Crotched Mountain School Honored for Excellence in Arts

Crotched Mountain School received the New Hampshire Governor’s Art Award for the “Arts in Health” category. On October 21, representatives from Crotched Mountain School, including artists, staff members, and Crotched Mountain’s new President and CEO Ned Olney (it was his first day on the job!) gathered at the Bank of NH Stage in Concord to take part in the award ceremony.

“Throughout the long history of Crotched Mountain School, arts and music have played a critical role in the education and enrichment of our students,” said Ned Olney, Crotched Mountain’s President and CEO. “We are honored by this recognition and what it says about the power of creative expression for people of all abilities.”

The award was given in recognition of Crotched Mountain School’s art and music programming, the artist-in-residences (coordinated by our own Deb DeCicco), and the RIDGE Afterschool program, which includes dance, theater, art, music, even yoga and is operated by Crotched Mountain’s Therapeutic Recreation department.

Read our award submission below. And click here to view our submitted art works!


Eugene Lalande was born in Berlin, NH and at the age of 9 was diagnosed with Friedrich’s ataxia, a degenerative disease of the nervous system, which confined him to a life in leg braces and wheelchairs. He was a student at Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center, where, among other things, he developed a love of poetry. He spent much of his time at Crotched Mountain, writing his verses, inspired by the natural beauty around him.

Years after Eugene passed away at the age of 21 in 1958, his former nurse assembled his poetry into a book title “Beauty in Words.” At the end of the book was this quote from Eugene: “I never minded when I had to crawl on my hands and knees. I felt that it was a gift from God as I watched each insect, each blade of grass, each dewdrop–the beauty that other people pass by.”

In 1953, Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center opened its doors to provide education and medical treatment to children with polio and other physical disabilities. From that day onward, a key component in the Crotched Mountain experience has been the creative arts. Music, theater, painting, drawing, ceramics, dance, and so much more—they have all been woven into the Crotched Mountain life, crucial ingredients to our students’ healing and growth.

Today, Crotched Mountain School serves nearly 100 students with autism, communication disorders, and physical disabilities and high medical needs.  And just as it was over 65 years ago, the arts are an everyday part of life on the Mountain.

Creative Arts Every Day
Crotched Mountain School is one of the few special education schools with dedicated art and music classrooms, staffed by teachers who are committed to giving students hands-on interaction with clay, paint, canvas, drums, handmade cigar-box guitars, and more. Every classroom at Crotched Mountain School visits art and music class at least once a week.

Eric Peterson, Crotched Mountain School’s art teacher, has a simple philosophy: give students the time and instruction they need to create a polished piece of artwork that they can take pride in. There is no rush. No deadline. There is creation and expression. And that is a universal truth regardless of ability.

“I try to emphasize quality over rushing through a project,” he says. “For someone with a limited knowledge of students with intensive needs, I want them to see a piece one of our students completed and think ‘That’s quite a finished art piece.’”

Artist Residencies
Crotched Mountain School has brought local and regional artists to our campus for weeklong residencies and as part of our after-school enrichment program. The residencies include drumming, hip-hop, fiber arts and music therapy.

Percussionist Michael Wingfield worked with approximately 50 students and 40 staff in the music classroom across the school day and there were over 80 students and staff in the auditorium for the final interactive performance.

James “Scorpio” Andrews and Jaivon Andrews Hip Hop residency took place over 5 days in November. They taught Hip Hop history, music, song writing and dance to over 75 students and staff in the school music room. They also worked with smaller groups after school. There were over 80 students and staff at the final performance. A selected group of 12 students performed with Scorpio and Jaivon in the front of the auditorium for the audience.

Ceramics artist Teresa Taylor (NHSCA Roster Artist) has been a potter since 1973 at her own studio, Salty Dog Pottery in Barnstead, NH. For her 2017 project, Teresa worked with Eric Petersen to teach 12 classrooms of students how to make clay masks. Following a demonstration, the students rolled their own clay slab, determined the shape and facial features, and, after a bisque firing in the art class kiln, decorated the masks with acrylic paints.

In 2016, cartoonist Marek Bennett (NHSCA Roster Artist) worked with students a range of abilities and helped them discover a way to transmit a narrative through illustration. Some students could draw without any assistance and others would need staff to support their vision. Others drew on their iPad or the Smart Board. In the end, original comic panels came together, giving students (some with substantial communication challenges) the ability to tell their story in an entirely new way.

Crotched Mountain School takes great pride in the impact the arts have had on the people we serve and have witnessed first-hand the power of art. It is the power of creativity and expression and discovery and healing, all set against the backdrop of natural beauty–just as it was when Eugene put pen to paper all those years ago.

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