About Maren Oom Galarpe

Maren has over 22 years of experience as a performing and visual artist, educator, administrator, and director. She values and enjoys collaborative service in the all of the arts. In addition to serving on the The Butterfly Project Board, Maren serves on the Board of Directors for the American Alliance for Theatre and Education and the Palm Springs Art Museum’s Architecture and Design Council. She recently completed her term as Pacific Regional Director for the National Art Education Association’s Supervision and Administration Division. Maren is currently Director of the Arts at St. Mary’s School, a PreK-8 International Baccalaureate school in Orange County, where she implemented a new middle school performing arts program in 2012. Her student-centered program was featured on Disney Channel’s “Friends for Change: Musicals in Schools.” Maren holds a B.F.A. in Theatre Studies from Emerson College in Boston and a multi-arts focused M.A. in Dance/Theatre Education from the University of Hawaii-Manoa. Her professional experience includes private and public education at schools, theatres, museums and community programs in Michigan, Massachusetts, Illinois, Singapore, Hawaii and California.

The dynamics of being an arts educator are deeply experiential, creative, ever-changing and most of all, collaborative. The relationships I nurture with my students and colleagues drive the experience we collectively share within our communities- locally and globally.
As a resident of San Diego and educator in Orange County, I am excited for the opportunity to serve the global mission of The Butterfly Project. The following will hopefully give you a glimpse into the reasons why I am so connected to this work.
I have been working with the poetry and artwork by the children of Terezin through student-centered performing and visual arts presentations since 2005. Many of my middle school students in Hawaii and California have also engaged with Celeste Raspanti’s play, I Never Saw Another Butterfly, through Perfection Learning’s textbook, Drama for Reading and Performance. I work with students in my theatre classroom to raise awareness about the children their age who lived, and perished, during the Holocaust.
One of my students asked me this year, “Mrs. Galarpe, are you Jewish? You must be; you are so passionate about this.” I told her I was not. I became interested in the Holocaust and stories of young Jewish people when I was her age in middle school. I read the book, Number the Stars​ by Lois Lowry. Then I read ​Night​ by Elie Wiesel. I also met my first Jewish friend when I moved to a public school in 7th grade. I wanted to know more about him, his traditions and the stories of the past. I wondered as a young girl, “How could this thing called the Holocaust have happened?”
Later on in my adult life, I was told that one of my relatives was a survivor of the Holocaust. He was actually close friends with Elie Wiesel. Elie Wiesel called Dr. Emanuel Tanay’s memoir, Passport to Life,​ “deeply moving. It will give the reader lessons of courage and faith.” My uncle Emek survived the Holocaust in Poland and Hungary. He also saved his mother, sister and childhood sweetheart. He went on to become a high profile forensic psychiatrist and award-winning scholar. I wish I would have known more about him before he passed in 2014. His recorded testimony is in the 1985 Oscar nominated film, ​The Courage to Care. I​t is also in one of the last exhibit rooms at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. This is a place our 8th grade students visit annually. It is a very special and heart-wrenching moment for me to experience with them.
These are some reasons why I am so invested in working with students through Holocaust awareness. They often remind me of myself when I was their age. They question their identity and begin to create a stronger sense of themselves. They become wildly curious about the past and how it affects their present day lives.
In a recent online search for resources on the play, I stumbled upon The Butterfly Project. I immediately connected with the story and vision. Right around the same time, I was volunteering at the San Diego History Center and saw The Butterfly Project had an upcoming event there. (I am a volunteer for SDHC) I contacted Cheryl Rattner Price last year and asked, how do I get involved?! I invited her to our school and shared a student-designed performance of dance, poetry, art and theatre that brought to light stories of the children of Terezin. In addition to the 8th grade theatre class performing, our entire 8th grade class participates in the annual Chapman University Holocaust Art and Writing Contest. We send three student representatives with their parents and art teacher to attend the ceremony. In 2019, one of our student representatives received the 1st place award in the Middle School Art category. Our arts department works collaboratively on interdisciplinary units that tie into the 8th grade field study to Washington, D.C., the Chapman University contest and The Butterfly Project. Students create a gallery/installation in our Black Box Theatre, perform in this space and will soon launch a perpetual ceramic butterfly exhibit that pairs our youngest preschool students with our oldest 8th grade students.
I am passionate about serving for organizations that advocate for the perpetuation of learning in and through the arts. This service in education positively affects the lives of so many individuals and communities. Whether in the rehearsal or conference room, my professional purpose is to support our present and future generations in a way that helps us all realize that our collective contributions are vital to the success of the organization and the future of humanity.


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