Service
February 9, 2012
(This story appeared February 27, 2012, in the Boston Globe, Salem site.)

SALEM, MA—This year’s fifth annual Salem Film Festival will launch with the screening of All Me: The Life and Times of Winfred Rembert produced by Vivian Ducat. Ducat is one of 18 women producers and/or directors whose films are featured in this year’s festival. And of the 32 films selected for the 2012 Festival, women filmmakers comprise the highest percentage in its history.

Beginning Thursday, March 1 through Thursday, March 8, the Salem Film Festival’s week long event includes documentary films from around the world. Screenings are open to the public and will take place at Cinema Salem, 2 E. India Square Mall, or at the Peabody Essex Museum, 161 Essex Street, Salem. A complete listing of films and show times can be found at the Festival’s web site:

A graduate of Harvard, Ducat, 56, now lives in New York City, but began her career at National Public Radio (NPR) in Boston before turning to visual media. Her documentary depicts the struggles of Winfred Rembert, an African American man who grew up in the segregated South and learned to transform painful memories into paintings. Ducat will be in Salem for a question and answer session after the film kicks-off the Festival.

Ducat’s experience as a woman filmmaker hasn’t always been easy. “When I first began in TV, it was a hierarchy of entirely men, and I never had a mentor,” said Ducat. “But I’ve learned that it [filmmaking] is very much an interpersonal game. It’s all about how you interact with people and gain trust.”

Paul Van Ness, 60, of Beverly and co-owner of Cinema Salem, has been involved with the Festival since he helped organize it in November 2007. He said that the purpose has always been to bring “the world to Salem, 90 minutes of the world,” and that this year’s number of women filmmakers was a happy accident.

“We didn’t set out to bring women filmmakers, but it’s a reflection of the evolution in the film community that leads to a more balanced view of the world,” Van Ness said.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

For North Shore Seniors, Love is Still in the Air

Bob Mizzy and Nancy Johnson
of Beverly. Photo by Katie Thompson

By Katie Thompson
Gordon College News Service
February 9, 2012
(This story appeared February 14, 2012, in The Boston Globe, Beverly, and on page one of the print and online editions of The Gloucester Times.)

For two couples on the North Shore, Valentine’s Day means nothing. Not because they don’t like chocolate or roses, but because for them, every day is Valentine’s Day.

Bob Mizzy, 89, met his fiancé, Nancy Johnson, 90, both of Beverly, seven years ago at the Beverly Council on Aging and Senior Community Center. They sat across from each other at a bingo table.

“I looked over and said, ‘That’s a nice looking young lady,’” Mizzy said.

Mizzy asked Johnson out to dinner, and after an “I’ll let you know,” Johnson eventually said yes. Two years later, on Nov. 9, 2009, Mizzy proposed to her with a ring that was placed in the center of a box of chocolates. Though both had been married before, neither was expecting to find love again.

“I was a 12-year widow,” Johnson said. “I wasn’t looking for any man at all.”

The couple now lives together in Beverly and enjoys reading and socializing at the Community Center. This Valentine’s Day, they will attend the Center’s party.

Twelve miles north on Route 128, John Richard Larkin, 85, and Leah Havener-Larkin, 90, are known as the ‘love birds’ at the Golden Living Center nursing home in Gloucester.

“I loved him the first day I saw him,” Havener-Larkin said.

Both lifelong residents of Gloucester, the Larkins met nine years ago in their apartment building. John lived on the third floor and said he intentionally made many trips to the second floor where Leah lived. After dating for several months, Larkin proposed and the couple was married in Gloucester on Oct. 3, 2004. Leah’s son walked her down the aisle, and the couple’s children from previous marriages made up the rest of the wedding party.

“He just saw me coming down the aisle and was all smiles,” Havener-Larkin said, a widow of 21 years before meeting John. “I waited for the right one.”

Havener-Larkin is not a resident at Golden Living Center, but said she comes to spend every weekday with John. For Valentine’s Day, the couple may attend the Center’s party, but said they are content just to be together.

Linda Koby, of Beverly, is the activities director at Golden Living Center. She said that Valentine’s Day is important for couples like the Larkins and even for seniors who have lost their spouses to still celebrate. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

New Studio Space Builds on Beverly’s Reputation as Artist Destination

By Kate Goodale
Gordon College News Service
February 2, 2012
(This story appeared February 3, 2012, in the Boston Globe, Beverly site.)

BEVERLY, MA- Jesse Chamberlain, 30, is a Salem jeweler who specializes in creating wedding bands and engagement rings. Though he previously worked in Lynn, he saw an opening on Craigslist for a new studio space in Beverly, and this week moved his tools to a newly remodeled studio at Porter Mill.

“In Lynn the business is there, but there is no development of the presence of the arts,” said Chamberlain. “This [Porter Mill] gives artists a better opportunity to connect with people and other artists.”

Located on 95 Rantoul Street, Beverly, the Studios at Porter Mill opened in June 2011 for 30 artists and included a gallery space, accommodating a variety of artists including ceramists, photographers, painters, mixed media and pastel artists. But recent renovations of the second floor opened up 12 new studios for artists like Chamberlain, who began moving in Tuesday, Jan. 31 when Porter Mill received its occupancy permit earlier than expected. Now every studio is filled, adding 14 new artists to the Porter Mill community. The second floor includes painters, photographers, a jewelry-maker, a trumpet player, and more.

The new move also came in time for a new gallery exhibition: Bound and Written, which opened Thursday, Feb. 2 and runs through Sunday, Feb. 26. The exhibition is in collaboration with Monseratt College of Art and the college’s Book Arts and Printmaking Program. Porter Mill displays a new exhibition the first Thursday of each month.

Bea Modisett, 26, Beverly artist and manager of Porter Mill, said there was a waiting list of 15 artists when the second floor renovation began.

“It was encouraging knowing the demand was there and the word had spread,” said Modisett. “Artists actually recruited their friends and that was helpful.” Modisett said the total of 45 artists now has lead to a solid amount of activity.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

God in the Game? Former Patriots Player/Current Chaplain Coordinator Plans Message for Super Bowl

Don Davis (courtesy photo)

By Katie Thompson
Gordon College News Service
January 31, 2012
(This story appeared January 31, 2012, online at The Salem News.)

Denver Bronco quarterback Tim Tebow’s openly religious behavior in the National Football League this season captured the attention of the nation. But this week Patriots’ chapel coordinator Don Davis is interested in getting the attention of his players the night before they face the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI on Feb. 5.

Davis, 39, is responsible for organizing non-denominational chapel services and setting up speakers for home and away games. Though he currently lives in Leesburg, VA., he often speaks himself, as he will this weekend in Indianapolis. He also serves as the Director of NFL Programs for Pro Athlete Outreach and is the Regional Director of the National Football League Players Association.

The optional chapel services, which are held for players the night before every home and away game and every Sunday morning for players’ families, typically last for 20 to 30 minutes. Davis said chapel topics vary on a needs basis, but that it’s common for speakers to select topics such as why players should strive to be the best they can be on—and off—the field, motivated by serving their team and God.

“It’s typical for a speaker to try to tie the message into football,” Davis said. “I’m going to take a different approach [in the message the night before the Super Bowl].”

Not a newcomer to the NFL, Davis spent eleven years a defensive player in the league, including four seasons with the Patriots that earned him two Super Bowl rings. Davis led regular Bible study discussions for his teammates while with the Patriots from 2003-2006. After retiring in 2007, he was hired as the Patriots’ assistant strength training coach and team chaplain for the next season. He was the official chaplain of the team from 2007-2009, a position that no longer exists within the organization. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Local Improv Company to Teach Skills and Confidence to Youth

Alec Lewis is the founder of Oddfellows
Improv Company.
(Photo by Katie Thompson)
By Katie Thompson
Gordon College News Service
January 26, 2012
(This story appeared January 30, 2011, in the Boston Globe, Beverly Your Town site, and in the print and online version of The Salem News.)

BEVERLY, MASS. —Julia Perry, 13, of Beverly has been involved in theater productions with the YMCA of the North Shore for several years. But it wasn’t until she tried improvisational theater a year and a half ago that she found out it was what she loved the most. 

“It [improv] is the freedom to take over and let this imaginary character be whatever your mind comes up with,” said Perry. “It’s not having to worry about saying the right thing.”

Now young people like Perry will have the opportunity to learn more about improvisational theater, commonly known as improv. From February 20-24, the Oddfellows Improv Company will hold an Improv Intensive at the Salem YMCA for children and teens grade six and up. The cost is $75 for YMCA members and $93 for the community. The workshop will run each evening that week from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Alec Lewis, 23, of Beverly started the North Shore-based Oddfellows Improv Company with friends Ben Drake, 23, of Beverly, Zach Reynolds, 24, of Beverly, Jon Ramey, 23, of Beverly, Tyrel Borowitz, 21, of Gloucester, and Andrew Lamb, 25 of Portland, ME. The group has been doing improv since performing together in college. After taking a road trip to perform in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Tennessee in the spring of 2010 and performing in several shows together last summer, they decided to start their own company.

Lewis approached Kimberly LaCroix, 25, performing arts director at the YMCA of the North Shore, with the idea for the workshop, and LaCroix—who’s in her third year as director—was quick to agree.

“There’s not much available for teens locally in improv,” she said.

Improv is typically comedic and involves actors performing spontaneously in response to cues from fellow actors or the audience.  A popular improv game is Freeze, in which performers begin a scene but at any point actors not on stage can yell “Freeze.” Those performers then take the exact pose of the replaced actor and a new scene begins. According to Lewis, Oddfellows’ mission is to teach people to have fun with improv games like this, and to connect the performance aspect with the opportunity to improve social skills and confidence.  

Salem Meeting on Commuter Rail Increases Gets Heated

Residents gather Jan. 25th in Salem to hear from MBTA officials. (Photo by Kate Goodale)
By Kate Goodale
Gordon College News Service
January 26, 2012

SALEM, MA – Shawnora Weddles, 36, of Danvers relies on the T or bus to get from Salem to her job in Boston every day. She is a single mother of three daughters ages 9, 12, and 13 who frequently use the bus to meet her in Boston at work. But proposals to increase charges for commuters like her on the North Shore might change that.

Weddle’s story was one of many heard during Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) meeting on January 25th. Salem’s City Hall Annex was overwhelmed with attendees Wednesday night for the MBTA forum meeting. The turnout spilled over into a second conference room across the hall, causing MBTA representatives to hold two separate simultaneous sessions.

The meetings began with an overview of the service change proposals. The first scenario increases fares by 43 percent. The second increases fares by 35 percent, but cuts more services.

“We’d prefer not to do anything like this,” said Charles Planck, senior director of strategic initiatives at MBTA. “But we have to act.” The MBTA cannot financially support the current level of services with a projected deficit of $185 million dollars, according to Planck.