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Break Out of Your Box
Take a Class to Expand Your Mind
Story by Rose Talbot
Every now and then, it's easy to fall into a rut. Wake up. Go to work.
Come home. Eat dinner. Go to bed. One day you realize you're exhausted
and it's not even 10 a.m. You need to try something new; break out of
your box; recharge your batteries. And as nice as it sounds, heading to
a day spa for a pampering session does not have the lasting effect your
Luckily, you live where there are tons of activities to expand the mind, release pent-up creative energy, and renew the soul. Southern Maryland is a goldmine of opportunities to suit any interest.
Think you're too old for school? It's never too late to return to the classroom to enrich your life. The bonus that comes with having lived a few years is that learning is on your terms.
"Our typical students are active adults. The people who are in these classes are there because they want to be," says Vicki Grow, personal enrichment coordinator for the College of Southern Maryland (CSM). "It's an opportunity to meet others in the community and for fellowship and for getting out and meeting people with common interests. There is something for everyone." Most students are at least in their 30s; some classes are geared for seniors.
"We try to cover all the bases. We have a kayaking class at Greenwell State Park on the Patuxent River in Hollywood. We have skipjack tours in Piney Point," she says. "We try to compliment what other organizations are doing without competing with them." Many of CSM's instructors also teach through the county Parks and Recreation programs.
Some of CSM's most popular offerings are classes in natural healing, energy work and Reiki. Ballroom and salsa dancing classes also fill up quickly. "Ghost hunting has been popular in the past, too," Grow says.
She suggests that if it's been awhile since you've perused CSM's offerings, you should take another look. "It's not a static program. It's constantly changing," she says. The instructors are passionate about their subject matter. "I am always tweaking the [course offerings] and trying to figure out what the community wants."
The summer session runs from May till late July. Classes are offered throughout the tri-county area at various locations. Enrollment is open now. Course catalogs are mailed to households in the tri-county area, but copies can also be downloaded from www.csmd.edu/Training/PersonalEnrichment/. Tuition for students 60 and older and disabled retirees is waived, but fees are not.
The CSM also offers lecture series, performances, art exhibits and other enriching opportunities. For more information, check the website at calendar.csmd.edu/main.php.
On April 9, CSM is sponsoring a free lecture on "In Search of the Algonquian-Speaking Indians of the Patuxent River Valley" at 7 p.m. at the Prince Frederick Campus in Room 119, at 115 J.W. Williams Road. Tri-County Council Executive Director Wayne Clark will discuss archaeological and historical evidence of Native Americans of the Patuxent River Valley, including social customs and observations made by European settlers of the time. Call 301-934-7703, 240-725-5499, 443-550-6199, or 301-870-2309 ext. 7703 for more information.
Interested in spreading your creative wings? The Southern Maryland Decorative Painters might be a place to land. They welcome painters of all skills and pride themselves on being a friendly, congenial place to learn and create. Members work in a variety of mediums, e.g., acrylics, watercolor and oils; and on many different surfaces-glass, wood, ceramic and canvas.
The group meets at 10 a.m. on the second Saturday of most months in the meeting room of the Charlotte Hall Library, at the intersection of Routes 5 and 6 in St. Mary's County. The painters range from their teens to their 80s. "Our members are teachers, housewives, students, secretaries, and snow birds who head south for the winter. They come from Charles, St. Mary's, Calvert, P.G., Montgomery, Prince William [counties], King George [Va., and] even Delaware," group president Mary Foley says.
"We spend a lot of time eating and talking, and a little bit of time painting," she jokes. The group usually has its business meeting at 10 a.m., breaks for lunch, and then paints for a few hours. Members are always willing to give advice or lend a brush. The group also loans its library books and instructional DVDs to members. "There's a lot of sharing that goes on," Foley says.
She adds that tole painting is a great way to manage stress: "It took me years to figure out that you don't have to follow the rules to a 'T.' It really is good therapy, because you have to focus on what you're doing."
The meetings are open to all; contact the group to confirm the meeting time and learn about supplies needed. See www.smdpaint.org for more information, call 301-843-1227 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sometimes listening to your inner voice requires hearing your outer voice. If that's the case, the Chesapeake Choral Arts Society might be the place to let your voice and spirit soar.
The group holds auditions in January and August, but president Carol Charnock says they are always looking for new voices. New members are welcomed when the group is not in final rehearsals for a concert. "If Michael Santana, the [music] director, had his way we'd have 120 singers," Charnock says.
Right now the Society has approximately 40 singers-the youngest are high school students; the oldest is 84. Members pay an annual fee, purchase their own music, and supply their own concert attire. Scholarships are available for students.
The next concert is on June 13 at the College of Southern Maryland's Fine Arts Center. The group will be performing Randall Thompson's Frostiana: Seven Country Songs, based on the poems of Robert Frost, and Requiem by John Rudder.
The Society rehearses Monday nights at the La Plata United Methodist Church from 7 to 9 p.m. Call Charnock at 301-642-0594 or 301-934-5447 for an audition appointment or visit the website at www.chesapeakechoral.com/.
Marry art with nature to experience something new. Annmarie Garden, sculpture garden and arts center, located in Dowell, offers visual and performing art classes for all ages through its Studio School.
"We offer a variety of great classes, from water color, jewelry making, travel journaling, to ceramics and pottery for all levels and talents," marketing coordinator Kathy Magiera says. The classes represent a range of subjects and media and are taught by practicing artists and educators, who will help students define and work towards their artistic goals. Magiera says the Studio School is ideal for everyone who wants to develop their creativity: "Maybe they have a talent that they've kept hidden and want to explore."
Annmarie Garden is also planning a monthly Makers Market for handmade and homegrown goods from 9 a.m. to noon one Saturday each month this summer. Check www.annmariegarden.org or call 410-326-4640 for details and vendor information. Annmarie Garden, along with the United Way, is hosting Sunday Fun Days on May 2 and August 8. Site admission will be free from 1 to 3 p.m. and there will be healthy, family-friendly activities.
Expand your horizons through environmental awareness. The Third Annual Film Series of the Theatre, Film and Media Studies departments of St. Mary's College will focus on environmental films. Internationally acclaimed, award-winning filmmakers Scott Hamilton Kennedy of the United States, Yung Chang of China and Canada, and Wolfgang Widerhofer of Austria will screen and discuss a range of environmental issues including environmental displacement, environmental racism, built environments and social activism, and dependence and sustainability. The films will be screened on Mondays, April 5, 12, 19 at 8:15 p.m. at the Cole Cinema in the Campus Center.
Screening on April 5, the 2008 Kennedy film, The Garden, documents the struggles of Latino farmers in South Central Los Angeles to keep their 14-acre community garden- the largest urban garden in the U.S.-from repossession and land development. In cinéma vérité fashion, it tells the story of backroom deals, green politics, money, poverty, power, and racial discord.
On April 12, Chang will screen and discuss his first feature-length documentary, the critically acclaimed, award-winning Up the Yangtze (2007). The film documents the moving and richly detailed narrative of a peasant family forced to negotiate the historic changes brought by the construction of the Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest hydroelectric mega-dam and China's biggest engineering endeavor since the Great Wall.
Filmmaker Widerhofer will screen the 2005 documentary Our Daily Bread on April 19 and discuss his role as the film's editor and dramaturge. The film explores the world of European industrial food production as seen through "surreal landscapes plasticized and optimized for tractors and agricultural machinery, sterile rooms in cool industrial buildings designed to ensure logistic efficiency, machines that require uniform materials for smooth processing. What might look like something from the world of science fiction is reality."
For more information about the environmental film series and other events at St. Mary's College, visit www.smcm.edu/bulletin/arts.html.
Another resource for expanding the mind is hidden in plain site-the public library. Each library in Southern Maryland offers its own programs. Calvert County's main library in Prince Frederick offers Brain Games on Saturdays for all ages at 10 a.m. Challenge your mind with Scrabble or chess. There are also book discussions, film series, gardening seminars, and free computer training programs for adults.
Writers By the Bay is one group that meets on the first Tuesday of the month at the Prince Frederick Library and on the third Friday of the month at the Mount Hope Community Center in Sunderland. The support and critique group has five to seven core members; others drop in when working on a project.
Writers bring 10 typed, double-spaced pages of their work. Someone reads the work aloud and group members take turns critiquing it to help the writer improve the weak spots. Many members are published authors. Collectively the Writers By the Bay have written in all genres including fiction, nonfiction, romance, mystery, science fiction and poetry.
The members range in talent, education and age. Some are marvelous storytellers, while others are just learning. "Some people who [come to the critiques] are dyslexic and timid about writing or reading aloud, but since we say right up front that some of us are [dyslexic], it makes it easier for them to open up" longtime member Don Campbell says. He says the group is always looking for fresh eyes and would love to have more non-writing types join just to get a different perspective on the pieces.
For more information about Writers By the Bay, email Campbell at email@example.com with Writers by the Bay in the subject line or call him at 410-257-6585.
If you don't see an offering here that makes your soul sing, why not suggest a new workshop to a coordinator? Most are always on the search for new programs and welcome your suggestions. Who knows? One day, you may even be teaching the course, sharing your insights and adding passion and pizzazz to another's life. What are you waiting for? Time to break out of your box.
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