Museum Adventures: University Museum of Contemporary Art

Turning 40, the University Museum of Contemporary Art Continues to Shine

September is a hectic but exciting time of the year. As summer winds down and new routines set in, we invite you to explore what the University Museum of Contemporary Art (UMCA) has to offer!

Now in our fortieth year as a teaching museum at UMass Amherst, we continue to serve the community as a powerful resource. Through our outstanding exhibitions, visiting artists program, growing permanent collection, and varied educational programming, the museum is an amazing place to explore.  Read the rest of this entry »

DownStreet Art Promotes Community Engagement in the Arts in the Northern Berkshires

DownStreet Art Promotes Community Engagement in the Arts in the Northern Berkshires

Previously in our series spotlighting arts-based community organizations, we featured Easthampton City Arts+ , Pittsfield’s 3rd Thursdays, Turners Falls RiverCulture, and Holyoke’s Gateway City Arts, all of which support a community’s cultural identify. Across western Massachusetts, many communities have become havens for artists of all kinds. The area is chock-full of painters, photographers, sculptors, potters, performers, and other creative types, their work saturating our communities with artistic expression in a wide variety of mediums. Connecting these artists and their work to the the rest of the community are arts organizations, which serve as valuable resources for connecting families with events and community-based learning opportunities.

This month, we feature DownStreet Art, an arts organization in North Adams that works to facilitate dialog between the local community and the arts, with the goal of creating social and economic capital as a result. A town formerly dependent on industry, North Adams has seen a rise in the role of the arts in the city community – a change that has helped the city to increase in both tourism and resident participation in community events. Following, largely, the establishment of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA), the northern Berkshires have seen a rise in the role of the arts in the local community, and since its founding in 2008, DownStreet Art has connected over 100,000 people with arts-based events in North Adams’ downtown district, helping to fuel the cultural resurgence that brings the city to life.  Read the rest of this entry »

Illustration History: Online Educational Resource & Archive for the Art of Illustration

Online Resource Provides Close-Up Look at the Art of Illustration

All children are familiar with illustrations, even if just from noticing an illustrator’s name noted on the cover of a favorite picture book. Illustration as an art form encompasses much more than images for children’s books; the art of illustration includes the creation of images for everything from advertisements to comic books. Using the Norman Rockwell Museum’s newest online resource, Illustration History, families can learn about the numerous forms of illustration, notable illustrators, and the connections between the art of illustration and history, culture, economics, and technology.

Launched just recently, Illustration History serves as both an educational resource and an archive, broadening the possibilities for learning with an extensive database of images and information about artists and illustration history. Read the rest of this entry »

Museum Adventures: Smith College Museum of Art

Surprise your Eyes at the Smith College Museum of Art

Where do you begin your Museum adventure? For many visitors to the Smith College Museum of Art, their first stop is to check out the artist-designed restrooms! Designed by artists Ellen Driscoll and Sandy Skoglund as functional—and permanent—works of art, each is unique and beautiful. A popular spot for selfies, the women’s restroom features works from the Museum’s collection reproduced in a blue underwater world through etched glass panels. In contrast to the cool hues and mermaid paradise of Driscoll’s women’s restroom, across the way Skoglund intended to create a space that would incorporate “patterning and visual sizzle.”  The men’s room is black and white from floor to ceiling, creating the sensory experience of stepping into an optical illusion. For the wall tiles, Skoglund used imagery based on global creation stories with the common theme of liquid origins. From the fixtures to the floors and even the toilet bowls and urinals, visitors are invited to be part of the art themselves through the use of these unforgettable spaces.

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The artist-designed restrooms are located on the lower level of the Museum, which has been a hub of activity this summer.  While the restrooms will remain untouched, extensive renovations to the rest of the floor are underway. When completed in October, the Museum’s gallery updates and improvements will offer new ways to experience and interact with SCMA’s treasured collection of exceptional art.

Don’t miss these highlights on a visit this fall:  Read the rest of this entry »

Museum Adventures: Mead Art Museum

From Mead to You: Making Learning Connections at the Mead Art Museum

Experience, investigate, and explore world-class art and hidden treasures at Amherst College’s Mead Art Museum. In July, families can travel the world without ever leaving the area through the Mead’s family workshops and open house days. Enjoy art-making, guest performances, tours, and more—all of it free and open to all.

Search for secret doors in a seventeenth-century paneled room. Puzzle over a cuneiform inscription that praises a powerful Assyrian king. Marvel at a hanging sculpture spinning in a still gallery.

Visitors to the Mead Art Museum do so much more than see objects—at the Mead, art is experienced, investigated, and explored. Set on Amherst College’s beautiful main quadrangle and flanked by a fascinating, stand-alone stone steeple, the Mead offers a world of resources for connecting art across countless cultures, mediums, and eras.

Just as its south-up, equal-area map (on permanent display in the Kunian gallery) turns traditional worldviews “upside-down,” the Mead provides learning opportunities that encourage creative thinking and a global, culturally-aware approach to art history.  Read the rest of this entry »

Museum Adventures: Yiddish Book Center

Yiddish Book Center: Something for Everyone (and You Don’t Need to Speak Yiddish)

Learning about Jewish culture and history often leads parents and children to conversations about their own family’s history, culture, and traditions.

In the Yiddish Book Center’s kindervinkl (children’s corner), three-year-old Eli dons a white apron and begins whipping up an (imaginary) meal of brisket and, for dessert, homentashn. When he’s done, he and his mother settle on a red bench nearby and begin reading picture books.

In the welcome gallery, a dad and two preteen girls enjoy a short film about the history of the Center. When the film ends, they head over to a reproduction Yiddish print shop with vintage printing equipment, including a Yiddish Linotype, a hot-lead typesetting machine used for decades at the New York Yiddish newspaper the Forverts.   Read the rest of this entry »

Museum Adventures: Museums10 Turns 10 & Continues to Think Smart

Museums10 Deepens Western Mass Cultural Life Through Creative Collaboration

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Arts in Amherst, MA.

Western Massachusetts is rich with opportunities for families to get out into their community to explore, to get to know the world better, and gain a deeper understanding of history. The museums in our region embody that richness to the fullest! Now in its 10th year, Museums10 can point to the fact that they host more exhibitions annually than at the Met, Lourve, and Guggenheim combined and house 1.3 million collection objects (equal to what you’d find at the Harvard Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Cleveland Art Museum put together!).

Who is Museums10? Ten years ago, 10 local museums came together to build a collaborative to foster greater cooperation. The hope was that by working together they could accomplish more than any could solo. During the past decade, they’ve hosted large joint exhibitions, worked with local organizations to create events, and built relationships with area schools to help make the museums part of children’s educational lives during the school day.  Read the rest of this entry »

Millennium Project in Pioneer Valley Integrates Art with Citizen Scientists

Exhibition to Document Next Millennium of Climate Change in History’s Slowest Photograph

Formed 200 million years ago in the Late Triassic and boasting hundreds of distinct microclimates, the Holyoke Range is a site selected to document the transformation of the environment over the next 1,000 years.
This spring, the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College will install a camera, designed by experimental philosopher and Amherst College graduate Jonathon Keats, that will take a millennium-long photograph of the evolving landscape. The museum will unveil the photograph in the summer of 3015. Prior to the camera’s installation at the Mead, it will be it will be on display in the exhibition Jonathon Keats: Photographing Deep Time, on view April 15 through May 31, 2015.

What will the landscape of the Pioneer Valley look like a millennium from now? The Mead Art Museum and artist Jonathon Keats are determined to find out. As part of an exhibition of Keats’ work, the museum will install a special camera that will take a 1,000-year-long photograph tracking the changes in the local landscape over the next millennium.

Created using the basic design for a pinhole camera, the Millennium Camera will use oil paint and the light that enters the camera through a tiny hole in order to create an exposure that will reflect changes in Amherst’s landscape over time. Mounted at the top of the Stearns Steeple, the camera will get something a bit like a bird’s eye view of its surroundings. In 3015, the image created by the camera will be unveiled and viewed by a community living in a very different world than today’s.

The exhibit that marks the camera’s start is titled Photographing Deep Time, and will showcase Keats’ other work in deep time photography, including a 100-year photographic survey of the changing cityscape of Berlin. Rather than being focused on the end result of any image, Keats’ deep photography process is focused on connecting photograph viewers with the changes that take place over time that, together, create the final product.

Older students and adults wishing to hear more about the monumental project and Keats’ artistic process can attend an artist conversation at the Mead Art Museum from 2-3pm on Wednesday, April 15th. Photographing Deep Time will be on display at the museum through May 31st, providing families with the opportunity to explore the intersection of art, science, and the future’s history. This Wednesday afternoon event is free and open to the public and is part of the Arts at Amherst Spring Festival.

The Mead will also produce 100 pinhole cameras, each with a 100-year exposure time, for the public to hide somewhere in the Pioneer Valley, invisibly monitoring changes in the surrounding landscape between now and 2115. The cameras will be available at the Mead for $5 each and will come with a registration card for visitors to document their camera’s location. Participating families can join is a art-based citizen scientists! Read the rest of this entry »

Hilltown Families on Mass Appeal: Maple Sugar Season

Hilltown Families on Mass Appeal: February Segment
Maple Sugar Season in New England

Hilltown Families and Mass Appeal (a weekday, hour-long lifestyle program on NBC) have teamed up to offer a live monthly segment on WWLP 22News!  Each month, Hilltown Families’ Founder & Executive Director, Sienna Wildfield,  joins Mass Appeal hosts, Ashley Kohl and Seth Stutman, to talk about ways to engage in your community while supporting the interests and education of your children (and yourselves!).

This monthly segment continued on Thursday, February 26, 2015, highlighting community-based resources and events that use the Maple sugar season as a catalyst for learning, celebrating local culture and building community. Sienna shares three community-based resources and two community events, highlighting two types of events:

Read the rest of this entry »

Clark Lifts Lid on Major 20th Century Modernist Movement

Machine Age Modernism Exhibit At Clark Art Institute Captures Turmoil & Upheaval

Clark Art Institute’s Machine Age Modernism exhibition explores groundbreaking printmaking and offers community-based learning opportunity on art history. Exhibition opens February 28, 2015 in Williamstown, MA.

The Clark Art Institute considers the history and politics that inspired many artists working during and between World Wars I and II in the exhibition Machine Age Modernism: Prints from the Daniel Cowin Collection. Influenced by such prewar movements as Futurism and Cubism, and using innovative techniques developed by artists associated with London’s Grosvenor School of Modern Art in the 1930s and 1940s, artists of the Machine Age defied aesthetic and technical conventions in order to convey the vitality of industrial society and changed printmaking in the process. Machine Age Modernism will be on view in the Clark Center February 28–May 17, 2015.
Read the rest of this entry »

10 Days of Play: A Multi-Sensory Experience To Energize The Mind

The Science of Play Opens Up Creative & Critical Thinking

Play comes in many forms, but whatever it looks like, it’s great for your brain! The Berkshire Museum celebrates the importance of play during their annual event, 10 Days of Play. Held now through February 22nd, 10 Days of Play celebrates the recreational and educational value of play amongst community members of any age. Read the rest of this entry »

Hilltown Families on Mass Appeal: Feeling Connected to Your Community

Hilltown Families on Mass Appeal: January Segment

Hilltown Families and Mass Appeal (a weekday, hour-long lifestyle program on NBC) have teamed up to offer a live monthly segment on WWLP 22News!  Each month, Hilltown Families’ Founder & Executive Director, Sienna Wildfield, will join Mass Appeal hosts, Ashley Kohl and Seth Stutman, to talk about ways to engage in your community while supporting the interests and education of your children (and yourselves!).

This monthly segment debuted on Tuesday, January 20, 2015, highlighting accessible community resources found throughout our region, including libraries, parks & trails, museums, historical societies and community service:

Find out more about these wonderful community resources found across the region in our recent post, Western MA Resources Support Community-Based Learning While Strengthening a Sense of Place.

Mass Appeal is a live weekday program that airs at 11am on 22News (Springfield, MA).  Our next visit to the Mass Appeal studios will be Thursday, February 26!

Western MA Resources Support Community-Based Learning While Strengthening a Sense of Place

A Diversity of Learning Right On Your Doorstep

Western Mass is home to an incredible array of community-based resources that offer a diversity of embedded learning opportunities. From historical societies to libraries, trails to art galleries, there are numerous opportunities to connect with your community and embrace your sense of place. Read on to see what treasures rest on your doorstep.

Community-based learning is not a product of simply one resource or another. Instead, it is the product of many different local resources, the offerings of which pool and connect in order to create a web of educational connections and opportunities. Families in western Massachusetts are lucky in that this web is especially strong, thanks to the many well-stocked libraries, beautiful trails and outdoor centers, active historical societies, gallery-filled museums, and supportive family centers. Together, these types of resources help to provide opportunities for unique and authentic community-based learning, wherein families are able to explore broad concepts within a local context.


With over 1,700 libraries in the Massachusetts Library System, families have access to thousands of book.  But our local libraries are not solely a book-based resource. In addition to volumes upon volumes of reading material, libraries offer opportunities to explore and discover new interests through more nontraditional resources like musical instruments, games, and exploration kits. Amherst’s Jones Library, for example, has instruments to lend, including child-size violins, ukeleles, guitars, and even a glockenspiel! The Meekins Library in Williamsburg offers discovery kits that promote hands-on exploration of interesting topics like salmon and local rivers, and important social reformers, civil rights, and human rights leaders in American history. Additionally, many local libraries allow patrons to borrow passes to local museums – helping to make these similarly valuable resources more accessible. And as for community sustainability, libraries are one of the oldest and most common forms of collaborative consumption that we’ve got here in western Mass! Read the rest of this entry »

Ragamala: Indian Exhibit Sings A Thousand Words

Miniature Paintings from 17th- and 18th- Century India Capture Moods of Music and Poetry at Williams College Museum of Art

Ragamala represents a dynamic intermingling of music, poetry, and painting in India. Ragamala is Sanskrit for a “garland of ragas,” which are unique musical compositions. Drawn from the museum’s rich Indian collection, this exhibition features sixteen ragamala paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries.

You’ve probably heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” but what about a picture that illustrates those words… or even a song? How might you translate the mood evoked by an instrumental song into a picture, painting, or even a poem?

Between the 16th and 19th centuries in India, a classical Indian musical tradition called a raga, took on a new characteristic that did just that.  A raga, which translates roughly from Sanskrit into beauty, melody, and color, is similar to a musical scale: a selection of musical notes arranged specifically to convey, or color, a mood; discrete ragas are used to represent specific times of day and/or seasons.  These complex, richly textured melodies inspired poets to create poems based on the moods they evoked.  Artists then transposed these poems and melodies into paintings that visually convey the moods, events, and seasons represented by each raga and poem, and often include a few lines from the associated poem.

The Williams College Museum of Art will have a ragamala–a set of these miniature paintings–on display between September 27, 2014 through January 4, 2015.  Sixteen miniatures from the museum’s notable Indian art collection will be on view.  Read the rest of this entry »

Ceramic Exhibit Offers Rare Glimpse Into A Very Distant Past

Ceramics Exhibition Explores Craftsmanship Over 6,000 Years
At Mount Holyoke College Art Museum through May 31, 2015

A wonderful example of ceramics as an “objets d’art.”

Have you ever taken a ceramics class? The feeling of the clay molding into recognizable shapes like bowls and plates is so satisfying, matched only by the feeling of accomplishment once the piece has been fired and glazed and is ready to be used. The creation—and usage—of functional objects has been part of the human experience for as long as humans have existed, and the ways in which these objects are made and regarded has evolved over time. From the purely practical and utilitarian to veritable objets d’art, ceramics have served a wide range of people in an even wider range of ways. And as the world’s peoples grew, developed, and traveled, so did their tools and artwork; this allowed for further dispersion and interchange of ideas and techniques. Read the rest of this entry »

Multimedia Exhibit at MASS MoCA Brings Extinct Pigeon Back to Life

Video Installation Commemorates a Species’ Centennial of Extinction at MASS MoCA through Spring 2015

When you think about pigeons, what immediately comes to mind? Chances are, you’re remembering an encounter with a rock pigeon–a gray bird with black stripes on its wings, often spotted pecking at the sidewalks or perched on architectural features in urban areas. These birds are so eponymous with the word “pigeon,” and so closely associated with cities like Boston and New York, that it may surprise you to learn that this particular breed of pigeon is actually native to Europe – and that, long before the rock pigeon arrived in North America, a native breed called the passenger pigeon dominated the skies. Prior to the 20th century, this one breed was so populous – estimated at between three and five million – that they represented more than one-quarter of all the birds in North America. They lived and traveled in enormous flocks: their numbers were so great that a migrating flock could darken the sky, concealing the sun, for several hours at a time. By the end of 1914, however, the breed had become entirely extinct.

“I was so moved by this exhibit, and my daughter was fascinated!” – Sarah Rankin (Hilltown Families reader)

Eclipse, a new multimedia exhibition at MASS MoCA, explores the phenomenon of species extinction through the history of the passenger pigeon, a century after the death of the last known bird. On view through spring 2015, the exhibition is comprised of an immersive video and audio installation in the four-story “lightwell” at the center of the MASS MoCA complex. Read the rest of this entry »

Time Capsule: Extraordinary Exhibit Lifts Lid on Historical Education

Artifacts from a Historical “Time Capsule” Revealed at Old Sturbridge Village
Ongoing through Sunday, January 18, 2015

Hingham, Massachusetts., known as “Bucket Town” due to its prominence in the early New England coopering industry, was also the home of the first and largest community of professional toymakers in America.

Now through mid-January 2015, visitors to Old Sturbridge Village will have the opportunity to view artifacts from a recently-excavated workshop on the Hersey Family Farm in Hingham, MA.  The workshop spent a century undetected, hidden under vines on the historical farm property, before being discovered in 2008.  It had inadvertently become a time capsule, capturing the scene of an early twentieth century New England woodenware and toymaker’s workshop and lying undisturbed for decades.

The exhibit, Bucket Town: Four Centuries of Toymaking and Coopering in Hingham, is on view at Old Sturbridge Village’s Visitor Center Gallery for the next six months.  It contains objects from the Hersey Shop that have never before been seen by the public – an intriguing collection of tools, personal artifacts, and exquisite handicrafts – in addition to a generous selection of handcrafted toys and woodenware made by Hingham-based toymakers and coopers.

Read the rest of this entry »

Families & Flower Pots at Emily Dickinson Museum Garden Days

Garden Days at Emily Dickinson Museum welcomes families to explore and connect with the story and legacy of poet Emily Dickinson and her family

Next week, garden-loving families can get some historic dirt underneath their fingernails at the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, MA. The museum’s annual Garden Days will be held this year from June 8th through 11th, and brings with them ample opportunities to learn, grow, and honor Emily Dickinson’s love of gardening – all while helping to maintain the museum’s beautiful and historic grounds.

Emily Dickinson Museum, Amherst

To kick off Garden Days, the Emily Dickinson Museum will hold Family Day on Saturday, June 8th from 1-4pm. Gardeners and plant enthusiasts of all ages and abilities are welcome at the museum, and there will be a plethora of gardening activities that anyone can easily participate in. Additionally, Family Day will include a special kid-friendly garden tour at 1:30pm, as well as a historic garden tour (better for older students) at 2:30pm, which will be lead by Marta McDowell, author of Emily Dickinson’s Gardens: A Celebration of a Poet and Gardener.

After learning about the gardens and helping out with some projects around the museum’s grounds, families can take Emily Dickinson’s love of gardening home with them – supplies will be available for beginning your very own herbarium, which Emily herself did as a child. 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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Early Twentieth Century Craftwork and Artisans Featured at Historic Deerfield

Early Twentieth Century Craftwork and Artisans Featured at Historic Deerfield

Sarah Cowles (1845-1922), a member of the Pocumtuck Basket Makers, wove an image of Deerfield’s iconic c. 1699 Old Indian House in her basket. Cowles was one of a number of women who was swept up by the William Morris craze for making handmade goods. Founded in 1902 by Madeline Yale Wynne, the group made baskets principally of raffia, a product of Madagascar, and used natural dyes to color their work. Wynne chose the name Pocumtuck to reference the Native Americans who first lived in Deerfield.

The early 1900s sparked a renewed interest in the materials and craftsmanship roughly associated with the colonial period in the United States.  Known in the US as the “American Craftsman” school of thought or as the “Arts & Crafts Movement,” this interest in traditional methods, materials, and styles of craftwork was part of an international design revolution against the mass-production that new industry and machinery had made possible.  The movement, which began in the British Isles in the late 1890s, was initially a socialist rejection of the mechanized, assembly-line-style work that had all but eliminated the creativity and skill that craftsmen (and women) had demonstrated prior to the rise of industry. By elevating the aesthetic significance of these unique, unassuming, artisan-made objects, the Arts & Crafts movement created a new niche for craftworkers and pushed back against the increasing sense of excess in the design world. Ironically, these humble objects inspired by craftsmen of old were not accessible to everyone. Because the materials, time, and skill needed to create high-quality, authentic arts & crafts objects were harder to come by than what the factories produced, each object was competitively priced.

Artists in New England were particularly drawn to the resurgence of traditional handicrafts, and many joined the arts and crafts community that had sprung up in Deerfield.  These artists – ranging from metalsmiths, potters, and furniture makers, to photographers, embroiderers, and basket makers – were heavily inspired by the history of the Deerfield area, and incorporated references to the town’s history in their work.  Several Deerfield artists even achieved national recognition for their crafts.  It is these artists and their work that Historic Deerfield celebrates in their current exhibition, “A Community of Craftwork,” on view now through February 2015.   Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Legacy of Music, People and Place: Holyoke 1800 – 1950

Wistariahurst Museum is launching a new historical and cultural project entitled, Legacy of Music, People and Place: Holyoke 1800 – 1950. With funding support from the Holyoke Cultural Council and the Country Dance and Song Society, Jacqueline Cooper is collaborating with the museum as the Project Director and is working to develop sketches of Holyoke’s past to form a collective of local music culture from 1800-1950.

Cooper and Wistariahurst are seeking to include community members of Holyoke and nearby towns to participate by sharing personal music-related memories. They are looking for community members, elders, descendants of earlier settlers, immigrants, and travelers who can share stories or family anecdotes related to particular songs that were listened to, played, sung, danced to and enjoyed in households, factories, at gatherings, or in clubs, churches, community centers, etc. They are looking for stories that not only represent local culture, but also reflect what working people at the heart of the community thrived on.

Do you, your parents, your grandparents, have a memory to share? Being interviewed for this project is an inspiring opportunity to have a music-related memory as part of Holyoke’s cultural heritage collection.  The research is the foundation for Legacy of Music, People and Place: Holyoke 1800 – 1950, a live music and storytelling production to be performed at Wistariahurst in July of 2014.
Click here to find out how to participate…

The Carle Commemorates Life and Works of Bernard Waber

The Carle Commemorates Life and Works
of Author/Illustrator, Bernard Waber
Tuesday, March 18 through Sunday, June 8, 2014

Last May, children and adults alike mourned the passing of beloved children’s book author and illustrator Bernard Waber. Perhaps best known for his depictions of the adventures of Lyle the crocodile, Waber wrote, illustrated, and published (through Houghton Mifflin) over thirty books over the course of his career.

This spring, Houghton Mifflin and the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art have collaborated to put on a display of Waber’s work: both well-known images from his books, plus preliminary sketches and source material and even some of his earlier art from his time as a designer for Condé Nast and Time, Inc. Curated by Leonard S. Marcus, an expert on children’s literature, Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile and Friends: The Art of Bernard Waber will be on view from March 18 through June 8, 2014. The exhibition will be accompanied by a 40-page catalog featuring Bernard Waber’s last interview…  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…

Historical Lecture Series at Wistariahurst Museum: Made in the Happy Valley

Made in the Happy Valley
A Historical Lecture Series at Wistariahurst Museum
Holyoke, MA

Wistariahurst Museum presents a Historical Lecture Series: Made in the Happy Valley, Feb 24-May 19, 2014. This series of Monday evening lectures focuses on industrial and handcrafted material culture that historically took place in the Pioneer Valley, or that is currently taking place. All lectures are held Monday nights in the Carriage House at 6pm.

The Pioneer Valley is home to an abundance of artists, writers, craftsmen, artisans, and tradesmen of all types – a fact that has long been true about the area. Ever since the first European settlers made their home in the Valley hundreds of years ago, the presence of a wide variety of craftsmen and artisans within the community has helped to shape local culture. Creativity – and its expression – is significant in the Pioneer Valley today, and has been throughout its history.

This late winter and spring, families have an opportunity to learn about many things locally handmade (past and present!) thanks to the Wistariahurst Museum’s 2014 Spring Historical Lecture Series, Made in the Happy Valley. Held on Monday evenings at 6pm (beginning on February 24th) in the museum’s Carriage House, the lectures will offer useful information and local history surrounding everything from letterpress printing to the Holyoke merry-go-round, custom footwear to child labor in milltowns.

The first event in the series, titled Life of a Mill Hand, will focus on an Irish family living in Holyoke during the Civil War…  Read the rest of this entry »

Mead Art Museum Supports Community-Based Education

Family Fun Days at the Mead Art Museum in Amherst

“Family Fun Days have been so popular in the past, we decided to make them even more frequent,” noted Wendy Somes, Coordinator of Community Programs. The increase is part of the Mead’s ongoing mission to connect families, teachers, and community organizations with their local art museum, she said. “We believe that museums are educational AND fun places for families to learn together.”

When we think of places in our community we can visit to support our children’s interests and education, museums are often the first institutions we think of… and rightly so! Their exhibit-filled galleries offer lots of educational potential, with both permanent and changing exhibits families can use to learn about a variety of topics throughout the year. However, without interpretation or support, the vast amount of information present in museum exhibits can be difficult to navigate and make accessible for children with little background knowledge.

Keeping this in mind, the Mead Art Museum in Amherst, MA, is now offering monthly Family Fun Days, making museum-based learning not only more accessible for families with younger children, but a whole lot of fun too! Family Fun Days aren’t new to the Museum,  but their popularity has encouraged the Museum to host them as a monthly event! Each month brings a new theme that matches an exhibit hanging in the museum’s galleries, and families will get a chance to learn about the theme through hands-on activities, guided gallery tours, read-alouds of children’s books, and group discussions. Not only will the educational potential of the museum be unlocked by museum guides and interpreters, but children will be able to learn in a collaborative, multi-age environment where they share their thoughts and observations with others and gain insight from information shared by other visitors.

February’s Family Fun Day will be held on Saturday, February 15th from 11am-2pm – and admission is free! This month’s theme is feasts and medieval life, and will include a kid-friendly tour of the museum’s Rotherwas Room. Read the rest of this entry »

Norman Rockwell Museum Presents “Dancing Princesses: The Picture Book Art of Ruth Sanderson”

Norman Rockwell Museum Presents “Dancing Princesses: The Picture Book Art of Ruth Sanderson”
Saturday, December 7, 2013 – Sunday, March 9, 2014

One of the special holiday displays in the Norman Rockwell Museum’s “Distinguished Illustrator Series” this winter will feature over 60 works by noted picture book illustrator Ruth Sanderson. Described as “beautiful” and “jewel-like,” by NRM director, Laurie Norton Moffatt, the works on display include original paintings and drawings by Sanderson, in addition to costumes that the artist commissioned to correspond with her illustrations. The subjects of these works hail from a selection of Sanderson’s beloved books – some classic tales re-told, some original tales, and each one embellished with enchanting imagery – including The Twelve Dancing Princesses; The Sleeping Beauty; Cinderella; The Golden Mare, the Firebird, and the Magic Ring; and several others…

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Ticket Giveaway: Milkshake at MASS MoCA

Win a family 4-pack of free tickets & museum passes to see…

A Family Concert at MASS MoCA
Saturday, November 23rd

Win a family 4-pack of free tickets & museum passes to see Grammy-nominate Milkshake in concert at MASS MoCA in North Adams, MA, on Saturday, November 23rd at 11:30am. Deadline to enter to win: Tuesday, November 19th, 2013 at 11:59pm (EST).

Hilltown Families and MASS MoCA (North Adams, MA) have partnered up to offer a family 4-pack of free tickets and museum passes to one very lucky family to see the Grammy-nominated band, Milkshake, live at  MASS MoCA’s Hunter Center on Saturday, November 23rd at 11:30amFind out how you can enter to win below:


Milkshake began in 2002 as a musical experiment on the part of vocalist Lisa Mathews and guitarist Mikel Gehl , longtime bandmates from Baltimore’s indie rock group Love Riot, who vowed to “grow” their music right along with their own young children. Since then, Milkshake and the band’s legion of fans have been living an exciting, real life, growing up adventure, moving from early childhood through the early elementary years, as the group toured the country and produced several multi-award-winning CDs, a DVD, and a multitude of music videos seen all over the kid-friendly networks. Along the way, as the kids grew and the music grew with them, Milkshake grew from a duo to a six-piece band.

Known for their pop-rock style that fairly crackles with energy, Milkshake indeed has a following of all ages…

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Springfield Museums Showcase of Antique Toys, Just in Time for the Holidays

Peek Inside Santa’s Sack at the Springfield Museums
Tuesday, November 12, 2013 through Sunday, January 5, 2014

For a fun challenge at the exhibition, discuss with your children the production methods used for cast-iron toys, and see if you can spot the hammered steel pins connecting the left and right halves of the toys! This can serve as both a history lesson and a lesson in engineering and fabrication.

The Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts at the Springfield Museums ushers in the holiday season with a showcase of vintage cast iron toys.  The exhibition, titled “A Peek Inside Santa’s Sack,” features rare cast iron collectibles such as fire trucks, horse-drawn carriages and emergency vehicles, airplanes, toy trains and miniature wood and coal stoves – predecessors to the classic HESS trucks of the past fifty years – and tells the story of the three most popular toy-makers of the period.

 Cast-iron toys were common between the 1870s and the 1940s because the molds in which they were made could be reused thousands of times, making the mass production of these metal toys an efficient and profitable endeavor…

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Wendell Minor’s America: Premier Historical Picture Book Illustrator on Exhibit at Norman Rockwell Museum

Exhibition Celebrates 25 Years of Work by Historical Picture Book Illustrator Wendell Minor
Saturday, November 9, 2013 – Monday, May 26, 2014

Image credit: Wendell Minor, “Abraham Lincoln Comes Home,” 2008. Cover illustration for “Abraham Lincoln Comes Home” by Robert Burleigh, Henry Holt and Co. Watercolor, gouache and pencil on paper. Norman Rockwell Museum Collections. ©Wendell Minor. All rights reserved.

The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA, invites families to “Wendell Minor’s America,” a special exhibition featuring more than 150 original artworks, artifacts, and references from illustrator Wendell Minor’s distinguished portfolio.

The award-winning illustrator drew his way through childhood in Aurora, Illinois, inspired by the richly illustrated magazines that were so much a part of American life during the mid-twentieth century. The exhibition celebrates his many cover illustrations and his 25th anniversary illustrating children’s books, each of which has been inspired by Minor’s love of history, art, science, and the natural world…

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