Paws Up for a Good Book!

"It's Common Knowledge" by Rune Guneriussen, 2009

“It’s Common Knowledge” by Rune Guneriussen, 2009

One of the perks of my job is that each new exhibition that comes through the museum gives me an excuse to read and/or research something new.  I’ve come across a number of fascinating and occasionally hilarious books during the planning of Beyond Human (opening in October), and I’ve blogged about some of my favorites over on PEM’s Connected. Find reviews of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction for kids and adults, from haiku cats to people who fly with whooping cranes.

Check it out and let me know if you have any suggestions for other artist/animal-related good reads!

Happy Trails: A Year of Stories and Art

Once a month, I lead Story Trails, a program for families on Sunday afternoons that’s targeted for kids ages 5-8 with their accompanying adults.  We look closely at an artwork in one of the exhibits, read an associated story, and then head for a studio space (or other safe art-making zone) and create something inspired by the artwork, the story’s theme, the illustration style, or the associated science/history/literature component.  (Remember how my middle name is ‘interdisciplinary?’) Along with whatever their creation is, participants (including adults, because grown ups get to play too) take home a set of other recommended books, interesting web links, and an activity to try at home.  Sometimes we also have special guest speakers, generally local authors and illustrators, with the occasional bee-keeper or lobster fisherman.

It’s a lot of fun, it’s a lot of work, and it’s one of my favorite programs, so I thought I would share the books and art activities that I loved most from this year.

January: The Spiral Connection
Book: Blockhead, the Life of Fibonacci by Joseph D’Agnese
Exhibition Connection: Ripple Effect, the Art of H2O
Art Making: Wall hangings with Fibonacci prints – we used flowers (both silk and cut flowers will do, flatter ones like sunflowers and daisies are better), pinecones, and seashells with fabric paint on plain white bandanas (available at most craft stores), to make printed patterns that feature examples of the Fibonacci sequence in nature, and then added extra decorations with fabric markers, and hung the bandanas on dowels to create easy-to-hang fabric art for your wall.
January Story Trails handout-small

I love the 'turning page' look that our creative services team designed to differentiate Story Trails programming from other museum events.

I love the ‘turning page’ look that our creative services team designed to differentiate Story Trails programming from other museum events.

February: Read the Stars
Book: How the Stars Fell into the Sky by Jerrie Oughton (retelling of a Navajo Coyote story, which is traditionally only told in the winter months)
Exhibition Connection: Shapeshifting: Transformations in Native American Art
Art Making: Constellation Light Boxes – We talked about creation stories and specifically constellation stories, and then used awls and sharpened dowels to punch holes in shoe boxes to create our own (or recreate known) constellation patterns.  We then added a hole in whatever side of the box was opposite the constellation pattern to either a) hold up to our eye and then up to the light to see the stars ‘shine’ or b) put a bright flashlight into and project the star pattern into a darkened room.
February Story Trails handout

March: Cloud Factory and Guest Appearance by Illustrator Katy Bratun
BookSector 7 by David Weisner
Exhibition Connection: the concept of storyboarding in art, as exemplified by a series of paintings of a battle in the Maritime Art collection
Art Making: Katy Bratun led a story-boarding workshop in which kids drew a series of 4-8 panels of a story on the theme of taking a journey, and bound them into a simple book using card stock and yarn.  This was a great literacy-skills support program and kids were very, very excited to share their stories with a real author/illustrator.
March Story Trails handout

April: Weslandia
Book: Weslandia by Paul Fleischman
Exhibition Connection: Earth Day, and an incredibly cool bit of textile art on view in Perfect Imbalance: Exploring Chinese Aesthetics that featured pumpkins, ears of corn, and tomatoes as exotic fruits
Art Making: Butterfly Seed Mats — We used burlap, white glue, and butterfly seed mix to create biodegradable bits of art that you could plant in a corner of your garden and grow wildflowers to attract butterflies.  Simple but incredibly effective.  This book happened to be requested in the previous year’s visitor survey, and happily was already on my list for potential programming.
April Story Trails handout copy

May: Sing a Song for Mothers and Family!
Book: Anna Hibiscus’ Song by Atinuke
Exhibition Connection: Mother’s Day, and inspired by both the African Art collection and PEM’s ceramics collection
Art Making: Good Cheer Jars – We mod-podged tissue paper and other bits of recycled paper onto glass jars to create good cheer jars.  A good cheer jar can work any of several ways: a) a semi-voluntary fine paid when one is in a bad mood, the proceeds from which are then used to do something cheery for the family like a trip out for ice cream, b) a collection of slips of paper on which you write things that make you happy and pull one out to read when you need cheering up, c) a mandatory fine for using the household’s forbidden words like ‘I’m bored.’
May Story Trails handout copy

sand serpent

My Sea-Monster sand painting, which is still on display over my desk.

June: Beneath the Deep Blue Sea
Book: The Serpent Came to Gloucester by M.T. Anderson
Exhibition Connection: Local history and the Maritime Art collection
Art Making: Sea-Monster Sand Paintings — Using pre-cut mattes, construction paper, white liquid glue, sand, pebbles, and small sea shells and bits of sea glass, we created maritime-inspired natural collages.  Some of them got very, very intricate, particularly those who decided to make mosaics of sea glass.  This was one of my personal favorite art activities, and many of the adults who were at the program participated with gusto.
June Story Trails handout

Illustration from The Day-Glo Brothers by Chris Barton

Illustration from The Day-Glo Brothers by Chris Barton

July: What a Bright Idea!
Book: The Day-Glo Brothers by Chris Barton
Exhibition Connection: Contemporary art in the Japanese Art collection
Art Making: Day-Glo (and Glow-in-the-Dark) Paintings — Using black construction paper, day-glo poster paint, and some very cool glow-in-the-dark paint, we created scenes that looked awesome in general and even better under the light of our interactive black light box.  We also had samples of varying materials that kids could test to see whether or not they would react with the black light and start to glow, including beads, assorted fabrics, gelatinous substances (in safe containers), and assorted paper products.  This was one of the year’s most popular programs.
July Story Trails handout copy

August: What Does the Clay Say?
Book: Dave the Potter, Artist, Poet, Slave by Bryan Collier and Laban Carrick Hill
Exhibition Connection: Ceramics in the American Art collection
Art Making: Experimenting with Clay – Though the idea was to start with pinch pots and some coil-building, clay programs always take on a life of their own.  Some people made pots, others branched out into sculpture and beyond.  Everyone had a fabulous time, including some adults who had missed the story and had no kids, but wanted to come work with clay anyway.
August Story Trails handout copy

September: Hats Off To You!
Book: Miss Hunnicutt’s Hat by Jeff Brumbeau
Exhibition Connection: Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones
Art Making: Decorate a hatbox – We used 12″ cake boxes from ULine, which fold into very decent sized hatboxes and are easy to decorate with colored pencil, stickers, collaged recycled material, and crayon.
Sept Story Trails handout copy

October: Canine Crusader
Book: Dex – The Heart of a Hero by Caralyn Buehner (alternate title Superdog)
Exhibition Connection: Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones and the Caps, Capes, and Characters weekend festival (organized by me)
Art Making: Superhero capes with interchangeable emblems – We used SmartFab and craft foam with adhesive velcro dots to create capes (I cut each cape to length to suit children individually), and discussed designing emblems that suited their personalities for their superhero alter egos.  The velcro made it possible to rearrange or replace emblems later.
Oct Story Trails handout copy

Detail from the Pastrana tapestries

Detail from the Pastrana tapestries

November: Oh What a Knight!
Book: The Knight and the Dragon by Tomie dePaola and The Princess Knight by Cornelia Funke
Exhibition Connection: The Invention of Glory: Alfonso V and the Pastrana Tapestries and the Weaving Tales of Glory weekend festival (also organized by me)
Art Making: Tournament pennants — More SmartFab and back to fabric paint — we created jousting pennants inspired by the fabulous examples in the Pastrana Tapestries and the illustrations in both books.
Nov Story Trails handout copy

December: A Patient Brush
Book: Twenty Heartbeats by Dennis Haseley
Exhibition Connection: Perfect Imbalance: Exploring Chinese Aesthetics
Art Making: Chinese brush painting – We used rice paper (available at ACMoore or less expensively from Dick Blick), Chinese calligraphy brushes, and red and black watercolor paint, with examples from ‘how to’ books on traditional brush painting style.
Dec Story Trails handout copy

Found Poetry in Altered Books

"Iron Woman" steampunk print by Karen Hallion

“Iron Woman” steampunk print by Karen Hallion

As a librarian’s daughter, an avid reader, and an English major, I am always attracted to wordy art projects, and I often find artworks made out of recycled print absolutely beautiful while simultaneously wincing over the fact that one must deface books to create them.  After all, books are meant to be read, and what are they when they are no longer readable?

Poe's Short Stories, altered book art by Susan Hoerth

Poe’s Short Stories, altered book art by Susan Hoerth

book_roses

Paper roses made from book pages by Twigg Studios

For some artworks like the roses above, one could easily substitute with magazine pages or old maps (about which I feel decidedly less squeamish), and for others newspaper will also work.

However, I have finally lit upon a type of altered book artwork that bothers me less than others, because while it still alters the original intent, the book still gets ‘read’ in a new fashion.

Found Poetry in Altered Book Pages

As with the roses, this is an activity that can be done using other forms of the printed word (newspapers, magazines) and can also be done without altering the original text at all (words captured and written down in a new form from museum object labels, etc.)  However, it combines both poetry and the visual arts in a way that is perfect for the programming that we do at PEM for the Massachusetts Poetry Festival.  (Guess what’s going in this year’s program?)

The image I saw on Pinterest that started it all: A Batman poem out of some other detective/adventure story

The image I saw on Pinterest that started it all: A Batman poem out of some other detective/adventure story

How does Illustrated Found Poetry work?

  • Pick a piece of text with a decent amount of wording to it.
  • Read through it for the sounds of the words and not necessarily the narrative or the original author’s intent.
  • Find a theme to the words that inspires you.  Use as many or as few as you like: cherry pick a word here, a phrase there, etc.
  • The one limit to working on the original sheet is that you cannot rearrange the words to your own liking–the poem flows in the same direction as the original text did.
  • Pencil boxes around the words you want.
  • Pencil in any illustrations (doodles, sketches, details) that help to give your new poem mood, shape, or further depth.
  • Use marker to darken the boxes around your poem and color in the details of your illustration.  You may want to use highlighter within the boxes for your poem to help pick it out of the illustration, depending on how much color there already is in your drawing.
  • Use black marker to cross out any words left that are not part of your poem or are already obscured by your illustration.
"Leaving Town" by Meg Winikates, originally from a page of The Walk West by Peter and Barbara Jenkins

“Leaving Town” by Meg Winikates, originally from a page of The Walk West by Peter and Barbara Jenkins, click to read in full-size

The plan is to have a bunch of genres of books available from which to select pages: sci-fi, mystery, classics, memoirs, maybe even some more technical books.  Hopefully this will show people that poetry can be found absolutely anywhere.  The 2013 festival will be held May 3-5 in numerous venues around Salem–I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes!

Links for images in this post: Karen Hallion’s Etsy Page
How to make Book Roses
Poe’s Castle Short Stories Altered Book
Batman Altered Book Poem Illustrated

It’s the Most Wordiful Time of the Year

Happy National Poetry Month, Everyone!

As you know from previous posts (2010, 2011), I love this month.  I like seeing poems pop up on my RSS and Twitter and assorted other feeds; I like having excuses to talk about poetry (even more than I usually do), and I like giving myself time to read poetry in a more concentrated way.  This year,  I also liked developing a raft of new family-friendly art&poetry events for the museum.

The Massachusetts Poetry Festival is happening in Salem again this year, at the end of this week (Friday-Sunday).  PEM is a host for a number of reading and concert events from the larger festival (I’m particularly looking forward to the Typewriter Orchestra), but I’m also spearheading a collection of activities tying the visual to the verbal arts for kids and families, including a collaborative paper mural “Grow a Poet-tree,” make your own magnetic poetry, illuminated capitals word-art, a docent-led poetry tour, and a self-guided Poet Quest.

"River of Words: Stream of Conscience" as installed in Ripple Effect, the Art of H2O at the Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by me.

We also have the talented and charming artist Christine Destrempes back to talk about her “River of Words” project (featured in Ripple Effect), and invite visitor participation in the next installment of same, and the highly entertaining David Zucker who will be reciting and performing “Poetry in Motion.”

Detail from the "River of Words: Stream of Conscience" project by Christine Destrempes. Photo by me.

For more info, check out the MA Poetry Fest’s spotlight on PEM’s involvement with the MA Poetry Festival this year, and another article featuring my family-focused events.

Sketchbook belonging to Ripple Effect featured artist Janet Fredericks, who writes poetry in connection to her "Tracings" river drawings, also featured in the exhibition. Photo by me.

Spot poetic influences throughout the Art & Nature Center! In our clouds and vapor room, for instance...
"Look at your feet. You are standing in the sky." ~Diane Ackerman, poet/naturalist
Photo by me.

Methinks that cirrus cloud is ruffled like your shirt collar, Master Shakespeare. Photo by me.

We’re also highlighting poetry in the Art & Nature Center’s popular “Books and Boxes Zone”–come by to check out some of our fantastic books!

Plenty of fun things to read, by many of the ANC's favorite writers! Pull up a couch, grab a puppet or a friend, and enjoy. Photo by me.

Poetry and Puddles

"Poetry" by Alphonse Mucha

Happy National Poetry Month, all!  April is always one of my favorite months, not only because it rescues New England from the bitter drear that is March, but because there are suddenly people talking about poetry all over.  Here’s a collection of some of my classic links and a few new fun opportunities:

Reading Poetry

30 Poets, 30 Days Blogger and author Gregory K. features a new poem a day by well-known poets on his kids’ literature blog, Gotta Book!  Always a fascinating read.

Famous Poets in 140 Characters The New York Times asks 4 poets to write poems that would fit in a tweet.

Writing Poetry

Your Ode to the Big Blue run by the Smithsonian in connection with their Ocean Hall.  Submit an ocean-inspired poem at the link or on their facebook page.  Selected poems will be posted on the Smithsonian blog at the end of the month.

Poem a Day Challenge run by Robert Brewer, a poet and blogger for Writer’s Digest.  Fun, challenging, eyebrow-raising, and entertaining, he’s posting  a poem writing prompt every day this month.

Upcoming Poetry Events

Massachusetts Poetry Festival, May 13-14

Poetry Events by State at Poets.org

A Bit of Inspiration

from the series "Pavement Trees" by Ingrid Nelson

See the world from upside-downish!  Check out these beautiful photographs of puddle reflections by photographer Ingrid Nelson.

in Just-
spring       when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman 

whistles       far       and wee 

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it’s
spring 

when the world is puddle-wonderful 

the queer
old balloonman whistles
far       and       wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing 

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and 

it’s
spring
and
the 

goat-footed 

balloonMan       whistles
far
and
wee 

e.e. cummings

Macaroni Commas and Two Left Feet

Didn’t get enough word fun on International Literacy Day?  Then get ready for September 24, which is National Punctuation Day.  I kid you not.

According to the official site for National Punctuation Day, this particularly exacting holiday is the brainchild of comma fiend Jeff Rubin, and is now in its seventh year of celebration.  Last year’s festivities were punctuated (ha!) by a baking contest, and this year they are soliciting punctuation-themed haiku, so go check it out if you’re feeling em dash deprived.  Don’t miss the photo gallery of punctuation mistakes–a sadly bountiful crop of terrible pluralization, but some other entertaining gaffes as well.

But why would you want to do that?  Grammar isn’t fun!

Yes it is.

I will grant you, I don’t know if playing Punctuation Pasta with macaroni commas and quotation marks would have gotten me all excited about punctuation as a student, but looking at it now reminds me of the totally fabulous found-object illustration style of My Dog is as Smelly as Dirty Socks, which is a great way to teach grammar and figures of speech.  And I can totally imagine expanding the idea of punctuation pasta to punctuation pizza (period pepperoni, anyone?) and beyond (hence the baking contest last year, I surmise).

Punctuation is also incredibly useful in the world of solving rebus puzzles–take half the words out and replace them with pictures, and all of a sudden that apostrophe seems a lot more necessary to decoding the sentence.  ReadWriteThink has a rebus poetry writing lesson, but there are dozens more out there, and lots of cool historic examples, too.  The family of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow played with rebuses, and here’s one from Historic New England to test your mental mettle.

Feeling good about your visual verbal skills?  Try the BrainBats over at BrainBashers (Lots and lots of fun brainteasers over there, by the way, including some fun logic puzzles).  Or go for a more traditional grammar game experience with the Comma IQ test from the folks behind Eats, Shoots & Leaves.  You might even copy edit to your heart’s content in both Spanish and English through Maggie’s Earth Adventures, offered through Scholastic’s Teachers site.

Had enough words?  We’re back to impossible objects and scratch holograms in the next post.

Art, Astronomy, and Alien Adaptations

On my recent vacation in Maine, I spent a mesmerizing half hour or longer on the dock in front of our cabin, head tipped all the way back to take in the wealth of stars and splash of Milky Way, unsure whether I was feeling dizzy because of the depth over my head or the lake under my feet.   Add in the fact that it was during the Perseid meteor shower, and you had the recipe for perfect wonder that reminded me why I spent several years growing up convinced I was going to be an astronaut.

Fortunately for those of us who are sadly earthbound, there are folks up there willing to share the wealth: Twitpics from Space.  Not to mention NASA Spots Signs of Life…On Earth, in which some of those nifty NASA folks have figured out how to search for bacteria trapped in ice by satellite.  Next stop, Mars!

I love reading stories about what life is actually like on the International Space Station or for astronauts in general, but I get an almost equal amusement and fascination out of what people *thought* life in space could be…and how many of those ideas are still around in slightly altered forms, like eco-designer Vincent Callebaut’s floating water-purifying resort and eco-refuges for when we lose the battle with climate change (dystopic design at its prettiest).

Hear Auden read “The More Loving One” and read the text of the poem at NPR’s 100th anniversary article on Auden’s birth here.

The night sky has a kind of mystery that sometimes only artists and poets seem to be able to capture…and sometimes science helps solve those mysteries, more than a hundred years later!  Forensic astronomer solves Walt Whitman mystery (Always nice to see those interdisciplinary learners in action!)

Feeling inspired to do some stargazing?  Keep your eyes open and antennae out…the BBC reports that “Alien hunters ‘should look for artificial intelligence'” while scanning the sky.  While you wait for ET to ring the doorbell, bring the search for alien life to your classroom with the web-quest Design a Space Alien, designed for middle school students, and give your studies of earth science and evolutionary biology an extraterrestrial twist.