The Museum Blog

Category: Art

Collaborative Bike Rack Project

Throughout 2014, the Dover Middle School Art Club collaborated with CMNH Artist-in-Residence Nathan Walker to create two Bike Racks for Henry Law Park in downtown Dover, NH. Made possible by the generous sponsorship of Kennebunk Savings, the bike rack design & completion process has been one of the most fulfilling and exciting projects that Children’s Museum has been involved in since moving to Dover in 2008.

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At the beginning of the year, the Art Club – led by Dover Middle School Art teachers Marie Robicheau &P1130908 Jo-Ann Gardella, met with Walker in his workshop in the lower level of CMNH. Before starting down the path of artistic collaboration, Walker wanted to show the students how he approached design. The students were able to see a large spectrum of Walker’s work in various stages of completion. Many of the sculptures viewed that day had P1130899one of Walker’s hallmarks: repurposed materials. From the Volkswagen Beetle hood that forms the back of the Giant Blue Crab in the front of CMNH to the various spiders, jellyfish and insects comprised of gears, hubcaps and Christmas Tree stands, the Art Club saw that their imagination was truly the P1130902limit in creating a bicycle rack for P1130898families visiting Henry Law Park. Walker also reinforced that the design process, where the eraser P1130896can sometimes be used just as much as the pencil, was equally as important as the building process.

The Art Club continued to meet under the guidance of Robicheau & Gardella while the students formed groups that would meet to discuss their ideas and draw up plans for their respective group’s vision for a bike rack. In addition to their design on paper, the groups were also tasked by Walker to create 3-D prototypes and models to better show how their bike rack design would work.

In April, Children’s Museum 0f New Hampshire President Jane Bard, Brendan Markey of Kennebunk Savings, and Walker met with Robicheau, Gardella and the assembled Dover Middle School Art Club as they prepared P1130918to pitch their completed ideas to the group.

Though the initial plan was to select one of the team’s ideas to make a single bike rack, Walker liked all of the ideas so much, that the choice was made that two racks would be created with each incorporating pieces of each group’s design ideas.

Three of the teams ideas would be incorporated into becoming the Steampunk Octopus Screenshot 2015-01-19 13.42.11Bike Rack, while two other teams would see their designs overlap to become the State of New Hampshire Bike Rack. After the Art Club members decided on which NH landmarks to include on the state themed rack, CMNH volunteer Barbara Albert got to work painting the finer details. Meanwhile, Nate began work on the foraging, welding, and color experimentation for the large steampunk cephalopod.

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In October, the Art Club returned to the Museum with their original prototypes to see the final product of their combined visions. Dover Mayor Karen Weston joined Bard, Walker, the Art Club and their family and friends for the grand unveiling of the first bike rack, Steampunk Octopus, in upper Henry Law Park near the entrance of the museum.

 

This spring, the New Hampshire Bike Rack will be unveiled in lower Henry Law Park near the entrance of the Dover Indoor Pool.IMAG2269

January in New Hampshire isn’t the best weather for families to ride their bikes, but we look forward to a few months from now when families visiting Henry Law Park will have two highly creative options for storing their bicycle while they visit the park, museum, stage, pool, river walk, picnic areas and playground.

We thank the incredibly imaginative and skilled members of the Dover Middle School Art Club, their teachers and mentors Marie Robicheau & Jo-Ann Gardella, the generous support of Kennebunk Savings – without which, this project would not have been possible – and, of course, Nate Walker, who took the inventive visions of the Club and made them a reality.

B-r-r-r-r-r-r! See you all - and your bikes - in a few more months!B-r-r-r-r-r-r! See you all – and your bikes – in a few more months!

 

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Bringing Public Art to Henry Law Park

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Bryan Rutland, a local Dover artist, has created a new piece being displayed on the facade of the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire. Perspection, part of Driven to Abstraction - the current Gallery 6 installation – was originally one piece of abstract art that Rutland split into two distinctive pieces. As CMNH’s Director of Exhibits, I contacted him in November about creating a vibrant piece of abstract art that would bring color to Henry Law Park for those dark and dreary winter months.

“The way that I like to approach my painting is to have no preconception or final image in my mind,” Rutland shares.

“I want to create intuitively and I feel in working this way I can be true to myself and not over think the process. I like to take a more natural approach,” he admits. “I start the creation process with a color palette in mind and just start throwing colors around and whatever ‘feels right’ at the time. I like to just let the painting work itself out and lead me in the direction it wants to go in.”

Bryan joins over 15 other artists in showing their version of abstract art. For many museum families and visitors, this is their first exposure to any kind of abstract art. As in any form of art, each artist approaches their process differently. Rutland looks to his natural surroundings for inspiration.

The abstract process for me is more of a therapeutic and physical exercise. I allow things to just happen the way they do in nature,” he says.

“Just like a stream will meander and create its own path over time I allow my paintings to do the same. I tend to be more of an instrument in the creation of the work as opposed to the overall creator. I really feel the painting is already there I just need to let go and let it be what it was meant to be. I think we need to create things that are true and honest to ourselves, with all of our strengths and weaknesses.”

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Born in Paterson, NJ in 1974, Rutland has always believed in doing what you love. He moved around a lot in his early years and he often looked towards his creative mind to keep him company. He tried to absorb any and all information he could sink his teeth, and by extension his creativity, into. He is a true admirer of art in all its forms and has worked in many different mediums.

He has designed for fashion labels like L.A. based Eisbar and Kangol NYC. He has also worked with L.A. bands The Nikhil Kohrula Band, The Distants and Apes of the New Millennium, as well as NYC based rap artist Little Vic and Orena Records. Rutland’s paintings have been exhibited in galleries and venues in Los Angeles, and he has had mural work shown on walls and ceilings in New York City. Bryan currently operates Rutland Studios in downtown Dover creating artwork in all different mediums.

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If you don’t have a chance to view Rutland’s Perspection by day, we’ve set up a colored lighting system to make it viewable in the evening as well.

Driven to Abstraction is currently up and running through the end of February. Driven to Abstraction has given the museum a chance to show some non-representational work that children and adults will find really interesting. Abstract art challenges people to look even deeper at the artwork to try and solve or decode the puzzles in the artwork.

abstractionIn abstract art, there are no wrong answers because it’s all about the unique things each person sees, feels, and thinks about each piece.

All CMNH Gallery 6 shows are free to view for Adults. Simply request a Gallery 6 Visitor Pass at the Front Desk of the museum.

Perspection is merely the latest piece of public art commissioned by CMNH. Last winter, we installed Erebos on the front of our building, which was a collaborative effort between myself and our Gallery 6 Coordinator Tess Feltes.

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During the day, Erebos – named for the Greek God of Darkness and Shadow – would create shadows on the building as the sun moved across the sky, and at night Erebos was lit up by color changing LED lights to create an ever-changing display of light and shadows.

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In the spring, we installed a recycled hanging garden created by cutting, gluing and painting plastic bottles.

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This was our most time consuming project because each flower or vine was individually cut and painted. Amy Tilton and Eryn True, two of our 2014 exhibit interns, were invaluable in helping us to complete this project.

Hi Mom, Susan PerrineHi Mom, Susan Perrine

During the summer, our Gallery 6 Enchanting Gardens exhibit extended out into Henry Law Park and included a handful of sculptures sprinkled throughout the park.

There were nests, figurative sculptures, a tree house, a metal Pterosaur and individual pieces made of both plants and clothing.

Hammer Headed Pterosaurus, Jill NooneyHow Do You Spell Your Name? - Sarah HaskellHow Do You Spell Your Name? – Sarah Haskell

We hope you’ll have a chance to see our latest public art, Bryan Rutland’s Perspection, in person before visiting the rest of Gallery 6 to fully appreciate all the incredible and varied pieces of abstract art in our Driven to Abstraction installation.

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Independence

Happy 4th of July from the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire!

We hope you have a fun and safe holiday with friends and family.

Below, you will find a selection of patriotic drawings made by some of our museum visitors.

[Reminder: CMNH is closed on the 4th in observance of the holiday but will be open from 10-5 on Saturday the 5th and 12-5 on Sunday the 6th. The fireworks in Dover, NH have been rescheduled to Sunday night, July 6th.]

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Around the World in 93 Days

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”.

Meghan

BandolierAs much as I liked making and wearing the laurels with our visitors during our week of Greek art and culture, I’m Screen shot 2014-06-06 at 10.27.42 AMgoing 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!

Crystal

DotsTwo 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 touchScreen shot 2014-06-04 at 2.39.46 PM 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!

Meredith

Screen shot 2014-06-04 at 2.39.17 PMI 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!

Emily

Screen shot 2014-06-04 at 2.36.08 PMI 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.

Jenaya

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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.

Riley

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!

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Make Your Own Watercolor Paint

 

Over the years, you’ve likely accumulated some less than stellar magic markers. Caps are missing, colors have run dry, and you don’t even know where that random Zayres brand green marker came from!

So what to do? Instead of just chucking all those old markers, why not teach your family about sustainability and recycling by converting those old markers to brand new vibrant watercolor paint!

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CMNH Educator Meredith teaches us how in this short how-to video!

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Eager to Learn, Eager to Create – A Look at CMNH Art Camp

Museum Educator Beth recently lead a three day Art Camp at CMNH for children ages 5 to 9 years old. The goal of the camp was to educate the campers about some of history’s greatest artists while allowing them the opportunity to create in the various styles of the artists they were learning about.

A sculpture takes form!A sculpture takes form!

Beth, who has a Bachelor’s Degree in Art History with a Minor in Fine Arts from Plymouth State University, planned Art Camp over the last few months in the rare times she wasn’t interacting with families in the museum or launching new art projects for visitors to work on in the museum’s Muse Studio.

Narrowing the Focus

“Initially, I had a lot of ideas for lessons and projects, but I needed to take a step back and make sure the lessons were something all the campers – some of whom were almost five years apart – could conceptualize.”

“Can you make sure to get a picture of this flower that I drew?”

But how does one decide which artists to cover when you only have three days?

“One of my hopes was that I could shed some light on some amazing artists that they wouldn’t necessarily be learning about in school yet,” says Beth.

“Of course,” she continues. “I also wanted to get them excited about learning about art as well as the whole process of creating art.”

“But narrowing down the list of artists we’d cover proved to be quite difficult,” admits Beth. “My list could have been much longer, but again, remembering the age of the children and what they’d likely respond to the strongest helped a great deal. All the artists that were chosen were well known, influential people who were revolutionaries in the art world at their respective times. Part of winnowing the list consisted of focusing on specific art movements that the children could comprehend and be inspired by. Yes, some of it was bound to be over their heads, but I was confident that the core concepts and ideas would not be lost on them. Ultimately, I felt that Impressionism and Cubism were movements that they would be able to understand. And, of course, I knew Pop Art would be something they could have a lot of fun with.”

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Had camp been longer, Beth has a pretty clear idea what other artists would have made the cut.

“I feel like I could have taught that camp everyday,” she admits. “It took me back to my college days, learning about a different artist each day. Jackson Pollock would have been great to teach the kids – with myriad directions we could have gone in. Jenny Holzer, who is still alive, focuses on text as art. She’s brilliant. Mark Rothko, a tortured man and a controversial artist, focused on color and emotion which the campers easily could have tapped into. Wassily Kandinsky, whose paintings have a clear childlike quality, would have been a lot of fun. Marcel Duchamp’s style of ready-made art could have been great and the I have to think the kids really would have been wowed with some of Salvador Dali’s pieces.”

Jackson Pollack,Jackson Pollack, “Image Number 8″ (1949)Jenny Holzer,Jenny Holzer, “Survival” (1985)Mark Rothko,Mark Rothko, “Blue and Grey” (1962)Wassily Kandinsky,Wassily Kandinsky, “Composition VIII” (1923)Marcel Duchamp,Marcel Duchamp, “With Hidden Noise” (1916)Salvador Dali,Salvador Dali, “The Persistence of Memory” (1931)

The Final Five

Ultimately, Beth’s final list of artists for Art Camp were Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol. The campers had some familiarity with the eclectic group.

DegasDegasMonetMonetVan GoghVan GoghPicassoPicassoWarholWarhol

“I believe all of the kids had heard of Picasso,” Beth says. “His name was definitely known by them. They had a harder time identifying his works. Conversely, they all seemed to recognize Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’, but did not know the name of the artist. The names Monet, Degas and Warhol were a little foreign to them. A handful of the kids said they had seen some of their respective pieces when I showed them examples, but did not know the artist responsible.”

Despite her enthusiasm and extensive knowledge of the subject matter, Beth was still worried at the start of camp. Would the campers’ have a difficult time focusing on learning about and creating art when they’re based inside a children’s museum?

Monet,Monet, “The Japanese Bridge” (1899)Water Lilies in the style of MonetWater Lilies in the style of MonetColorful Bridge inspired by MonetColorful Bridge inspired by MonetWatercolor water lilies in the style of MonetWatercolor water lilies in the style of Monet

“I knew Art Camp would be a challenge because most children in that age range can be antsy and eager to play on a normal day, let alone when there’s a loud, bustling museum outside of the classroom walls – especially if they don’t already have a desire to sit and create on their own,” Beth shares. “My worries were that they wouldn’t be as enthusiastic as I was. I worried that it would start to feel like ‘work’ – which I know technically it is – but I didn’t want it to come across like it was a chore. I wanted the kids to see how passionately I felt about the art and about teaching it to them.  I was so relieved that my fears were unfounded and I was lucky to have such a great group of kids, several of which were wise beyond their years!”

Van Gogh,Van Gogh, “Three Sunflowers” (1888)3-D Flowers in clay pots, inspired by Van Gogh3-D Flowers in clay pots, inspired by Van GoghFurther painting and decoration of the Van Gogh-esque flower piecesFurther painting and decoration of the Van Gogh-esque flower pieces

Finishing Touches

By the end of the camp, each camper had compiled a full portfolio of artwork to share with their family and friends. Beth was pleased by the generally enthusiastic approach the campers had to learning about so many different artists and styles.

Degas,Degas, “Fin D’Arabesque” (1877)Pop-Up Ballerina inspired by DegasPop-Up Ballerina inspired by Degas

“I was delightfully surprised by the enthusiasm for the subject matter,” Beth says. “They all seemed eager to learn, eager to create, and open to doing something different.”

Warhol,Warhol, “No Title” (1967)The campers black and whiteThe campers black and white “Warhol-ized” portraits before they painted them, flanking two of Warhol’s most famous works

See a short video of the campers paintings of their own handprints in the style of Andy Warhol.

“When parents have an interest in getting their children into the arts it makes me so happy. With so much funding for the arts being cut in schools these days, it’s important for parents to realize the importance of providing an environment for your children to express themselves; a place to get messy and let them be who they are. That’s the magic of art.”

Picasso,Picasso, “Woman in Hat and Fur Collar” (1937)The Picasso inspired,The Picasso inspired, “A Woman’s Face”Another Picasso inspired portraitAnother Picasso inspired portrait

“When parents have an interest in getting their children into the arts it makes me so happy. With so much funding for the arts being cut in schools these days, it’s important for parents to realize the importance of providing an environment for your children to express themselves; a place to get messy and let them be who they are. That’s the magic of art.”

Despite three full days of Art Camp, it’s something that happened near the end of the program that will stay with Beth the longest.

“On the last day of camp, during our ‘free draw’ time, one of the campers approached me and asked me if I could write down all of the artists we learned about because she wanted to do further research about them and their art when camp was finished. She made my heart melt and I was so proud of the clear connection she had made to the art. It’s an experience like that that makes it all worth it.”

CMNH Art Camp - February 2014CMNH Art Camp – February 2014

Be sure to check out the video below for some brief words from a few of our campers about their Art Camp experience!

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When Ice is Nice

Embracing the cold . . . all year long

The weather in New England is always interesting on any given day, but this winter has been especially memorable. When it’s not snowing close to two feet of snow causing people (and cars, buildings, Giant Blue Crabs, etc.) to be totally buried in the fluffy white stuff, it’s in the mid-50’s with families walking, jogging and playing outside.

At CMNH, we offer a safe and warm facility for families to enjoy – especially on those sub-zero Polar vortex days we’ve recently experienced. On moderate winter days, one of our favorite activities is guiding families into Henry Law Park in front of our building and creating Snow Art!

Our visitors use spray bottles full of non-toxic watercolor paint and water to decorate the landscape in Henry Law ParkOur visitors use spray bottles full of non-toxic watercolor paint and water to decorate the landscape in Henry Law Park

But whether the weather is freezing, windy, hailing or sizzling, one of the most popular indoor activities we run at CMNH is Ice Art. When we set up larger Ice Art projects (consisting of several tubs of ice) they can be worked on in the Muse Studio, while our smaller ones (usually one tub with one large or several smaller pieces of ice) can be found in the Naturalist Study near the CochecoNature exhibit on the first floor of the museum.

Parents & children (and staff!) experiment with cups of colored saltwater to see how their actions affect the ice.

– Does the salt make the ice melt faster or slower?

– What is the advantage of using a pipette to administer the solution?

– Do colors mix the same way on ice/water as they do on paper?

– How does an items density affect how it freezes inside the ice?

– How much time do you think it will take to free a trapped treasure from the ice?

– How do you make stripes of color – or a rainbow – in the ice without the colors mixing?

Through the help of our visitors, here’s some knowledge we’ve gleaned thus far in our years of ice exploration:

– Some dice floated to the top before freezing while some sunk.

– Glitter always floats before freezing.

– We had to weight the plastic sharks so they would freeze in the center of the ice.

– Ribbon is fun to freeze. Fabric is not fun to freeze.

– Pencils are fun to freeze. Pens are not fun to freeze.

– Plastic bugs look cool trapped in ice. Plastic food looks gross trapped in ice.

– Colors that slowly drip from one section of ice to another can create cool swirling effects. Too many colors in the ice at once causes brown and gray water. Yuck.

– Freezing different colors side-by-side takes a few days as each color must be frozen on its own first.

– The plastic human brain mold was our most popular ice shape. (Sadly, human brain mold developed a crack last year and had to be retired.)

– Visitors most favorite trapped ice objects are – hands down – plastic dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes.

Ice Art is an inexpensive, fun activity that can be done at home with Plastic containers, small cups, pipettes or paint brushes, table salt and watercolor paint or food coloring (but we recommend the paint as it washes off easier). The bigger the shape that you’re freezing, the more time it will need in the freezer. Museum Educators often set up their ice projects at the end of the museum day to be ready for the following morning.

Enjoy this short video of some of our most interesting ice art that we’ve seen at CMNH!

Zach once ate so many coconut flavored popsicles in a row that everything he ate for six months tasted like coconut.

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MOSAIC: Our Multicultural Neighborhood

A new exhibit at the Children’s Museum of NH

Guest blog by Tess Feltes, Gallery 6 Coordinator

I love my job as curator of Gallery 6 and shamelessly confess that every show is my “favorite” show. But I felt compelled to write about the MOSAIC exhibit because this show touched a very special chord which, I believe, will have repercussions in my life and hopefully in the lives of some of the unbelievable people I have met.

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It is well known that children in our world, now more than ever, are living in a diverse society, even in places where there was once a fairly homogeneous population. We truly live in a cultural mosaic right here in New Hampshire. This fact was driven home to me as I reached out to members of our multicultural community to participate in an exhibit called MOSAIC: Exploring our Multicultural Neighborhood.

The diversity I found has been astonishing and the outpouring of generosity, warmth and enthusiasm of people has been incredible! I feel I have made wonderful new connections … and, most importantly, friends!

Families from The Azores, Belarus, China, Germany, Greece, India, Indonesia, Iran, Lebanon, Mexico, Morocco and Rwanda have shared photographs, stories, traditions, art, music and customs that interest children everywhere. The list of nationalities here in New Hampshire could go on … it was hard to limit it to the wall space that we have.

Mosaic_Clothing2

The exhibit shows how people of these cultures live, eat, dress, learn, play and engage with each other. The most heartening aspect of the project was the reinforcement that people are all amazingly similar, despite regional or cultural differences.

Immigrants arriving in the United States tend to share at least two experiences: they look forward –  trying to become American – and they look back, trying to maintain some traditions from their homeland. Each individual brings his/her own unique personal, meaningful cultural background and their own way of dealing with the unending demands of life. We all need to cultivate an attitude of respect, acceptance and inclusion in order to break down the barrier of our “shyness” or reticence in approaching individuals that seem different.

Mosaic_Mexico2I wanted to avoid a tourist approach of presenting culture through celebrations and food only. Instead, I wanted to share personal stories, achievements and comparisons in familiar and recognizable aspects of children’s lives – showing how people of diverse cultures live, eat, dress, learn, play and engage with each other. What does a school, a playground, a park or museum look like in another country? How is it the same? How is it different?

Throughout the project I kept in mind the words of Kenyan storyteller Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:

“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story that becomes the only story.”

Mosaic_ChinaThis rings true. I began interviewing people with a preconceived idea about each country, perhaps formed by the media, whether National Geographic magazine or headlines in the news. Over and over again, my preconceived notions were wrong. The stories that were shared were far richer and diverse than I could have imagined.

For me, this project has underlined the truth that stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories can empower, humanize and help foster feelings of community, celebrating different cultures and their contributions in order to position each other as friends rather than strangers.

I hope that visitors to the Children’s Museum of NH will take the time to explore Gallery 6 to learn and appreciate the cultures presented there. I hope they will share their own stories with family and friends, make new friends and make a small difference in how we appreciate each other as we all face the challenges everyday living.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI also want to mention the fascinating artwork by Portland, Maine artist Jeannie Dunnigan. It is titled BAJ and features just the eyes of a child created using recycled print material. This seemed to encapsulate the idea that we all make up a part of the whole and reminds us that the eyes of our children are on us.

It is my hope the artwork of the MOSAIC project promotes deeper understanding of ourselves, our culture and our place in the world by exploring what brings people together rather than what keeps us apart.

The MOSAIC exhibit is on display at the Children’s Museum of NH through May 27, 2013.

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