Dance Into Art at the Mead Art Museum in Amherst

Mead Art Museum at Amherst College Presents
Dance Into Art
Pioneer Valley Community Celebration!

On Saturday, April 21, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College will host a family-friendly event exploring the art of dance and costume in Amherst’s art collection. The fun-filled afternoon of activities for children and adults of all ages is free and open to the public.

Dance into art at the Mead Art Museum in Amherst!  The museum, which houses Amherst College’s art collection, is currently hosting a special exhibition featuring work from artists Robert Henri and Nick Cave, whose work explores the human form through examination of dance and movement as a form of cultural expression.

The museum will host a family-friendly event on April 21st, from 11am-3pm, where families can see music and dance demonstrations, tour the museum and learn about current exhibits, and take part in hands-on art activities.

Kids can make their own hand puppets and masks inspired by the works shown from Henri and Cave, and can use the performances taking place throughout the day as inspiration as well.

The event offers an opportunity for families to view great art, as well as a chance for kids to learn about ways of using sources of inspiration.  For more information, call the museum at 413-542-2000, or visit

Kids Can Curate an Exhibit for The Clark

Wanted: Museum Curators
Design Your Own Virtual Exhibit for The Clark

Not only will kids get a chance to practice executing their ideas, but the museum will be selecting some of the suggested shows for real life installation!

What goes into designing a museum exhibition?  How do the curators come up with an idea or theme, and how do they manage to bring together works to illustrate that theme or to convey an idea together as a whole?  The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA is now offering a resource that allows kids to experiment with creating their own museum exhibits!

The museum’s website now features a section called Remix, which is a virtual gallery featuring over 400 paintings, sculptures, and other items from the museum’s galleries.  Within Remix is a tool called uCurate, where kids can browse through pieces and design their own gallery shows!  Not only will kids get a chance to practice executing their ideas, but the museum will be selecting some of the suggested shows for real life installation!  Remix and uCurate offer numerous opportunities for kids to learn about art history, techniques of painting and sculpture, are theory, and more!  Check out the site at and start curating! (Note: These applications work best using Google Chrome.)

The Story of Negro League Baseball at the Eric Carle Museum

We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball
At the Eric Carle Museum on Feb 7th – June 10th, 2012

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is opening its latest exhibit,“We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball,” on Feb 7th and running through June 10th, 2012.  The exhibit features oil paintings by Kadir Nelson, which were created to illustrate a book of the same name.  The intention of the book is to preserve the history of the Negro League and to offer information in a format that is easily accessible.  Nelson conducted huge amounts of research while creating his paintings- he interviewed former Negro League players, searched through old photographs, collected memorabilia, and even tried on and took photographs in old league uniforms.  His images accurately capture the spirit of the league.  The players faced intense racial discrimination and social inequalities, and were forced to take lower salaries than their white equivalents.  Despite this, they played on, and the determination and dedication that created the spirit of the league is conveyed by the paintings.

A visit to the exhibit can be not only a study of art but a study of American cultural history- it would fit well with a look at the civil rights movement or a discussion or unit on racial inequality.  For more information, call the Eric Carle Museum at 413-658-1100 or visit

10 Tips on Setting Technology Limits for Your Family

My Top 10 Tips on Setting Technology Limit

One of the best things you can do is to ensure the technology is being used for educating and creating, not just consumption.

Many parents are unsure of how and when to set limits on technology use for their children (and themselves).  I believe this is something we all need to think about, adults as well as kids. Setting technology limits is a personal decision based on the values that you have, so there is not one policy that will fit every family.  As a parent and educator who encourages students to use technology in a positive and creative way, but is also aware of some of the downsides to certain types of technology use, I have compiled the following guidelines. With technology more and more ubiquitous in our lives, it’s a good time to think through this issue for our children and ourselves:

  1. RATINGS — Use the ratings provided on video games, TV shows, and movies.  It may seem obvious but many don’t check them.  They are a good place to start to see what is appropriate and what isn’t.  Also, they can save a lot of arguing.  You can deflect to the rating when arguments start.  Before I did realized this myself, I told my son basically that we could watch/play just about everything when he got to third grade… so I will be in for a problem in third grade.  You can check for movie ratings at  Ratings for TV shows should appear on your cable or satellite guide and games  have rating on the boxes or you can check them online too.
  2. PREVIEWING  — Try to preview games, shows, and movies if you can.  Online reviews can also be helpful.  Common Sense Media has in-depth reviews with rating categories specific to families.
  3. CONTROLS — Look into parent controls and monitoring software. Imagine my surprise when I heard the “f word” coming out of our iPad!  My 5 year old had learned to preview songs on his own.  Luckily, he did not realize what he was hearing but I quickly found the parental controls setting and turned it on.  Google Search also has a safe search setting.  None of these are perfect but they are a big help.  We teach kids at the Williamsburg Schools what do you if they do come across something inappropriate, which is move away from that screen and notify staff so it can be either filtered or reported as inappropriate… because they will run into inappropriate material.  But take advantage of the controls and monitoring tools that are available.  Apple product built-in controls can be found in settings under Parent Controls.  Here’s a link to a review of control tools for PCs on
  4. LOCATION — Limiting the location of your media devices is much harder now with tablets, laptops and smartphones, but try to keep devices in public places in your house and out of bedrooms.
  5. CREATE & EDUCATE — One of the best things you can do is to ensure the technology is being used for creation and not just consumption.  Suggest ways for kids to be creative.  For instance, don’t just read comic books on the media device, create them, create art, and create video games.  Related to this is making a distinction between “just for fun” and educational technology.  We set that strict limit at school, but at home we strive for a balance of educational and “just for fun” technology use.  The web site is a good review site and source for finding good educational apps for the tablets and smart phones.
  6. SELF-REGULATION — After a certain age, we have to trust that we have done our jobs and that our kids will self-regulate.  I believe this to be true if we have provided a balance of activities for our kids and taught them constructive and creative uses of technology (as well as the “just for fun” stuff).
  7. FLEXIBILITY  — Some parents try to have consistent daily limits on screen time, which can work for some families.  But we try to look at the whole day and provide a balance of activities and not have strict daily limits.  Things can relax  if folks are sick, tired, or in bad weather… at least for us.  The opposite is also true for us when we have lots of energy and have good weather.
  8. BALANCE — A balanced life is the best.  So we look to see on a daily or weekly basis if we have provided a balance of activities:  music, art, reading books, technology, outdoors, spiritual, exercise/sports, creative play, and social activities.
  9. TALK — We have found it important and rewarding to do technology with our son.  When my son reached 4, I realized that the time had come to stop trying to prohibit certain things and to simply state how I felt about things and make a choice for myself whether I wanted to play that game with him.  For us, that centers around fighting games and content.  This is how kids learn values from their parents.
  10. MODEL — The best way to ensure a healthy use of technology for kids is to be a good role model ourselves.


John Heffernan ♦ Tech Talk: Supporting Creative Play with Technology

John is currently the technology teacher the Williamsburg Schools. He has also worked as an educational technology consultant, a third grade teacher, and as a software engineer.  He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering from Tufts and a Masters of Education from Lesley University.   John lives in Conway with his wife, 5 year old son, and 2 whippets.  In additional to his interest in technology, John is a juggler, musician, and animal tracker.  Read more about his engineering adventures at

[Photo credit: (ccl) Paul Mayne]

Art Technology and Software: A Review of 5 Programs for Students

Technology, Art and Kids

Students use KidPix to create diagrams of their studies of volcanos.

Students use KidPix to create diagrams for their study unit on volcanoes.

I sometimes hear concerns from parents about technology and their children.  Are they too young to use computers?  Are they using technology too much?  What I have found, in my experience using technology with students for over 20 years, is that it is not so much “how much” and “when” but “what.”  In our work at the Williamsburg Schools, we aim to enable kids to use technology constructively and creatively while also helping teachers meet state standards.  Today, I’ll go over some commercial and free programs and give some ideas of how they can be used at home and in educational settings.   We will look at animation and comic book software in a future column.

First, doing art on the computer can never replace the tactile experience of working with physical materials.  However, art of the computer is a useful adjunct to using physical materials and can also provide some added possibilities.  Depending on the hardware and software used, students use the mouse, fingers (on tablet computer), or a drawing tablet for more sophisticated artists.


Our first program is KidPix from Software MacKiev ($$) which runs on Windows and Macintosh.

Winner of a Parent’s Choice Silver Award, we use KidPix starting at the end of preschool and heavily in Kindergarten and first grade, though elementary students all the way up to sixth grade also use it.  The program is primarily good for one-page projects. and has standard tools for drawing, such as pen, paint, fill bucket, stamps, stickers, erasers, and more.  We usually require students to draw everything themselves for content related projects rather than use KidPix supplied backgrounds, stamps, and stickers.

Some ideas for using KidPix include:  alphabet or number books; daily illustrated journals; self and family portraits; and free drawing.  I recommend letting kids explore all the different tools first.

If you’d like to try this program at home for two weeks, they offer a free 15-day trial you can download from their web site.


For multiple page projects, I like use HyperStudio 5 ($$$), also from Software MacKiev.  The drawing tools are similar to KidPix but HyperStudio allows multiple pages and kids create buttons (either visible or invisible) to allow hyperlinking between pages of their project.  Both KidPix and Hyperstudio allow kids to record their voices to go with buttons or pages.  Both also have built in integration with iLife.  For example, you can easily access your iPhoto Library to pull into photos into projects.

Here’s some ideas for using HyperStudio:  butterfly life cycle and other cycles in nature; kids create their own “house” where each page is a room connected by invisible buttons on door knob; kids research states and use HyperStudio to document a trip through a region of the United States.  It’s great for kids who want to present on any topic they know a lot about.  Kids can create presentations to show to family and friends.

Roger Wagner, the creator of HyperStudio, sent me this link, which shows many different ways HyperStudio is being used.  If you’d like to try HyperStudio 5 at home, a free 30-day trial is available for HyperStudio here.


Sketchbook Express (free), available on the Macintosh App Store and also for Windows, is a really nice tool that is simple enough for kids but also sophisticated.

We use Glow Draw (free from Indigo Penguin Limited, there are a number of apps with the same or a similar name) and Doodle Buddy (free, $.99 to hide ads)  on our iPad at home for fun sketching.  Using the iPad and other tablets can be good for young children since they use their fingers and not the mouse, which requires more sophisticated visual and motor skills.  It’s good to provide a range of apps on your tablet computer so your children have variety of modes of expression (music, art, math, reading, science and social studies) to balance their natural attraction to games.

For more examples of creative student technology work, see


John Heffernan ♦ Tech Talk: Supporting Creative Play with Technology

John is currently the technology teacher the Williamsburg Schools. He has also worked as an educational technology consultant, a third grade teacher, and as a software engineer.  He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering from Tufts and a Masters of Education from Lesley University.   John lives in Conway with his wife, 5 year old son, and 2 whippets.  In additional to his interest in technology, John is a juggler, musician, and animal tracker.  Read more about his engineering adventures at

[Photo credit: (ccl) ssedro]

Take a Glimpse Back into French Art and Culture at the Springfield Museum this Winter

Take a Glimpse Back into French Art and Culture at New Exhibit, Old Masters to Monet: Three Centuries of French Painting

"The Duchesse de Poignac Wearing a Straw Hat, 1782," an oil painting on canvas by French artist, Elizabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun (1755-1842) will be on display at the Springfield Museums’ D’Amour Art Museum through April 29th, 2012, courtesy of the Wadsworth Atheneum. The Wadsworth Atheneum, America's oldest public art museum, has never before presented a full-scale survey of its distinguished collection of French paintings. This exhibition of 50 masterpieces provides a history of French painting and includes religious and mythological subjects, portraiture, landscape, still life, and genre painting.

The Springfield Museums’ D’Amour Art Museum is hosting an exciting new art exhibit on loan from the Wadsworth Athenaeum of Hartford, CT titled,  “Old Masters to Monet: Three Centuries of French Painting,” which includes 50 pieces that together provide a survey of the history of French painting and includes works from as far back as the 17th century.

This is the first show of its kind to be presented by the Wadsworth, allowing students a glimpse back into French art and culture.  Over the winter break, take your kids to see the show. While viewing the paintings, ask them if they see any similarities or differences amongst the works of different artists, taking a look at the development of techniques and changes in subject matter over time.


A free audio tour of the exhibit will be available for listening to narratives about the different paintings using your cell phone. Selected artwork will have “Guide by Cell” symbols indicating commentary on the painting for your family to hear.

If your youth group would like request a highlighted tour of the exhibit with one of the Museum’s docent’s, call 413-263-6800 ext. 379, or email

School programs/tours that are align with the MA State Curriculum Frameworks can also be arranged by calling 413-263-6800 ext. 322, or email — A teacher open house is scheduled for January 11th, 2012 from 4-6pm. Reservations required. Call 413.263.6800, ext. 323.


For older students and homeschoolers, several of the museum’s Museums a la Carte Lectures will support the exhibit with a number of discussions during the exhibit’s stay.  Their lecture Culture or Counter-Culture: Café Society in 19th Century Paris on March 29th will take a look at 19th century French paintings of “seedy bohemian life or scenes of glittering, gilded café concerts, cabarets, music halls and opera are more than charming pictures of a long ago world. They depict a reality unique to Paris,” as explained on the Museum’s web site. “Cafes offered Parisians from all classes a gathering place where sociability was as important as food and drink. For artists, among them Courbet, Monet, Renoir, Cassatt, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, the café became a gold mine of subject matter, a source for lively images of modern life. In this lecture, we will look at the art they made and explore the rich story of 19th century café life in the City of Light.”

The exhibit is open during normal museum hours from December 13th through April 29th.  For more information, visit To find out which local library has free museum passes for borrowing, check our Educational Support & Local Resources page. Springfieldresidents receive free general admission with proof of address.

Cultural Studies: Christian Folk Art from India at UMass

Christian Folk Art from India
Dec. 12th-16th, 2011
Augusta Savage Gallery at UMass

An exhibit from the collection of local, 83 year-old independent scholar of South Asian Studies Georgana Falb Foster at the UMass Augusta Savage Gallery in Amherst, MA. This exhibit features paintings of Christian stories by artists who come from Hindu hereditary castes of story teller/painters (Chitrakars) in Bengal province. Show runs Dec. 12th-16th with an opening reception on Monday, Dec. 12th from 5-7pm

The Augusta Savage Gallery at the University of Massachusetts’ Fine Arts Center will be hosting a show of Christian Folk Art from India opening with a reception on Monday, December 12th from 5-7pm and running through December 16th.

Each piece in the collection is a painted cloth scroll depicting a Christian story or concept- the scrolls were used by Chitrakars, traveling painters/storytellers in the Bengal province of India, and the scrolls were used to help illustrate the stories that the Chitrakars shared with communities.

Also included in the show are works by Christian Indian artist Frank Wesley, as well as other Christian artworks and artifacts.

A visit to the gallery can help students become aware of how Christianity influences and differs within various cultures worldwide, and thinking about this specific art show is a great way to segue into a broader dialogue on religion and cultures.

Norman Rockwell and the Ghost of Dickens in the Berkshires

Norman Rockwell Museum Celebrates the Spirit of the Season with “Norman Rockwell and the Ghost of Dickens”

"Merrie Christmas: Couple Dancing Under Mistletoe," Norman Rockwell, 1928. Oil on canvas. Cover illustration for "The Saturday Evening Post," December 8, 1928. Collection of Bank of America. ©1928 SEPS: Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis, IN.

“Charles Dickens provided a great lexicon of human experience and personality types for Norman Rockwell to explore,” notes Joyce K. Schiller, Ph.D, who curated the exhibition. “He also inspired the artist’s portrayal of Dickensian characters throughout his career. Norman Rockwell Museum is pleased to present this lively visual exploration in celebration of the anniversary of Dickens’ birth, on February 7, 1812.”

Celebrate the holidays as well as the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens with a visit to the Norman Rockwell Museum!

As a child, Rockwell’s father read him Dickens’ work, and it greatly influenced his painting later in life.  The museum is currently displaying an exhibit titled, “Norman Rockwell and the Ghost of Dickens,” which is made up of artwork from both private collections and the museum’s collection.

Highlights in the show include some of Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post covers and the famous Readers Digest painting, “A merry Christmas to everybody!  A happy New Year to all the world!”

From the exhibit, kids can learn about art and older kids who have read or learned about Dickens’ writing will see his influence on Rockwell’s paintings.

The museum is open from 10am-4pm on weekdays and 10am-5pm on weekends.  For more information, visit the museum’s website at To find out which local library has free OSV museum passes for borrowing, check our Educational Support & Local Resources page.

Baking and Architecture Meet Literature in the Berkshires

Lenox Library’s 7th Annual Gingerbread House Competition: Storybook House

Families, groups and individuals are invited to participate! Click on the image to download poster. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Think of your favorite book. Now imagine the house that you think the characters from that book might have lived. Now, imagine that house is made out of gingerbread.

You just designed an entry for the Lenox Library’s gingerbread house contest!

This year’s theme is “Storybook House”- entries can be anything from a traditional gingerbread house a-la Hansel and Gretel to a delicious gingerbread Hogwarts! There will be prizes for many different categories, and after the entries are judged they will be auctioned off to raise money for the library and its programs. This is a great opportunity to practice basic architectural (and baking) skills and exercise your creativity! Deadline to enter is Nov. 16th. More information is available at

Design Studies with “Beyond this Window” at D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts in Springfield

Design Studies at Springfield Museums’
D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts with
Beyond this Window: Paintings by Briana Taylor
on view through Jan 8th, 2012

Taylor’s paintings document the seemingly insignificant architectural details and reflected light that often go unnoticed in ordinary objects. By recording the aesthetic properties – such as shape, form, light and shadow, color and depth – of these everyday artifacts, she preserves images of contemporary material culture.

Paintings by local artist Briana Taylor are currently on display at the Springfield Museums’ D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts.  The subjects of Taylor’s paintings include everyday objects such as glass jars, marbles, and painted surfaces, and her work focuses on properties such as light/shadow, shape, form, and depth.  The show portrays images of material culture and inspires visitors to consider the shape and function of everyday objects.

A visit to the exhibit, accompanied by some discussion of the work (and, for older kids, perhaps some comparisons to other pieces) can be used as a way to introduce children to the principles of architecture, art, and/or design.

For more information, as well as museum hours and admission information, visit

Discover Buddhist Art and Culture in Amherst

Tibetan Art and Sand Mandala’s at Amherst College

On Sunday, Oct. 16, at approximately 2 p.m., there will be a dissolution ceremony at which the deity will be released by the dismantling of the mandala. This underlines the transient quality of life and the Buddhist emphasis on non-attachment. When the mandala is destroyed, the deity’s blessings are said to spread out to all. In this photo, Namgyal monks are completing a sand mandala. Click on the photo to learn more about sand mandalas.

The Mead Art Museum at Amherst College is currently hosting an exhibition of thangka- scroll paintings of Buddhist figures. The scrolls have recently been restored and preserved, and as a celebration, the scrolls are on display! To end the show, monks from the Tibetan Buddhist Namgyal Monastery in Ithaca, NY will be creating a sand mandala at the campus’ Frost Library. A mandala is an intricate design created and devoutly destroyed to demonstrate the Buddhist belief in the transitory nature of life. The mandala will be constructed over the course of 4 days (Oct. 13-16). The dismantling of the mandala will be at 2pm on Sunday, October 16th during a dissolution ceremony- bring the family and come see for yourself what it’s all about! This is a great way to introduce your kids to Buddhist culture.

Sand Mandalas are an ancient Tibetan art form that were used to teach compassion, environmental relations and impermanency. With Tibet being one of the last ancient civilizations, teaching kids the history behind this ancient art form can supplement their global awareness of world civilizations and cultures. Witnessing the making and destruction of one of these amazing sand mandalas joins art and history together into a creative and tactile demonstration.

The video below shows a close-up look at the application of sand to a Chenrezig the Buddha of Compassion Mandala by Tibetan monks, accompanied with Tibetan chanting. I first showed this video to my daughter when she was five years old. The chanting in this video captured her attention immediately, which led to an interesting conversation about sand mandalas and the impermanence of things. Her first inclination was to figure out how to make it permanent. Tape ended up being her suggested solution.



Red Elephant Comes to Amherst

Mo Willems’ The Red Elephant

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA welcomed The Red Elephant by Western MA author/illustrator Mo Willems this past Saturday on the Museum’s terrace. More than 400 folks attended the installation of this 1,500 pound pachyderm sculpture.

“I began my career making small wire sculptures which somehow led to a life as a children’s book maker,” says Willems, “So the opportunity of combining my two passions and placing a large sculpture at a picture book museum is too awesome to pass up.”

Check out Mo’s digital journal of his progress from inception to installation of The Red Elephant.

This newest installation at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art can act as a fun catalyst for young students in their studies of art, reading and science. Mo has several teachers’ guides and event kits available on his website in pdf format.  His newest kit is Elephant & Piggie Event Kit is from his early reader series, Elephant and Piggie.  Other event kits offered on his web site include Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed and The Pigeon Wants a Puppy!

Looking for curriculum on elephants?  The Elephant Sanctuary has two units for grades K-3 and grades 4-8 which include integrated areas of study in each unit (social studies, literature, science and math).
Read the rest of this entry »

Explore Ocean Myth & Habitat in the Berkshires

Under the Sea
At Kidspace at MASS MoCA
Oct 1, 2011–May 28, 2012

Click on image to see the progression of the installation. Opening and meet and greet with the artists is this Saturday, Oct. 1st from 11am-1pm at Kidspace at MASS MoCA in North Adams, MA.

MASS MoCA’s Kidspace is now home to a new ocean-themed exhibit, Under the Sea! Visitors to the space will be engulfed in a literal sea of artwork – there are waves, a mermaid, giant photos of sea life, a coral reef, and more! Each piece is made by a different artist and represents a different response to or relationship with marine life. Visiting the exhibit is a great way to not only see wonderfully inspired art, but also is a way to learn about the importance of ocean life and humanity’s impact on it. Bring your kids, do a walk through, and then ask what it made them think of. You can’t see a coral reef made out of bottles without thinking about how many bottles end up in reefs!

On Saturday, October 1st from 11am-1pm, Under the Sea will open to the public with art-making activities and a meet and greet with the artists. For more info, visit

Opening Celebration for Debut of “Hilltown Families: A Traveling Photography Exhibit” this Saturday!

Family-Friendly Opening Celebration
Saturday, February 5th, 2011 from 5-7pm
Cup & Top Café in Florence, MA

A traveling photography exhibit featuring images of life and landscapes in western Massachusetts will kick off celebrations for the fifth anniversary of the founding of Hilltown Families, an online grassroots communication network for families. - All net proceeds from the sale of images will benefit the organization.

An opening celebration for the debut of Hilltown Families: A Traveling Photography Exhibit Featuring Life and Landscape in Western MA happens this Saturday, February 5th from 5-7pm at Cup and Top Café (1 North Main St.) in Florence, MA, featuring work by photographer and Hilltown Families’ founder, Sienna Wildfield.

This family-friendly event is open to all to come celebrate the 5th anniversary of Hilltown Families.  Enjoy free appetizers, h’orderves, and Cup and Top Café’s delicious soups.  There will even be birthday cake, including a gluten-free one!  Let your children entertain themselves in the café play space where there will be a screening of The Nields The Organic Farm DVD for the little ones.

All photos in the show have been featured here on Hilltown Families over the years and reflect the beauty and diversity of life in our region.  This opening celebration is an opportunity to bring the community together to celebrate while raising money for the network.  All net proceeds from the sale of images will benefit the organization.

There will also be a GIVEAWAY of 5 gift baskets from 5 local businesses at the opening reception! All of the businesses included in the giveaway have products that are used or sold at the café.  Deadline to enter to win is Friday, February 4th and you must be present to win.  Find out more about the giveaway here.

The exhibit will be on display at the café for the months of February & March.  For more info on exhibit, email us at or call the café at 585-0445.

Hilltown Families: A Traveling Photography Exhibit” is supported in part by grants from local Cultural Councils in Ashfield, Buckland, Chesterfield and Cummington — all local agencies supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Lego® Art in Western Mass

The Art of the Brick
Through September 5th at the Springfield Museums

The Lego Art of Nathan Sawaya will be on display at the Springfield Museums from June 16th - September 5th, 2010.

If you build it, they will come. And New York artist Nathan Sawaya has built some amazing sculptures out of common LEGO® building bricks.

The Art of the Brick features 29 whimsical three-dimensional works created from nearly one million colorful pieces. Sawaya’s attention to detail, scale, color and sense of action elevates this common toy to the status of art. He has the uncanny ability to make little rectangular bricks produce curved forms. The exhibit includes portraits and human figures, a 19-foot-long dinosaur skeleton, abstract constructions, and common objects such as a giant pencil and a skateboard. Both beautiful and playful, the exhibit appeals to adults and children alike.

As a child, Sawaya drew cartoons, wrote stories, perfected magic tricks and also played with LEGO. After college at NYU he rediscovered LEGO not as a toy, but as an art medium. He has been featured on national television, including The Today Show, Late Night with David Letterman, and The Colbert Report. In January of this year, there was an entire Jeopardy category devoted to The Lego Art of Nathan Sawaya.

The Springfield Museums are located on the Quadrangle at 21 Edwards Street in downtown Springfield, Mass. Free parking is available in the Edwards Street parking lots. Summer hours are Monday through Sunday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. For information, call 413-263-6800 or visit

Arts Alive in the Hilltowns

Rosemary Wessel of Cummington, MA writes:

Arts Alive in the Hilltowns is a networking opportunity, a resource, a way to find places to display and see artwork and artists from all the hilltowns, to publicize your shows, take classes, join a critique group, go on studio tours, hear a lecture, see a performance or demo, or just get together with other artists and art enthusiasts, and enrich the Arts in the Hilltowns. Arts Alive in the Hilltowns would serve as an umbrella for all other artistic groups in the Hilltowns.

We are excited about the interest shown in the Arts Alive in the Hilltowns. We planned to hold a gathering of artists and friends of the arts to enable participants to get acquainted with each other, and for Arts Alive in the Hilltowns to inform communities of our purpose. Due to serious scheduling conflicts with other arts events, we will postpone our opening party on June 5th. We will notify you of dates of forthcoming events.

To promote your interests, please go to the Arts Alive in the Hilltowns website ( and sign up. Also, we need your feedback, to facilitate and improve our purpose, ie:

  • classes
  • studio tours
  • critique group
  • lectures
  • performance
  • demo
  • art show
  • other comments

We invite you to join us, tell others about us, and check back for more listings and events.

Let’s work together! Please share this message with interested persons.

Rootsongs: An Art Exhibit in the Hilltowns

Rootsongs: Art Exhibit by Hilltown Artist, Nancy Mahoney
at the Neil F. Hammer Gallery in Williamsburg

Yesterday while visiting the Meekins Library in Williamsburg, their new art exhibit was all the buzz. Hilltown artist Nancy Mahoney’s art show Rootsongs is on exhibit in the Neil F. Hammer Gallery during the month of January, and it’s bewitching! I had noticed the poster up for her show with an image of what looked simply like the displayed root of a sapling. What I didn’t see in the poster that amazed me and my 7yo daughter when we saw the exhibit was the female images she extracts from these roots. I could see on my bedazzled daughter’s little face her mind trying to wrap itself around what she was seeing – a nature spirit, a fairy, sprung to life and form?

Each tree root is unique, rhythmic and beautiful. It often taking Nancy decades to see the female figures singing to be released into form. She shares in her artist statement, “I look at the roots for weeks, even months. I listen to music. Without warning, a song melds with the root and the root comes to life. The music is the starting point. Sometimes it feels completely out of my control… I just let them happen. – It is all about the roots and the music.”

The sculptures are made with polymer clay baked onto sapling roots and finished with mixed media. The proportions all accommodate themselves to the roots and each figure is flawed. “It has to be,” writes Nancy.

ARTIST RECEPTION: 01/09/10 from 2-4pm

There will be an artist reception at the library on Saturday, January 9th from 2-4pm. A great opportunity to have Nancy share with families her process of releasing the magic of female form in the roots she has gathered.

100 Links (October/November 2009)

100 Links (October/November 2009)

Nearly every day I add recommended links to the Hilltown Families bank of on-line resources.  Some of you might find these links well suited for your family, others, maybe not so much.  But it’s a fun and useful list worth perusing!  If you have a link you’d like to share, post it in our comment box.

Where are these links? You won’t find them on your blog reader nor via email if you subscribe to our newsfeed.  But if you visit the blog on-line and scroll half way down, on the left you will find the column, “Links We Recommend,” with a list of our most recent recommended links.  If you haven’t been visiting the site regularly to peruse these great resources, not to worry – below is the last 100 links we’ve posted in the past two months: (you will need to use the “back” button to return to this page).

Archived Lists of 100 Links: If you’d like to peruse our List of 100 Links from months past, click HERE and then scroll up or down.

  • Energy Kids: Resource For Teachers
  • The Olive Press: How Olive Oil is Made
  • Hanukkah Music for Kids: Celebrate the Festival of Lights with Music!
  • Study: Preschoolers watching TV at home-based daycare may spend hours in front of TV screen
  • How to Host a Preschool Christmas Party (article)
  • The New WIC Food Package
  • Handmade Christmas Stockings and Tree Skirts made from Recycled Sweaters (DIY)
  • Eco-Friendly, Handmade Advent Calendar for Green Kids (DIY)
  • Toy for Joy Campaign in Western Mass
  • Braille Bug
  • National Park Service: Archeology for Kids
  • Holiday Food Safety Success On-Line Kit
  • Make a Gratitude Cake
  • Thanksgiving Gratitude Tree: A Fun and Easy Activity For The Kids (article)
  • Parenting 101: Talking about money with your kids and teens
  • Ark of Taste: Growing and Eating Endangered Foods
  • Largest crib recall in U.S. history announced
  • (Resource for Puzzling on the Internet)
  • The War on Soy (article)
  • Virtual Field Trip: How Wheat Works
  • Moms Against Mercury (advocacy group)
  • American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life (MOMA)
  • USDA Backs Rewarding Schools Serving Healthy Food (article)
  • Massachusetts Home Learning Association
  • 10 No-Sauce Foods (
  • Ditch The Characters For The Classics (Article from Tampa Tribune)
  • Putting the Book Back in Book Fair (Article from
  • Taking consumerism out of school book fairs (article)
  • Kids Craft Weekly: An Advent Challenge
  • Charity Directory of Massachusetts
  • Shriners Hospital (MA Charity)
  • Children’s Miracle Network (Charity)
  • Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society (MA Charity)
  • American Cancer Society (Charity)
  • United Way of the Pioneer Valley (MA Charity)
  • Raise Healthy Eaters (blog)
  • Carrot Museum
  • Virtual Tour of Cranberry Bog
  • Learning A-Z : Free Flu Resources
  • Getting Boys To Read
  • Hadley Neighbors for Sensible Development
  • Kids Craft Weekly: Fancy Holiday Cards
  • Dr. Goodword’s Word Wizard
  • Earth from Space
  • Video: A Vaccine Primer. Health Professionals Speak Out
  • Rules of the Road for Parents in a Digital Age (article)
  • Mathematics Lessons That Are Fun
  • Read the rest of this entry »

    HFVS Giveaway: “The Tortoise and the Hare” with the London Philharmonic Orchestra

    New Story & Music CD Giveaway
    The Tortoise and the Hare

    Deadline to enter to win: December 9th, 2009

    Maestro Classics sent us their newest release, The Tortoise and the Hare with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the 8th in its award-winning Stories and Music CD series for narrator and symphony orchestra. -  I haven’t been this excited about the orchestra since Bill Harley’s Peter and the Wolf performance last spring with the Pioneer Valley Symphony!  Maestro Classics really does a lovely job of  presenting an educational experience of the symphony orchestra through visual and audio means.

    This delightful adaptation of the classic fable is set to an original score by Stephen Simon and performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra.  Combining narration of this classic story with the complex patterns of classical music has great benefits on listening skills.  This CD gives opportunities for children to expand their listening horizons by honing their listening skills, accumulating musical memories and encouraging families to listen together.   Included are six supplemental tracks, including information about the tale, how the music is composed, and a Dixieland rendition of the Pretzel Vendor of Paris and concludes with a family sing-along.

    Also included is a 24-page educational activity booklet that is a great educational supplement to the CD.  The accompanying booklet includes an illustration of the instruments of an orchestra (pictured below), visual illustrations that explain notes and fraction, and time signatures.  And the musical score and lyrics to the Pretzel Vendor of Paris are included, along with games and puzzles.

    A great 24-page supplementary activity booklet included with CD!

    Other titles from the Maestro Classics Stories and Music CD Collection definitely worth checking out include:

    • Click HERE to listen to samples.


    We have two copies of Maestro Classics newest release ,The Tortoise and the Hare, to give away to two lucky families!  Entering to win is as easy as 1-2-3 (4)! To enter simply:

    1. POST A COMMENT BELOW (one entry per household) and be sure to tell us your
    2. FULL NAME and where you
    3. LIVE (TOWN/STATE) You must include your town and state to be eligible.
    4. ACCURATE EMAIL (we never share your email address).
    5. We’ll randomly draw a winner and will share the results below.

    IT’S THAT SIMPLE! — Deadline is Wednesday, 12/09/09 @ 7pm (EST).

    Follow or Fan Hilltown Families on

    Hilltown Artisans Guild Holiday Show

    Members of the Hilltown Artisans Guild Will Host
    A Holiday Show in Worthington, MA

    On Saturday & Sunday, December 5th & 6th, the Hilltown Artisans Guild will have their Holiday Show from 10am to 4pm in Worthington, MA at the Town Hall (Rt. 112 Worthington). Bring the family to meet local artisans while supporting local economy! Offering hundreds of handsome handmade items appropriate for gift giving created by the area’s finest artists and craftspeople. Refreshments served. For more info call 413-238-4418 (days of the show: 413-238-0173).


    The Hilltown Artisans Guild is a network of diverse professional craftspeople and artists who reside in the hilltowns of western Massachusetts. Members benefit from shared market strategy and opportunities to exhibit and sell their work. Annual events include a juried summer show and a holiday celebration with demonstrations, entertainment and sale of handcrafted items appropriate for gift-giving.

    To see a list of members of the guild and links to their web sites, go to

    Arts Walk in the Hilltowns, Nov. 29th

    Conway Village Holiday Arts Walk and Open Studio Tour
    Sunday After Thanksgiving from Noon-7pm

    Conway Village Holiday Arts Walk

    Here is a perfect opportunity to gather the family for an arts tour of hilltown artists and artisans living in Conway, MA, while supporting local economy!

    Conway artists and galleries will open their studios for a holiday celebration and sale. Additional artists will be located at the Town Hall along with children’s activities. Tour maps will be available the day of the event at The Conwaynian Artist Gallery, Town Hall and the Conway Historical Society. Lighting of the town Christmas Tree at 6pm.  Read the rest of this entry »

    Visual Artists Wanted for School Workshops in Hilltowns

    Phoebe Shaw of Williamsburg, MA writes:

    Hi Friends,

    The Williamsburg Schools have Four Fridays in January coming up and need a teacher/artist to volunteer their time.  Four Fridays is a fundraiser for Arts Adventure Day.  We have two visual artists so far.  We need two more artists, especially in the performing arts!   The gig is three Fridays in January and one in February, 3pm- 4:30.    Any leads, please let me know-soon!

    Many thanks,



    Four Fridays is a series of after-school, creative workshops available to Williamsburg school children. Teachers, parents and community members offer workshops in the creative arts. Examples of past workshops include dance, expressive yoga, digital photography & video production, theater, knitting and recycled crafts.  Proceeds received from this program are the main source of funding for the hugely successful “Arts Adventure Day” that typically takes place in March. The Williamsburg Cultural Arts Committee is proud to be able to provide financial support to the artists who contribute their substantial, varied and culturally diverse talents to Arts Adventure Day.

    The Williamsburg CAC is currently in need of new members to continue.  Their meetings are very casual and productive.  Please contact Tom Adams at if interested in joining the Williamsburg CAC.

    Hilltown Arts Alliance Now Forming

    Worthington Cultural Council writes:

    The Worthington Cultural Council (WCC) invites you to a meeting on Nov. 11, 7pm to discuss the formation of a comprehensive Hilltown arts alliance. Worthington Historical Society building (looks like a church), corner of 143 and 112.

    Explanation: the WCC members began a process that we hope will ultimately result in a coalition of HIlltown artists…we sent out a questionnaire and received 30 replies…

    Our current goal is to create a website that will contain a calendar of events, classes, concerts, shows, etc. We plan an “artist of the month”, list classes, open studios, venues available for performances, shows, lectures, and readings. We are in the beginning stage and would appreciate input from you about content and local artists’ needs. We believe that such a website could bring more people to Hilltown events and more revenue to the local, often underserved Hilltown artists working in all disciplines.

    We are looking for people from all Hilltowns who would like to be involved in the planning and implementation of this project. We hope you will be among them. Your input and participation is important to us.

    If you would like to participate, please let us know. If you want to bring a friend who is interested in the arts, please do.

    Thank you ,
    Jan Roby, 238-5593
    Mary Pulley, 238-7747
    Kate Ewald, 238-5556

    If you are interested in this event, please reply to the contact people above; they need to ensure they’ll be enough folks attending in order to have it at the Worthington Historical Society building. (They will have it at someone’s house if there is only a small group).

    DIY: Mexican Sugar Skulls

    A Culinary Folk Art for Day of the Dead
    By Sienna Wildfield

    Making Mexican Sugar Skulls-52.JPG

    In the studio with Hilltown Families Guest Artist Marie Westburg of ArtStar in Williamsburg, MA making Mexican Sugar Skulls for Day of the Dead.  (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

    What better avenue for children to explore and discover different cultures than FOOD?!  Right? … We all eat.  And whether it’s a yearly birthday cake, fish on Friday, pancakes on Sunday, or a couple of loaves of challah on a Friday night, most of us routinely and joyfully participate in different food traditions.  The culinary experience of exploring food customs from around the world can bring families an integrated course of study on cultural traditions and arts.

    This time of year in Central and Southern Mexico, in preparation for the Mexican holiday El Diá de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), mounds of Sugar Skulls are sold in open air markets.  The Day of the Dead is on November 2nd and we’ve explored this Mexican holiday in a previous post: El Diá de los Muertos (Video & Resources).  Making Mexican Sugar Skulls with your kids is a creative hands-on project that can aid in the exploration of this traditional Mexican Folk Art while affording an opportunity to discuss and participate in one of the various customs of this Mexican celebration.

    Hilltown Families Guest Artist Marie Westburg of ArtStar, an art enrichment studio in Williamsburg, MA, recently invited us over to make this sweet Mexican culinary folk art.  In her cozy studio our kids got together and crafted skulls out of sugar and meringue powder and decorated them with bags of colorful icings, beads and sequins.  It’s a fun project to make with a group of friends, but give yourself enough time.  The skulls take 12-24 hours to harden before they can be decorated. To follow is a DIY for this fun seasonal activity:  Read the rest of this entry »

    100 Links (August/September 2009)

    100 Links (August/September 2009)

    Nearly every day I add recommended links to the Hilltown Families bank of on-line resources.  Some of you might find these links well suited for your family, others, maybe not so much.  But it’s a fun and useful list worth perusing!  If you have a link you’d like to share, post it in our comment box.

    Where are these links? You won’t find them on your blog reader nor via email if you subscribe to our newsfeed.  But if you visit the blog on-line and scroll half way down, on the left you will find the column, “Links We Recommend,” with a list of our most recent recommended links.  If you haven’t been visiting the site regularly to peruse these great resources, not to worry – below is the last 100 links we’ve posted in the past two months: (you will need to use the “back” button to return to this page).

    Archived Lists of 100 Links: If you’d like to peruse our List of 100 Links from months past, click HERE and then scroll up or down.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Chesterfield Cultural Council Seeks Proposals From Schools & Youth Groups

    Chesterfield Cultural Council Seeks Funding Proposals
    Proposals for community-oriented arts, humanities, and science projects due October 15th.

    The Massachusetts Cultural Council has set October 15th, 2009 as the deadline for organizations, schools and individuals to apply for grants that support cultural activities in the community. The Chesterfield Cultural Council in Chesterfield, MA is encouraging area groups to take advantage of this opportunity.

    According to Council spokesperson Leslie Charles, these grants can support a variety of artistic projects and activities in Chesterfield — including exhibits, festivals, short-term artist residencies or performances in schools, workshops and lectures.

    The Chesterfield Cultural Council will also entertain funding proposals from schools and youth groups through the PASS Program, a ticket subsidy program for school-aged children.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    100 Links (April/May 2009)

    100 Links (April/May 2009)

    Nearly every day I add recommended links to the Hilltown Families bank of on-line resources.  Some of you might find these links well suited for your family, others, maybe not so much.  But it’s a fun and useful list worth perusing!  If you have a link you’d like to share, post it in our comment box.

    Where are these links? You won’t find them on your blog reader nor via email if you subscribe to our newsfeed.  But if you visit the blog on-line and scroll half way down, on the left you will find the column, “Links We Recommend,” with a list of our most recent recommended links.  If you haven’t been visiting the site regularly to peruse these great resources, not to worry – below is the last 100 links we’ve posted in the past two months: (you will need to use the “back” button to return to this page).

    Archived Lists of 100 Links: If you’d like to peruse our List of 100 Links from months past, click HERE and then scroll up or down.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Create a Butterfly for Batches of Butterflies

    Batches of Butterflies
    February 10 – May 30, 2009

    HFVSLogo-Butterfly.jpgThe Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, MA invites friends, families, and schools throughout the country and abroad to create their own butterflies to flutter in the Museum. Celebrate the caterpillar, who for 40 years has crept into the hearts of millions of readers through his journey of hope from “a tiny and very hungry caterpillar” to a “beautiful butterfly.”

    How it works:

    • Create your butterfly out of 8 ½ x 11 card stock
    • Design your butterfly using color, shape, and/or messages of hope
    • Mail to The Carle:
      Batches of Butterflies, The Eric Carle Museum, 125 West Bay Road, Amherst, MA 01002

    All butterflies received by March 15, 2009 will flutter throughout our Great Hall from March 20 to May 31, 2009.

    The Wonderment of Museums

    Making a Family Museum Visit Fun …
    By Marilyn Anderson and Patricia Sullivan

    More Art, Please!

    Museums are places of wonderment, exploration, learning, and fun for the entire family. Just ask Jean L. Sousa, associate director of museum education, The Art Institute of Chicago. “Don’t be intimidated or worry that your children will cry or misbehave at the museum…and don’t worry that you need a degree in art history,” she said. “If the museum offers family programs, these are non-issues.” Sousa said that parent workshops at museums build on issues in child development and learning theory to make family visits more comfortable.

    Today, many museums are interactive learning centers that give families an opportunity to explore, learn, create their own art, and, yes, even touch some exhibits. With all of this variety and activity, how can parents ensure that their children won’t become overwhelmed, tired, or too distracted to enjoy the experience? The key is in the planning.

    A Look at Art Museums

    “It’s important for children to distinguish between beautiful, masterfully rendered art and mass-produced art or what you see on television,” Sousa said.

    For children’s first art museum experiences, she recommends that parents keep the visit simple. “See three pictures and then have lunch,” she said. Be flexible. When the children start becoming restless, do something else.

    Dr. Seuss Sculpture Garden at Springfield Museums. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

    Following are suggestions from Sousa and The Art Institute of Chicago on how to cultivate your children’s curiosity through art.

    Look for recognizable things.
    Simply identifying things in a painting can be fun for families with young children. Parents can ask their children how many people and animals they see, how many fruits are in a still life, what kind of activity is taking place, and what colors and shapes they see.

    Find visual clues that uncover meaning.
    Ask older children to describe what they see and help them determine the meanings the artist intended. For instance, ask your children to determine the time of day, season, or which person is oldest in a painting. Then ask them to explain how they came to their conclusions.

    Imagine the work of art coming to life.
    Let children’s active imaginations run wild by asking them to make up a story for a picture. “In some ways not knowing much is an advantage,” Sousa said.

    Modern art offers plenty of room for interpretation, too.
    Parents can ask, what just happened? What’s going on now? What will happen next? What sounds or smells do you imagine while looking at the painting?

    Listen and respond to each other.
    Sharing time with your children at a museum also means communicating well. Be sure to ask your children why they feel a certain way or made certain comments about a piece of art.

    Eric Carle Museum

    Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, MA.

    How to prepare for a museum visit

    “A child is going to get out of an experience what the adult is willing to put in,” said Nancy Kolb, president and chief executive officer of Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia. “The parent has to be patient.”

    Before the visit

    • Get the information. Explore the museum’s website to learn about the permanent and special exhibits, hours of operation, accessibility, admission fees and discounts, and family programs. Request a brochure or activity sheet that is used for school groups. (More than half of museums are free to the public. Of those that charge fees, nearly 60 percent have free days.)
    • Ask your children what they’re interested in and what they’re studying in school. Then try to build upon their responses.
    • If you have a book at home that’s related to one of the exhibits you plan to see, sit down and leaf through the book with your children. It will help build their excitement.
    • Consider becoming a member if you plan to visit several times during the year. Museum memberships often provide discounts for the museum store, food vendor, and special museum programs. (The median museum admission for a family of four is $15. The median membership fee for families is $25.)
    • Determine how long you will spend at the museum. Ninety minutes to two hours should be enough

    At the museum

    • Find the information desk and ask, “What do you recommend for families?”
    • Help children figure out how things work, but don’t do it for them. Use open-ended questions and try to get to the how and the why of things. For example, while at a dinosaur exhibit, ask, “How do you think they ate? Where did something that big sleep?”
    • Keep the visit simple and don’t try to see everything. Take a break.

    After the visit

    • Ask your children what they liked or didn’t like, and why. Ask what they enjoyed the most.
    • Have them share their experiences with friends and relatives.
    • Help your children find the answers to their unsolved questions.
    • Talk about items in your home and have them relate what they learned to everyday objects.


    Here’s a sampling of  museums in Western Mass (check with your local library for free museum passes):

    Call for Entries: YouthFilm 2009

    YouthFilm 2009

    The Northampton Arts Council is excited to present the third annual YouthFilm in 2009! Due to the great success of the 2007 and 2008 events, we will continue to produce Northampton’s only film festival to feature the works of local children and teenagers. The third YouthFilm showcase will be held in February 2009, so start planning and creating your films!

    The Northampton Arts Council is now accepting submissions. The deadline for applications and films is Friday, November 28, 2008. Filmmakers will be notified of the YouthFilm 2009 decisions the by the end of December.

    All genres and styles of films in DVD format are welcome. Films should be no longer than 30 minutes. We are very excited to continue this wonderful opportunity to give our youth a voice in the arts community. Please contact The Northampton Arts Council with any questions and for an application form.

    Contact: Erin Molloy

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