Autumn Leaf Collecting Supports Art & Science

The Art & Science of Autumn Leaves

Leaf collecting can alert children to the presence of many types of trees in their neighborhood, and provides them with some beautiful and all-natural materials with which to craft and create nature art!

With the end of summer comes back-to-school season, a time when notebooks, crayons, and homework planners can take over the place that flowers, tall grass, and vegetable gardens hold in our daily routines during the summer. As lush green plants change hues, it can be easy to let the change of seasons happen without engaging with the new exterior design that Mother Nature provides. The change of colors and landscape is, though, the perfect reason not to let early fall pass by unnoticed…

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‘Stories from the Kitchen Sink’ Installation Challenges Conventions

Stories from the Kitchen Sink: Comic Multimedia Installation Examines American Domesticity

Submitted Image: Dog Dreams, 2006/2012. Ricky Bernstein, glass and mixed mediaFrom now through Sunday, June 21, 2015, the Community Gallery at the Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts in Springfield, MA, will host a special, site-specific installation by Sheffield, Massachusetts-based artist Ricky Bernstein.  The installation, titled Stories from the Kitchen Sink: Bob and Phyllis Learn New Tricks, contains oversized collage-style graphics that depict stereotypically-American domestic scenes.  These “still life sit-com” images are both humorous and critical, drawing attention to past and present ideas about modern life, multi-tasking, and gender roles.

Younger viewers will be particularly interested in these energetic, colorful, stylized representations of American families, and students interested in Pop Art and contemporary art will be able to draw connections between Bernstein and other artists who used graphic, comic imagery, while parents and adults will appreciate the gently satirical sentiments and questions that Bernstein’s installation poses. Read the rest of this entry »

Springfield Museums’ New Exhibit Snapshots The Emergence of the 20th Century American Individual

Springfield Museums Explore Modern American Masterworks
Friday, June 6, through Sunday, August 31, 2014

Students and enthusiasts of art, art history, and American history will be interested to know that among the works on display in American Moderns are representations of Cubism, Synchromism, Precisionism, Expressionism, and Social Realism, as well as interpretations of folk art and early steam-punk style.

Beginning in June, the Springfield Museums’ Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts will play host to a special traveling exhibition curated by and containing key pieces from the Brooklyn Museum in New York. American Moderns, 1910-1960: From O’Keeffe to Rockwell features over fifty paintings and several sculptures by well-known American artists whose works illustrate the multiple schools of thought and representational techniques that developed during the Modern period: Georgia O’Keeffe, Norman Rockwell, Joseph Stella, Marsden Hartley, Elie Nadelman, Rockwell Kent, and more. While the works in this exhibition are on loan from the Brooklyn Museum, their presence at the Springfield Museums is a good reminder of the masterworks by these artists and their contemporaries that belong to the Springfield Museums’ own collection.

Though the works by these artists may not seem to have much in common with one another at first glance, they each signify a reaction to a society undergoing rapid and dramatic change. The fifty years covered by the exhibition saw two world wars, the success of the women’s suffrage movement, the short-lived Prohibition, the Great Depression, the Civil Rights movement, and the birth of other youth and activist movements; while new technologies for travel, entertainment, communication, and household efficiency became commonplace over increasingly shorter intervals of time. The world felt smaller, and the United States had established itself as an international power, but not every U.S. citizen had achieved the American Dream.

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Art + History + Technology = Steampunk Springfield!

Unique Subculture Links
Visual Art and Design with Industrial History
March 22 – September 28, 2014

In conjunction with several other local institutions, this spring the Springfield Museums will be hosting, “Steampunk Springfield: Reinventing an Industrial City.” This series of exhibits and events explores the cross-disciplinary subculture and literary genre known as “Steampunk.”

What is Steampunk? Steampunk is expressed primarily through fashion, two- and three-dimensional art, and fantasy writing, with an emphasis on science fiction, historical fiction, and horror stories a la Mary Shelley, Jules Verne, and H. G. Wells. Steampunk is a genre of alternate history, in which historical events, people, and places are reimagined, frequently in post-apocalyptic scenarios or the American “Wild” West, as well as in the Victorian era. Steampunk seeks to answer the question: “What would the world be like if the steam-powered mechanical technology of the Victorian era was incorporated into current technology and all other aspects of human life today?” The Springfield Museums’ response to this question, as presented by guest curator and well-known Steampunk artist, Bruce Rosenbaum, is a truly unique contribution to the genre.

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For the past few months, Rosenbaum – dubbed the “Evangelist of Steampunk” by Wired Magazine – has collaborated with members of the Springfield Museums’ curatorial staff to reinterpret the Victorian-era items in both the art museum and the history museum through the lens of Steampunk iconography and mythology.  Read the rest of this entry »

A Textile Artist’s Take on Western MA Labor History

A Textile Artist’s Take on Local Labor History
Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke, MA
March and April 2014

Western MA native, Deborah Baronas, has an exhibit at the Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke, now through April 2014. Baronas will show a body of work that examines the lives of 19th century laborers, highlighting the work of textile mill workers, domestic servants, and tobacco farm field hands. This exhibit is more than an art show; it immerses viewers in history and can be used as an educational tool to recreate the past and delve into the lives and experiences of 19th-century working-class laborers.

Artist Deborah Baronas grew up on a farm in western Massachusetts, encouraged to pursue her interest in art when she wasn’t helping her parents in the fields. Years later, with a degree from the Rhode Island School of Design and many years of experience in textile design, she has begun to explore the dichotomy that has defined her life – that of a “gritty work culture” versus the “world of glamour” – and the “duality [of] manufacturing and production,” through her art.

In an upcoming exhibition at Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke, MA, Baronas will show a body of work that examines the lives of 19th century laborers in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The exhibition highlights the work of textile mill workers, domestic servants, and tobacco farm field hands through hand-stenciled and screen-printed images on the strong, coarse fabric known as “scrim,” as well as paintings, historical artifacts, and other materials. This exhibit is more than an art show; it immerses viewers in history and can be used as an educational tool to recreate the past and delve into the lives and experiences of 19th-century working-class laborers.

“We are always in a state of having lived in the past, residing in the present and looking to the future. We mark the passage of time by examining our presence in the present,” says Baronas. For her, the creation of these pieces – these juxtapositions of her adult work as a textile designer with her younger work as a painter and farmhand – illustrate her own past, present, and future, as well as the past, present, and future of the workers who populated the mills and farms in the Pioneer Valley a century earlier.

Click here to see discussion questions related to the exhibit…

Hats, Architecture, and Industry: Things that Inspired Dr. Seuss

Hats Off to Dr. Seuss!

The Hats Off to Dr. Seuss! exhibition at R. Michelson Galleries in Northampton, provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view a selection of original hats collected by Dr. Seuss over a period of 60 years. Exhibit up through March 8, 2014. Special Dr. Seuss Birthday celebration on Saturday, March 1st from 6-8pm.

Sam-I-Am, Yertle the Turtle, Marvin K. Mooney, the Cat in the Hat, and other silly Dr. Seuss characters have been well-loved by young readers for decades. Best known for his invented words, imaginary animals, and silly yet thought provoking plots, Dr. Seuss is one of the most well-known children’s authors of all time (and two of his books rank amongst the 20 best-selling children’s books ever).

A native of western Massachusetts, Dr. Seuss drew upon his surroundings in order to create images for his stories. The industrial landscape of his hometown of Springfield is reflected in the zany, unaffected-by-gravity architecture found in many illustrations, and the town of Whoville is rumored to be based upon the city of Easthampton and towering Mt. Tom. He is honored locally by the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden, a tribute to the author’s ingenious work. Located at the Springfield Museums, the garden is filled with sculptures pulled straight from the pages – visitors can meet the Grinch, Horton the Elephant, and the Lorax up close and personal.

Many of Seuss’ beloved characters, in addition to creative anatomy and goofy personalities, sport headgear the likes of which have never been seen before – until now. For the first time ever, Dr. Seuss’ personal hat collection will be on view! Northampton’s R. Michelson Galleries (132 Main Street) will host Hats off to Dr. Seuss, a nationally touring exhibition that includes not only Seuss’ collection of head fashions but selected works from a secret art collection – all of which have been adapted from Seuss originals.

The exhibition will be on view at the galleries through March 8th, 2014, and fans of all ages and sizes can enjoy a special event in honor of what would’ve been Dr. Seuss’ 110th birthday (held a day early!) from 6-8pm on Saturday, March 1st… Read the rest of this entry »

Landscape Photography Exhibition Encourages Visual Literacy

Landscape Photography Exhibition Encourages Visual Literacy

“The Eye is a Door” by photographer, Anne Whiston Spirn as Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, MA.

From now through the end of August, the Smith College Museum of Art in Northampton, MA will be home to a major exhibition of works by Anne Whiston Spirn. Spirn, a renowned author and photographer, has for decades drawn connections between her photographs and the work she does as both teacher and scholar in the field of landscape architecture.

A graduate of Radcliffe College and the University of Pennsylvania, currently teaching at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ms. Spirn thinks of photography as a way to more deeply understand landscapes (and all associated fields like geology, anthropology, history, etc).

Her work promotes visual literacy – “the ability to read and analyze visual information” – through her thoughtful use of artistic strategies like composition and framing, the juxtaposition of natural and man-made structures, and focused attention to colors and textures.  Read the rest of this entry »

Let Them Grow: Four Steps to Support Toddler Art

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Art Under Three

Creating art with children under three years old can be challenging if you don’t remember that it is not about the artwork itself. For a toddler there is no end result in sight. Rather it’s the process; it’s the doing. Art with this age group is the art of creating and mushing and mixing and smearing. It is the art of identifying colors and textures. It’s a depth of imagination that many of us have forgotten about.

Art with the under three crowd is messy and scattered. Projects at this age are never finished – well, until they are crumpled, ripped into pieces and thrown at the walls. That’s why when we introduce art to children in this group it is important to have age appropriate expectations and to be prepared… Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s Play: Favorite Reads Inspiring Creative-Free Play

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

Favorite Books

I am currently working with a small and energetic group of 2 and 3 year-olds. Our daily routine involves lots of food, group activities and free play with the usual suspects—cars, babies, trains, play food and building toys. We have art time with play dough, paints and simple projects. And, of course, we all (including the 2 adults) need outside time to run and breathe in some fresh air before lunch and nap. The cold, cold days mean less time to run outside. There is only so longthose short legs can trudge through the snow piles and those tiny fingers can keep warm and dry. Everyone loves a snowy day but the frigid temps often take over.

We are constantly seeking new activities to spark play and imagination. We need to keep those minds and bodies engaged through the winter cold. I turn to favorite books to add surprise games. During the fall a train book slowly became a pre-nap favorite—The Goodnight Train by June Sobel. One little one insists upon it before a final heads down, blankets on and “Have a good sleep, everybody.” Like many children with favorite books, they have it memorized. If I skip a word or say the “Choo, Choo, Sleeeeep, Sleeeep” line with different emphasis they catch me. I like to change things up for my interest but not the kids…

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ARTeens: Art Program for Teens in Franklin County

ARTeens: Free Art Program for Teens at The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls

Franklin County teens have a new after school option this school year!  The Art Garden, a community-supported art-making studio, is hosting ARTeens, a free after school art program in Shelburne Falls.  Co-facilitated by local artists Phyllis Labanowski and Jane Beatrice Wegscheider, ARTeens offers local middle and high school students a space to exercise their creativity, try out new materials, and work on skills in creating a variety of different styles of artwork.

Held on Tuesday afternoons from 3-6pm, the program begins on Tuesday, October 22nd and will run in three different six-week sessions throughout the school year.  In order to participate, interested teens must complete an application (a short and simple one!) including basic information about themselves and their artistic interests.  Applications must be submitted by Monday, October 7th, and students will be notified about participation by Monday, October 14th.  While the series is free for Franklin County teens, those residing in other counties may be able to tuition into the grant-funded program.  Students at Mohawk Trail Regional School can utilize bus transportation from the school in order to get to The Art Garden; others will need to arrange their own transportation…

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Women and Food Photographic Exhibition in Easthampton

Women and Food Photographic Exhibition
September 3rd – September 30th
Easthampton City Arts+ Gallery

Springfield Attorney Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, her daughter, Mahmooda, and son, Dawud.

Easthampton City Arts+ Gallery will display local artist and writer Sarah Platanitis’ photographic project, “Women and Food,” this September.  Platanitis edits and writes for the blog Sarah in the Kitchen, and developed The Women and Food Project while working on articles for the blog, for which she visited women from many walks of life in their kitchens and food-related spaces.

“During interviews, I would hear such great side stories that I sadly couldn’t include in the pieces. Still, I wrote them down anyway, hoping that one day I could go back and spend time again with these women,” says Platanitis. “I wanted to learn more about why they do what they do when it comes to food.”

When asked how she thought this exhibit would appeal to a younger audience, Platanitis explains, “I think a younger audience would benefit from seeing the exhibit because the women in the Project are great role models.  They are successful at their work, they give back to their communities and they love what they do…”

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Contemporary Islamic Art & Events in the Berkshires

Contemporary Islamic Art & Events in the Berkshires
Art Exhibit, Documentary, Music & Eid Celebration

The art exhibit, Islam Contemporary, is just one of several featured events in August that celebrate Islamic art and culture. Over the course of the month, there will be a community Eid celebration, a documentary screening and discussion with the directors, and a concert of classical Middle Eastern music. Find out more about these events!

The Lichtenstein Center for the Arts and the Whitney Center for the Arts in Pittsfield are holding a joint art show, Islam Contemporary, for the month of August, opening on Friday, August 2nd in conjunction with the Pittsfield First Friday Artswalk in the Cultural District. The exhibition features twenty-five artists who hail from around the world, some Muslim, some non-Muslim; some emerging artists, some well-established. Included in the exhibition are works by the Berkshires’ own local artist Daisy Rockwell, granddaughter of Norman Rockwell, and Boston-based Pakistani artist Ambreen Butt. The works on display range from reinterpretations of traditional South Asian art, to critiques of the Western media’s portrayal of women, to statements about multidimensional cultural and gender identities, to attempts to use art to connect communities during times of crisis.

This exhibition offers contemporary and varied perspectives on Islamic art, history, and culture. Students of Middle Eastern studies may find this particularly informative, though families are likely to also learn much from the ideas and images on display. Aziz Sohail, the curator of the exhibition, says, “…this exhibit provides a platform for authentic and diverse voices that grapple with an ever-changing heritage. We hope that the show dispels stereotypes and sparks discussion by facilitating a complex and nuanced look at Islamic heritage and culture.” After (or during) your visit, ask your family to think about the works on display and compare the people and lives that they represent to their own lives. What is similar? What is different? What were they surprised by? What new information were they able to absorb/digest over the course of their visit?

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Let’s Play: Sunflower & Popcorn Houses

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

Families in the Dirt

This summer we are taking a break from the usual planting and growing of beans, pumpkins,  squash and salad greens.  This year we’re making plans to grow a Popcorn House! (Photo credit: Carrie St. John)

Snow pants, boots and mittens be gone! It’s time for sunny afternoons and mud pies after a spring rain. Outdoor clean up. Digging. Rakes. Water. Hoses. Sticks. Rocks. Shovels. Mud. Now that the younger ones are completely engrossed in dirt play, encourage the older kids to put down their devices and join you for fresh air and sunshine. Their play job this month is to help you design and plant a sunflower house.

The Story of the Sunflower House

Wondering what a sunflower house is? Here is an excerpt from Inspiration from the Garden: Sunflower Houses, a Book for Children and Their Grown-ups by Sharon Lovejoy that shares the story:

In early summer, my mother would wake us up with ‘Get up you sleepyheads, today’s the day!’ and we would get out of bed and pull on our clothes. We didn’t even want to eat breakfast, but she would make us sit down and take our time. It all served to heighten the excitement. We couldn’t wait to get outside. Chores done, watering can and stick in tow, we would head outside and take time choosing the best, flattest, sunniest spot in our garden. Then the work would begin. Mother would use the stick to trace out a large rectangle, usually about 6 by 9 feet, leaving a small opening for a doorway. She would drag the stick along the ground and gouge out a trench a couple of inches deep. My little sister and brother would trail behind and drop in seeds. John would drop in a big, fat sunflower seed; daintily, my sister would tuck in a ‘Heavenly Blue’ morning glory seed. I would trudge along behind them lugging the huge tin watering can. I’d use my foot to knock the earth back over the seeds and then I’d give them a small drink of water. Every day one of us would have the chore of walking that rectangle of land and giving a drink of water to the sleeping seeds. We all hoped to be the one to discover the first awakening green heads that poked through the soil. Once the green of the sunflowers peeked through the earth, we became even more interested in our growing playhouse. Usually, we would each water the plot once a day. Soon flowers were climbing skyward and the ‘Heavenly Blue’ morning glories were wrapping their tendrils around the stalk and heading upward too. I’ll tell you there was nothing like crawling through the door of that playhouse and lying on the ground looking up through the incredible lacework of vines and flowers. I guess you could say I spent the best days of my childhood playing, dreaming and sleeping in that little shelter.

The Story of the Popcorn House

My daughter and I planned a slightly different version for our garden—a Popcorn House. Japanese Hulless Popcorn. This year we are taking a break from the usual beans, pie pumpkins, summer squash and salad greens. We have loofah seedlings, hibiscus tea sprouts, wine cap mushroom spawn in our fridge and various flower seeds waiting for warmer days. So why not plant our own popcorn? We saved a space 10 by 20 feet for the Popcorn House.

The entrance will be slightly hidden by a verbena and sunflower border. Verbena has gorgeous, delicate purple flowers with brilliant, green stems and attracts many varieties of butterflies. A mix of ornamental sunflowers (sun samba), giant sunflowers (sunzilla) and a summer mix of bright yellow, red and orange sunflowers will help create the outer wall with the rows of popcorn.

My daughter requested a secret space in the center where she can dig, collect outdoor things and have tree stump seats. Her inner space will also have a carpet of fresh straw to keep the weeds down. The process involves a lot of patience waiting for everything to grow. Hopefully the excitement of warmer weather, planting and planning will help with the waiting for warm summer days playing in the popcorn house while mom weeds and waters the veggies.

April Collections

  • Seeds of choice
  • Outdoor buckets
  • Shovels
  • Water & Dirt

April Book Resources

April Web Resources


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carrie St. JohnCarrie St. John

Carrie was born, raised and attended university in Michigan. As a child she rode bikes and explored her rural neighborhood freely with siblings and neighbor kids. Mom and Dad never worried. The kids always made it home after hours wading in the creek and climbing trees in the woods. After college she moved to Kyoto, Japan to study traditional Japanese woodblock printing. In 1995, she began a career at a small Chicago firm designing maps and information graphics. Life brought a move to Northampton in 2001. Carrie completed her MFA at UMass in 2004. Her little love, Sophia, was born in 2005. The two live in downtown Northampton where they constantly make things, look forward to morning walks to school and plan each spring for additions to their plot at the community garden. Carrie continues to do freelance work for clients here and in Chicago.

Let’s Play: Keeping the Childhood Love of Drawing Alive!

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

Free Draw for Free Play

For a few years I was experimenting with effective drawing projects and trying to spread a love and excitement for art with college freshman. I asked each new group of students why they came to art school and why they thought friends stopped drawing and making things. Some had never thought about it. It was just what they did. They assumed others felt the same way whether they majored in art or biology or English. It just happened. Once or twice a semester there would be an 18 year old that honestly sought out art. They lived it. They grew up surrounded by art. They went to museums with their families. They read art theory books. They could not imagine life without it in some way. Those were the challenging ones. I had to be ready for them each class. They were beyond the basics of learning perspective and balance. I had to amaze and inspire them. These few were also the most thoughtful about the path that brought them to art school. They remembered a moment or time from childhood that making things became a part of their everyday. Usually at a young age—by third or fourth grade, adults or peers went out of the way to praise their drawing efforts. The book Drawing With Children also mentions this and goes deeper into the how and why. The children without that encouragement stopped and focused on other pursuits. This saddens me that the childhood love of making can easily disappear without peer approval. I am a true believer that anyone can learn to draw with practice. Not everyone will have a solo show in NYC but you can learn to observe and draw a tree in your yard or love to create just for the sake of creating.

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This month I challenge you to keep the childhood love of drawing alive at your house. Get big paper. Tape it down to that end of the table where the papers of life and random toys usually stack up by the end of the week. Clean those off first. Leave the paper there for at least a week. Put out a box of pencils and markers. Make a mark or two if the kids at your house need a jump start. Draw anything. Paste down a photo of grandma’s head and draw her a new crazy body. Give her a lion’s tail or bunny ears. Watch to see what happens. Eliminate judgements on others’ creations. Don’t go crazy with praise or comparisons. Make drawing something you just do at your house—a part of every day. Hopefully with a tiny bit of effort on your part the kids will make it past the third grade wall where many stop the making.

March Collections

  • Big sheets of paper (at least 30×40 inches). Check your local art supply for the good quality heavier weights or pick up a roll of kid easel paper.
  • pencils, crayons, markers, & color pencils.
  • A big, flat surface to leave work out on, such as a spot on the floor or the dining room table.

March Book Resources

The following children’s books by Peter H. Reynolds are some of our favorites. They will bring a new light to your idea of what drawing and painting are about.

March Web Resources


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carrie St. JohnCarrie St. John

Carrie was born, raised and attended university in Michigan. As a child she rode bikes and explored her rural neighborhood freely with siblings and neighbor kids. Mom and Dad never worried. The kids always made it home after hours wading in the creek and climbing trees in the woods. After college she moved to Kyoto, Japan to study traditional Japanese woodblock printing. In 1995, she began a career at a small Chicago firm designing maps and information graphics. Life brought a move to Northampton in 2001. Carrie completed her MFA at UMass in 2004. Her little love, Sophia, was born in 2005. The two live in downtown Northampton where they constantly make things, look forward to morning walks to school and plan each spring for additions to their plot at the community garden. Carrie continues to do freelance work for clients here and in Chicago.

Stockbridge Library Features Lecture on Outsider Art: Prison Art in America

Cellblock Visions: Prison Art in America
Art & Cultural Studies at the Stockbridge Library
Friday, January 25th

“For students of art and culture, psychology and philosophy, and human consciousness, the question emerges-how is it that this depth and beauty came from, or through, these particular folks-often times uneducated, unworldly, and untrained,” writes the Stockbridge Library. “Kornfeld points to a new direction… whereby incarcerated people are given the opportunity to reach out to people in need on the outside…” (Find about the Inside/Outside Envelope Project) – Join the Stockbridge Library for this free lecture on Friday, January 25th at 6pm

The Stockbridge Library is offering the community a unique opportunity to learn about a topic not often discussed – the artwork of prison inmates.  Art teacher Phyllis Kornfeld, author of Cellblock Visions: Prison Art in America, will share a slideshow presentation of artwork created by inmates.  This presentation will be paired with a discussion of their work, common types of art produced, and its place amongst mainstream American artwork.

Inmates’ work ranges from soap carvings inspired by traditional American folk art, to tattoo-style ink drawings.  Their art challenges the stereotypes of inmates, serving as a window into the culture and mindset of prisoners, conveying the thoughts, questions, and emotions had by these outsider artists.  Their artwork speaks of human qualities that are shared by all, regardless of circumstances.

This lecture will take place at the library on Friday, January 25th, 2013 at 6pm in Stockbridge, MA.  Older students can attend the event to learn about prison culture, the universality of human artistic expression, art in America, and other topics related to art, psychology, and criminal justice.  For more information, call the library at 413-298-5501.  The Stockbridge Library is located at 46 Main Street in Stockbridge, MA.

Backstories: The Other Side of Art at The Clark

Backstories: The Other Side of Art on View at
The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
December 22nd-April 21st in Williamstown

Works of art can lead a double life, with one side revealed to the public and the other hidden from view. In the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute’s exhibition Backstories: The Other Side of Art, these often hidden sides will come to light as a selection of works tell their little-known “backstories,” revealing when and how they were made, how they have been cared for by collectors, and the many changes they have undergone.

Museums and galleries use more than just the pieces displayed in the exhibits they show to identify them – the stories behind paintings, sculptures, and other creative works are often much richer than they seem at first glance.  Information like signatures, dates, and other notes can often be found on the back of paintings, while busts and vases often have information carved into their bases.  Artists also often used the reverse sides of their works to do sketches or make notes about their piece.  These markings and small bits of information can help viewers learn more about things like the historical context in which a piece was created, the previous homes and/or owners of the piece, and the materials used by the artist.

The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute is offering a special new exhibit, Backstories: The Other Side of Art, focused on these hidden stories!  On view between December 22nd, 2012 and April 21st, 2013, the exhibit is filled with works displayed non-traditionally so that viewers can inspect both sides of the story – literally!  Visitors can inspect the back sides of paintings, see interesting double-sided portraits, view preliminary sketches on the back of beautiful drawings, and examine all 360 degrees of a silver milk jug engraved with the names of all of its owners (including Benjamin Franklin!).

Exploring this exhibit with your family or students (or on your own!) can provide a powerful learning experience – youth of all ages can learn about the importance of looking at art within its historical context, offering exposure to basic skills in identifying art techniques, historical relationships, and time periods.  It can get them thinking about the backstory of other pieces of art too … maybe even spark an interest in researching the history behind other great works of art!

If your children or students have read and enjoyed E.L. Konigsburg’s book,  From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, they love this real-life explorations of the backstories of art!  This title would be great to pair with a visit to Backstories.

For more information visit www.clarkart.edu or call the Clark Institute at 413-458-2303.  The Clark is located at 225 South Street in Williamstown, MA.  Admission to the exhibit is included with regular museum admission ($).

Film Series Explores the Lives of Artists at The Clark this Fall

Old Masters in New Frames
Film Series Explores the Lives of Artists at
The Clark in Williamstown this Fall

The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute is offering a free film series featuring well-regarded feature films about seven famous artists.  Older students interested in art, art history, and film can learn about artists from varying time periods and artistic styles, and each screening will include an introduction and post-film discussion with museum curators and art educators.

Topics presented in the films include artist Andrei Tarkovsky and the history of medieval Russia, Italian Baroque painting and portraiture, and the art and life of Vincent Van Gogh (used to illustrate a film adaptation of Irving Stone’s novel Lust for Life).

While the focus of each screening is on a particular artist, their passionate lives and the history of their form of expression and/or the context within which their life and work took place, the film series offers a unique opportunity for older students to learn about periods of history not often included in traditional school history curricula.  The films themselves are also a valuable way to learn – learners who best absorb information when visuals are presented will enjoy the creative and aesthetically pleasing and dramatic ways in which information is conveyed.

Screenings will take place on Thursday evenings beginning September 20th at 7pm, and admission is free.  The Clark Institute is located at 225 South Street, Williamstown, MA.  For more information, call 413-458-2303. www.clarkart.edu

  • September 20 Thursday 7:00 pm: Andrei Rublev.  (1966, 205 min, Russian with subtitles)  Andrei Tarkovsky’s masterful epic explores not just the life and work of the famous icon painter, but the whole cosmos of late medieval Russia, in a cinematic classic of art, faith, and history.  Steve Satullo, film programmer for the Clark, will introduce the series and the film.  For the convenience of viewers, this film will be repeated on Friday 9/21, with Part One at 1:00 pm and Part Two at 3:00 pm.
  • October 4 Thursday 7:00 pm: The Mill & the Cross.  (2011, 95 min.)  Lech Majewski offers a unique portal — through special effects and dramatization — for entering the world of a Pieter Bruegel painting, with the artist himself (played by Rutger Hauer) as guide.  Keith Moxey, Chair of Art History at Barnard College and former Robert Sterling Clark Visiting Professor at Williams College, will provide context and commentary on the film.
  • October 18 Thursday 7:00 pm: Caravaggio.  (1986, 90 min.)  Derek Jarman’s bold experiment in portraiture tells the story of the scandalous Italian Baroque painter, played by Nigel Terry, with his muse and model played by Tilda Swinton.  Michael Cassin, director of the Clark‘s Center for Education in the Visual Arts, will tell tales about the painter and his world.
  • November 1 Thursday 7:00 pm: Edvard Munch.  (1974, 172 min.).   Peter Watkins’ brilliant docudrama follows the early life and career of the grim Norwegian painter, showing what led to The Scream.  Jay Clarke, Manton Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs for the Clark and author of Becoming Edvard Munch: Influence, Anxiety, and Myth, will introduce and assess the film.
  • November 15 Thursday 7:00 pm: Lust for Life.  (1956, 122 min.)  Vincente Minnelli’s adaptation of the Irving Stone novel is an unusually serious Hollywood biopic, imbued with the colors of Vincent Van Gogh’s art and life.  Kirk Douglas gives an impassioned performance as Van Gogh, with Anthony Quinn as Paul Gauguin.  Perspective will be provided by Richard Kendall, Curator at Large for the Clark and author of Van Gogh’s Van Goghs.

ReUse Rally for the Arts: A Call for Artisans

ReUse Rally for the Arts: A Call for Artisans

Deadline to apply: Aug. 24th, 2012.

What can you do with old clothes, leftover non-recyclable containers, bits of string, extra drops of paint, and seemingly useless utensils? Make art!

The Northampton DPW ReUse Committee is hosting an artisan show featuring work made from recycled, reused, and found materials – titled, “ReUse Rally for the Arts,” the event will both showcase interesting and radical work from local artisans, as well as bring light to the artistic potential of recycled and found materials and the non-necessity of brand new manufactured art supplies.

The show will take place on October 13th at JFK Middle School in Northampton, but the application deadline for artisans interested in participating in the show is August 24th.  The event will showcase the work of 20+ creative reuse artisans, and is an intergenerational opportunity for older students (teens) serious about art to participate using a non-traditional medium, and to experience the use of art as a tool for cultural change.  All work submitted should be made out of at least 75% post-consumer materials – pieces can be anything from collages or statues to jewelry or clothing!

Description of the event and application are available here.  For more information contact Deborah Slavitt, Arts ReUse Coordinator, at deborahjane26@artisttogo.net.

Arthurian Legends and Gold Dubloons at Norman Rockwell Museum

World of Adventure with Howard Pyle
Family Festival Day at Norman Rockwell Museum
Saturday, August 4th, 2012

Howard Pyle (1853-1911) was one of America’s most popular illustrators and storytellers during a period of explosive growth in the publishing industry. A celebrity in his lifetime, Pyle’s widely circulated images of pirates, knights, and historical figures were featured in dozens of publications and were admired by such artists and authors as  Mark Twain and Norman Rockwell.

Explore history, as depicted in artist Howard Pyle’s illustrations, at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA!  The museum’s newest exhibit features nearly 80 of Pyle’s works, created between 1876 and 1910, the subjects of which include Arthurian England, heroes of the American Revolution, and the fate of Scottish so-called pirate Captain Kidd.

On Saturday, August 4th the museum will present World of Adventure: Arthurian Legends and Gold Dubloons, a family festival day, from 12noon-4pm. Along with opportunities to explore the museum’s galleries and view Pyle’s work, there will be scavenger hunts, performances, art making, and more! The 28th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry will be sharing a replica of a Civil War encampment, where families can meet soldiers and learn about wartime camp life.  The band Ampersand will perform music from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, and kids can meet all sorts of soldiers, pirates, and knights!

For older kids (and parents), the museum will be screening, “Howard Pyle and the Illustrated Story,” a documentary film that follows Pyle’s work through generations of media.  Check out the trailer which gives a glimpse of Howard Pyle’s talents as illustrator, author, and mentor:

World of Adventure: Arthurian Legends and Gold Dubloons, presented in conjunction with the Museum’s current exhibition, “Howard Pyle: American Master Rediscovered,” takes place from 12noon-4pm on Saturday, August 4th – visit to learn about the art of illustration, American history, and legends of knights, dragons, and pirates!  Find out more about the Norman Rockwell Museum at www.nrm.org.

[Image credit: We Started to Run back to the Raft for Our Lives, 1902 Howard Pyle (1853-1911) Oil on canvas, 24 1/4 x 16 1/4 inches Delaware Art Museum, Museum Purchase, 1912]

Rethink! American Indian Art at Berkshire Museum

Berkshire Museum presents
Rethink! American Indian Art
Striking Contemporary Art & Significant Historic Objects

The innovative exhibition, Rethink! American Indian Art at Berkshire Museum, features both striking contemporary art and important historic art objects, on view from July 7, 2012 to January 6, 2013. An opening reception will be held Thursday, July 12, from 5 to 7 p.m. and a Family Day of programs and activities will take place on Saturday, July 14. (Courtesy Photo)

The Berkshire Museum presents, “Rethink! American Indian Art,” an exhibit featuring art, artifacts, and educational materials expressing the rich skills and crafting traditions of Native American nations, from July 7, 2012 – January 6, 2013 in Pittsfield, MA.

The exhibit features not only a history of Native American artistry, but also includes contemporary pieces showing the evolution of skills and traditions and how modern culture has influenced changes in techniques and uses of skills (One piece, for example, features beautiful embroidery – done on a “canvas” of Converse high-top sneakers!).  Pieces featured in the exhibit include blown glass, basketry, video installations, beadwork, sculpture, and more, representing tribal nations from across the country.

Frequently, lessons taught in school about Native Americans focus on the early days of American History, but might not look closely at how native culture has endured and evolved.  Kids of all ages can learn significant lessons about modern Native American culture by exploring the exhibit.  Students can familiarize themselves with many different traditional skills, and begin thinking about how and why such skills continue to be passed on, forming their own questions about Native American culture and history, while gaining insight on modern Native American art.

FAMILY DAY – JULY 14th

To celebrate the opening of the exhibit, the Berkshire Museum is hosting a special family day on Saturday, July 14th from 10am-4pm.  There will be special events throughout the day, including a performance of Native American dance and song, demonstrations of basketry and wigwam building, and a storywalk!

For more information, visit www,berkshiremuseum.org or contact the Berkshire Museum at 413-443-7171.

“The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats” at The Carle this Summer

50th Anniversary of The Snowy Day

The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats pays tribute to award-winning author and illustrator Ezra Jack Keats (1916–1983), whose children’s book,The Snowy Day,was the first modern full-color picture book to feature an African-American protagonist, published in 1962 at the height of the civil rights movement in America. The exhibition marks the 50th Anniversary of The Snowy Day which paved the way for multiracial representation  in American children’s literature.

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art presents a new exhibit – The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack KeatsOpening on June 26th, 2012 the exhibit is made up of over 80 of Keats’ works, including sketches, collages, and drawings, photographs of the author, and some of his less well-known Asian art and haiku, and will run through October 14, 2012.

Keats’ work is significant not only in that his children’s books (The Snowy Day, Whistle For Willie, and Peter’s Chair) have been read to and loved by many families, but is important also in that it features African-American protagonists in run-down urban settings.  In fact, The Snowy Day was the first full color children’s book to feature an African-American protagonist.  The settings depicted in Keats’ work reflect the environment in which he grew up, and the stories portray African-American characters in environments representative of urban life during the 1960’s.

By visiting the exhibit, families can begin a group dialogue about civil rights, urban life, and racial politics.  These themes are best for older students, who are beginning to learn about or have some background knowledge of the Civil Rights Movement, but Keats’ illustrations can be appreciated by kids of all ages!  Older students can also use the exhibit as a means of learning and thinking about how art is used to convey big ideas – not only does Keats provide effective illustrations for his stories, he offers a truthful portrayal of urban African-American life. For more information visit www.carlemuseum.org.


Illustration Credit: Ezra Jack Keats, “Peter, Archie and Willie crept out of the hideout.” Final illustration for Goggles!, 1969. Paint and collage on board. Ezra Jack Keats papers, de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection, McCain Library and Archives, The University of Southern Mississippi. Copyright Ezra Jack Keats Foundation.

The Real Housewives of Currier and Ives in Springfield

The Real Housewives of Currier and Ives
Exhibit at Springfield Museums through June 25, 2012

Just as contemporary television and other media portray and define popular culture today, the ideals of Victorian culture permeated the visual media of that era, often in the form of art work designed by the publishing firm of Currier & Ives.

Throughout history and changes in culture, women have been depicted within various media as a stable and nurturing force, despite changes in their role within society.

The D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts (part of the Springfield Museums) is currently hosting a show of hand-colored Currier and Ives lithographs featuring Victorian portrayals of women.  The Real Housewives of Currier and Ives, as the show is titled, mainly shows women being portrayed as nurturers, caring for their homes and families, all while looking their best and dressing in period-appropriate, fashionable clothing.

However, the images do not necessarily represent women’s role in society during the periods pictured.

The exhibit will be open to visitors through June 25th, 2012 – check it out, and use the images as a jumping off point for learning about cultural influences on media and portrayal of women.  To find the museum’s hours, visit www.springfieldmuseums.org.  And check with your local library.  Many branches have museum passes for library patron to check out.

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 carlemuseum.org.

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. Read the rest of this entry »

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.

TOURS

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 grouptours@springfieldmuseums.org.

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 schooltours@springfieldmuseums.org. — A teacher open house is scheduled for January 11th, 2012 from 4-6pm. Reservations required. Call 413.263.6800, ext. 323.

LECTURES

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 www.springfieldmuseums.org. 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.

Volunteer for First Night Northampton

Volunteer Opportunity: First Night Northampton

First Night is a Northampton tradition enjoyed by the community every year- families love all of the fun events that take place all day (especially the fireworks!) and it’s a wonderful way to wrap up the holidays. However, all of the fun couldn’t happen without the help of volunteers!

The Northampton Center for the Arts, which the event benefits, is seeking volunteers to help out during First Night! There are three shifts available- 1-5pm, 4:30-8:30pm (with a break for fireworks), or 8-11pm. Volunteers are asked to help out at one of the downtown performance venues during their shift, so if you help out, you’ll still get to enjoy the events! Volunteers also get a free First Night button and are able to enjoy the event while they’re not on duty! For more information or to sign up, call the Center for the Arts at 413-584-7327 or fill out their volunteer form online.

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 www.nrm.org. To find out which local library has free OSV museum passes for borrowing, check our Educational Support & Local Resources page.

12 Years of World Class Performances for Students at MASS MoCA

Art Assembly Program in the Berkshires

For the 12th consecutive year, MASS MoCA presents a series of student programming, featuring live music, dance, storytelling, film, and theater performances that give regional students the opportunity to see world-class performers, including Lady Bee, Alloy Orchestra and Zany Umbrella Circus. (Courtesy photo)

MASS MoCA has released this year’s schedule of performances for kids! The shows are designed to allow students a chance to learn about the arts, and the museum offers free curriculum materials for educators to use before and after the performances. This year’s shows include music and dance with Lady Bee, musical ensemble Alloy Orchestra, and the Zany Umbrella Circus! Educators can use the performances as a platform for discussion that touches on topics in language arts, history, social studies, and perhaps even science! (Talk about the physics of music, for example!)

All school choices are welcomed. “Registering in advance is helpful, because there are study guide companions for each performance,” writes Courtney Parker, Assistant to the Managing Director of Performing Arts + Film at MASS MoCA. “If you are unable to register in advance, we are happy to include you and your children on the day of the performance. Not a problem.”

For more information, call 413-664-4481 or e-mail Courtney at cparker@massmoca.org.

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 www.springfieldmuseums.org.

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