Remembering Sister Carolyn Madden
To the editor:
Having read the news of Sister Carolyn Madden’s death with sadness, I wanted to write an appreciation for all she did to connect artists and school children.
Sr. Carolyn was the arts in education director at North Country Community College when I met her in 1992. I told her I was working on an arts in education program of songs about science and nature. Without hesitation, she encouraged me, and said that schools would be interested.
Once my BioSongs program was complete, Sr. Carolyn helped me put together a brochure which outlined the objectives of the program and the concepts presented in each song. The following spring, she booked me into several North Country schools, from Moriah to Moira and Old Forge to Ogdensburg. For each school I was sent an envelope with contact information, schedule of workshops and assemblies, an evaluation form and a map. Sr. Carolyn had mastered communicating all the necessary details to the school and to me.
Using the feedback she compiled from each school, I honed my program to be more and more interactive, adding movement, rhythm and sign language. I came to expect her thorough communication and support. What never ceased to surprise me though, was how often she would attend those programs. I’d be in some small school, such as Brasher Falls, and she’d be standing quietly smiling at the back of the cafetorium. Artists often received colorful hand-drawn pictures of story/song images in the mail after programs. What a gratifying feeling to see the children’s impressions of what we shared with them!
Over the course of several years, Sr. Carolyn Madden booked hundreds of arts programs in North Country Schools for the benefit of thousands of children. Most of those schools could never have afforded to bring a ballerina, storyteller, musician or acting troupe to present for them. Because Sr. Carolyn wrote grants for funding, and block-booked the artists, she gave us all opportunities we would not have otherwise had. Through artist showcases, “her” artists met and got to know each other as well. That networking fostered a deeper artistic expression and professionalism in our community.
In 2004, I asked Sr. Carolyn how she asked for, and received, so much monetary and logistical support for the arts. She replied that arts programs gave donors the opportunity to do something meaningful with their wealth. I hope she will always be remembered as bringing the arts to children, schools, communities and donors. We artists will remember her for her gentle encouragement of the development of our craft.