At the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire, we’re lucky enough to have both a gallery and a studio. Sometimes those words are interchangeable. However, at CMNH, their purposes often and intentionally overlap.
Gallery 6 features four to six installations a year curated by Tess Feltes. For the last few years, every spring, Gallery 6 focuses on a theme we’ve named, “Mosaic: Our Multicultural Neighborhood”. Spotlighting art and culture from around the world, last year the focus was on clothing, toys, photographs and stories from many different countries. This year’s Mosaic installation tightened the focus to just photography from over a dozen different countries.
The Muse Studio is a place where children and their families can create take-home art projects, play games, conduct experiments, among myriad fun activities. Our Studio projects can change daily, weekly or monthly. However, written into the mission statement of Gallery 6 is the following: The Gallery space is designed to blend into the museum’s Studio space . . . connecting the playful creativity of children to the serious investigations of artists.
And what better way to blend, to complement, to unify the many pieces of the Mosaic gallery installation than to actually expose our visitors to art they can make and culture they can study right in our Muse Studio!
Starting in early March, we spotlit a different county each week. Not only did our visiting families learn about art and culture from all over the world, but so did our staff.
In the following twelve weeks, we explored the art, language, geography, folklore, and clothing of Mexico, Japan, Ireland, India, Sweden, Greece, Indonesia, Morocco, Native America, & Australia.
As we welcome our next Gallery opening and Muse Studio theme of “Enchanting Gardens” for the summer, I’ve asked our Museum Educators – those tireless people that you see engaging families with these projects while simultaneously refilling gallons of glue and boxes of popsicle sticks – what their favorite activity has been these last few months. Please enjoy a look back at the 2014 edition of, “Mosaic: Our Multicultural Neighborhood”.
As much as I liked making and wearing the laurels with our visitors during our week of Greek art and culture, I’m going to have to pick the bandolier bag making as my absolute favorite activity! When we were setting up the projects for the Native American week in the Muse Studio, I realized I hadn’t even seen bandolier bags before and I certainly didn’t know that were connected to Native American tribes. We used a lot of textiles and fabrics that kids had already made at CMNH with our weaving looms. So the project also had a great sustainability and green angle to it. Plus, the bags were very fashionable which the kids and I very much appreciated!
Two projects I enjoyed immensely were during the time we devoted to Australia and Ireland. Teaching the kids how to write their names using the Ogham alphabet was using a subject – linguistics – that we don’t touch upon too often in the Muse Studio. Of course, my Irish heritage may make me a bit bias here! That said, I have to give the #1 spot to the Aboriginal Dot Art that we did while focusing on Australia. It was something accessible to all ages and it was a unique way of creating a picture, using guidelines, precision, and focus, but also allowing for imagination. No two were alike!
I was definitely partial to the Viking Helmets we created while exploring Sweden! They were easy to make for a wide range of ages and even though the instructions were pretty clear cut, they left open room for interpretation that let the children expand their design if they felt inspired. Plus, I think it was one of the most popular projects with parents and grandparents during the entirety of the Mosaic theme. I saw quite a few adults walking the around the museum as vikings during Sweden week!
I really liked the dreamcatcher project from the week we spent learning about Native American art and culture. First, it was easy to make at home with simple materials (paper plates, yarn or string, beads, etc.) but the end product was three dimensional and could be continued to a much bigger and detailed level for older kids. Plus, it tied in the folklore of many Native American tribes so we were educating a lot of our younger visitors on this subject for the first time.
I was excited when we selected Morocco as one of our countries to spotlight this year, but was also a little nervous because I wasn’t very familiar with a lot of Moroccan art and culture. Which makes me even happier to say that my favorite project came from the week we spent creating Moroccan art! I LOVED the sand art projects. Were they messy? Sure. But when you’re working in a art studio inside of a children’s museum, it comes with the territory. The sand art consisted of us picking some bright paper as a background, placing down some fun designs or patterns in glue and then shaking brightly colored sand on the glue. Then we let it dry. Simple! But our visitors made so many different kinds of creations through the sand art activity. Toddlers to grandparents seemed to enjoy this activity and I can’t wait until we do it again.
I had a hard time deciding which craft project was my favorite and then I finally realized it wasn’t an active project that stayed with me the longest, but two of the displays that we made for the Studio during the Mosaic theme. The map of New Hampshire that Meghan made during the week we focused on Native American culture was really informative for kids and adults and showed them how many places throughout all of New Hampshire – towns, lakes, river, mountains – have their origins in the different Native American languages. I was also a big fan of the “Greek Gods in Pop Culture” poster that Crystal created during our Greek week. It helped take mythology, which might seem boring and uninteresting for some kids, and show them how much they likely already knew from movies, television, and advertising. It was an interesting angle to take and I saw quite a lot of families pointing at it and discussing it.
We’re so happy that the Mosaic gallery and studio pieces were such a big hit with our staff and our visiting families! The educators are already brainstorming what countries we’ll be focusing on next year.Take Our Poll
We now look ahead to our summer theme in Gallery 6 / the Muse Studio: Enchanting Gardens. The studio has undergone quite a transformation from top-to-bottom to embrace this new wild theme and the Gallery 6 art pieces are so incredible for this installation that we did something that we’ve never done for any of our past installations. I’ve . . . said too much. Stay tuned to the blog to find out the magic we have in store for you this summer!