Monday, December 5, 2016

Making the Coming to RI Murals

One of the Museum's core values and defining features is the quality and beauty of its learning environments. Throughout its history, the Museum has made a strong commitment to art, commissioning or accepting donations of work from artists – many of them local – to include in exhibits and public spaces. To enrich visitors’ experience and inspire creative exploration, the new Coming to Rhode Island spaces incorporate the work of several outside artists.

The murals and historic figure in the new Fort Adams gallery were painted by Rhode Island artist Harley Bartlett, who is influenced by the late 19th and early 20th century American realist painters and whose work can also be seen in the Coming to Rhode Island Dominican gallery, Fefa’s Market.

Commissioned to depict the people, landscape and seascape at Fort Adams in the early 1800s, the murals extend many of the exhibit’s physical elements to show the Fort’s scale and surroundings. To create the murals, Harley…
  • Visited Fort Adams with the Museum’s exhibits team and Fort staff to select appropriate views to depict in his paintings. 
  • Blended photographs and historic images to create period appropriate concept drawings, and projected these images onto the walls of the Museum’s Fort to figure out scale and placement of objects. 
  • Painted the murals on large pieces of canvas in his studio in Cranston, RI.
  • Installed the murals onto the Museum’s walls, making adjustments and adding finishing touches once the murals were in place.

Projecting a concept image based on historic images onto the gallery's walls.
One of Harley's projected concept drawings, paired with the subsequent mural in progress.
Mural installation!

The murals add vibrancy and depth to the Fort and surrounding environment, helping to create an immersive space that inspires visitors' imaginative pretend play.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Coming to Rhode Island is NOW OPEN!


Last night, we celebrated the opening of our imaginatively updated Coming to Rhode Island exhibit with a playful party for 150-plus members, supporters, partners and other friends. The dynamic environment, which offers an interactive, time-traveling exploration of history and culture through stories, was received with rave reviews!

For hundreds of years and continuing today, people have come from all over the world to what is now Rhode Island – whether voluntarily, coerced or forced – and everyone has stories about where their families are from and how and why they came. Coming to Rhode Island shares real stories of real people who have immigrated to our state – how they lived, what they left behind, the challenges they met, the solutions they found – and is designed to encourage respect for diversity and build empathy for others by making personal connections to their stories.

Pretend play is one of the major ways that children of all ages explore stories in Coming to Rhode Island, and is an important means of engaging with history and culture. Research also shows that pretend play is closely related to developing empathy and abilities for problem solving, taking different perspectives, and relating to others – skills which develop with time and practice through early childhood and into adulthood.

Take a look at some scenes from the opening event and several of the exhibit’s components:

Upon opening Coming to Rhode Island, kids immediately flocked to our partial replica of Fort Adams, scrambling onto the deck and constructing a wall of foam bricks!


They also did a bit of gardening in the plot adjacent to the fort’s boarding house.


In the vibrant new Story Center, visitors were intrigued by an installation conceptualized by Pawtucket-based French artist Philippe Lejeune, which challenges perception and encourages discovery of how something (or someone) looks from different and unexpected perspectives.


A self-portrait drawing station, which asks visitors to look in the mirror, draw their portraits, and share something that’s important about them that nobody sees.


At this station, build with a set of blocks with diverse eyes, noses and mouths to create unique faces and expressions.


Museum staff seriously engaged in playing one of several versions of mancala!


Browse books representing many people and cultures in a cozy book nook.


And the exhibit’s talk-back board, which prompts, “The United States is made up of people from many different places, of a variety of races, who have many different religions and beliefs – and we’re all Americans. Who are you?”


But pictures can only tell you so much – please come see for yourselves! Go to www.ChildrenMuseum.org for visiting information and a calendar of related events. And click here for a peek at the process of creating Coming to Rhode Island.

Tremendous thanks to our many community partners – especially the Fort Adams Trust and The Museum of Newport Irish History, for collaborating with us on the development of our Fort Adams gallery. And our gratitude to the funders who generously supported the exhibit: The Champlin Foundations; The Children's Workshop Foundation; CollegeBound Saver; June Rockwell Levy Foundation; Murray Family Charitable Foundation; The Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund; Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, an independent state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities; The Ryan Family Foundation; and Nancy Smith Worthen, in memory of Margaret L. Worthen (as of November 14).

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Coming to RI: Finishing Touches!

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of activity as we finalize our Coming to Rhode Island exhibit.  Here are some final peeks at the installation process.

Exhibit designer Chris and muralist Harley Bartlett hanging Harley’s incredibly beautiful murals in the Fort Adams gallery – more on the mural process later.


Crew member Mark grinding the cannon created for the Fort gallery in partnership with Cumberland Foundry – more on that later, too!


Chris installing the railing for the Fort’s second level.  It’s very fun to climb the ladders and onto the deck!


RISD student Lisa working on the wheelbarrows for kids to cart foam bricks and stones around the Fort.


Chris installing “story cubes,” one of several activities exploring culture and diversity in the exhibit’s Story Center.  The cubes are particularly important because they share a dozen stories of a variety of real Rhode Islanders who have come to and settled in our state, expanding on the four stories told in the galleries.


Crew member Zach putting the finishing touches on the exhibit’s vibrant entryway.


Graphic designer Valerie mounting photos and labels in the Story Center.


We’re very nearly ready for you, thanks to the months of hard work of the exhibits team and the critical contributions of our many partners.  Come see for yourselves all weekend long, beginning Friday, November 18 at 9:00 AM!

Coming to Rhode Island is supported by The Champlin Foundations; The Children's Workshop Foundation; CollegeBound Saver; June Rockwell Levy Foundation; Murray Family Charitable Foundation; The Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund; Rhode Island Council for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities; The Ryan Family Foundation; and Nancy Smith Worthen, in memory of Margaret L. Worthen (as of November 14).  The Irish gallery was developed in collaboration with The Museum of Newport Irish History and the Fort Adams Trust.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Encouraging Empathy

Our reinvented Coming to Rhode Island exhibit is about exploring history, immigration and culture through stories. But even more than that, it’s about fostering EMPATHY – about developing respect for the diversity of individuals that make up our world, about understanding that diversity makes our communities richer and stronger, and about finding compassion for others by making connections to their stories. It’s a particularly relevant message at this moment in our world – at a time of divisiveness, dissension and discord, empathy is more important than ever.

Research shows that pretend play is closely related to developing empathy and other social-emotional skills. As children pretend and play in Coming to Rhode Island, they learn to relate to and communicate with one another and to take others’ perspectives. They also explore a wealth of different stories – stories of Rhode Islanders past and present, stories of people of different cultures and backgrounds, stories that encourage them to think about and appreciate what’s unique about themselves and others.



Here are a few curated lists of children’s books that include some excellent stories for encouraging empathy and cultivating compassion, recommended for reading and discussing together:
Look for several of these stories in our new exhibit.

Do you have other favorite books that foster empathy, kindness and inclusion? Please share in the comments.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Coming to RI: Bits and Pieces

Making an exhibit involves a TON of work over many months, both big projects and smaller supporting elements. Here’s a look at some of the Coming to Rhode Island details and “loose parts” the exhibit team has worked on along the way.

Crew member Mark and exhibit designer Chris cutting bricks from giant sheets of foam, which kids will use to add to the walls and arches in our replica of Fort Adams.


RISD student Julianna making an array of adorable tools – mallets and trowels – for kids to use in their brickwork.


Exhibit technician Ian painting a pig! Our porcine pal will overlook a small garden plot adjacent to the Fort, where visitors will be able to plant and harvest veggies like carrots and turnips.


Crew member Zach creating frames for an assortment of striking photos that will adorn the walls of the “Story Center.”


Chris building one of several pieces of furniture he has crafted for the exhibit – a field desk for the Fort Adams gallery that will house examples of documents and tools of the trade from the 1800s.


Newly installed flooring in the “Story Center,” in a vibrant palette that complements the freshly painted walls.


And not a small detail by any means, but the finished brick and stonework on our Fort looks absolutely amazing!


With just under two weeks to go until the opening weekend, the exhibit is moving along fast and furiously – check back for finishing touches and background stories.

Coming to Rhode Island is supported by The Children's Workshop Foundation; CollegeBound Saver; June Rockwell Levy Foundation; Murray Family Charitable Foundation; The Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund; Rhode Island Council for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities; The Ryan Family Foundation; and Nancy Smith Worthen, in memory of Margaret L. Worthen (as of October 11).  The Irish gallery was developed in collaboration with The Museum of Newport Irish History and the Fort Adams Trust.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Coming to RI: Building Fort Adams

As we mentioned previously, our replica of Fort Adams for the updated Coming to Rhode Island began long before the exhibit installation started, with a cardboard mockup constructed in the exhibit workshop.


The exhibits team then assembled the entire cardboard version of the fort, to help figure out layout and floor plan.


From there, the fort was constructed in wood and the pieces were stored until it was time to start installation.


After the demolition work was finished, fort installation began!


The crew installed the first and second levels of the fort, then built surrounding walls and second level decking.


After the fort was fully in place, work began on a brick fa├žade, which is being completed as a community project by the apprentice program of the Bricklayers and Allied Craftsmen Union Local 3 MA, ME, NH, RI.


Apprentices in the program learn through practical experience under skilled workers and receive both on the job and in-class training, and the Museum’s project counts toward their training hours. We’re grateful to benefit from their skills to give the fort a more authentic feel, and to be able to provide a valuable training opportunity.


Check back for more stories and photos of reinventing Coming to Rhode Island!

Coming to Rhode Island is supported by The Children's Workshop Foundation; CollegeBound Saver; June Rockwell Levy Foundation; Murray Family Charitable Foundation; The Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund; Rhode Island Council for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities; The Ryan Family Foundation; and Nancy Smith Worthen, in memory of Margaret L. Worthen (as of October 11).  The Irish gallery was developed in collaboration with The Museum of Newport Irish History and the Fort Adams Trust.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

A New Year of AmeriCorps Service

In September, the Museum welcomed its 21st AmeriCorps team – 12 enthusiastic members committed to a year of transformative service to kids and families from under-resourced communities. Collectively, the team will reach 1,000 Head Start preschoolers and hundreds of elementary school-age kids with playful interactive lessons during and after school, extend a warm welcome to children’s caregivers and siblings during free Museum family nights, and engage with thousands of other families both within and beyond the Museum’s walls.

The members hail from across the country and bring a wealth of different experiences. Three have previously served with other AmeriCorps programs. Others have studied and traveled around the United States, and the world. They share an eagerness to serve and learn this year.
 
Front row: Olivia, Ashley, Hannah, Lilia, Trinere, Casey  /  Back row: Jordan, Alexis, Anna, Amelia, Tristan, James

Meet our 2016-17 AmeriCorps team:

Alexis is from Riverside, CA and studied Earth Systems-Oceans at Stanford University. She drove 3,650 miles through 16 states and Canada by herself to arrive for AmeriCorps. She is excited to help kids discover how fun it is to be a nerd – and to experience winter!

Amelia is from Reading, MA and studied Early Childhood Development at North Shore Community College. She is a certified preschool teacher in Massachusetts. She looks forward to working with young children again after working with middle schoolers while she served with City Year last year.

Anna is from Hogansburg, NY and studied American Studies at Middlebury College. She grew up on the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation in northern NY and is a member of that tribe. She is excited to be working with a team to make learning and play more accessible to the surrounding community.

Ashley is from Hummelstown, PA and studied Anthropology & History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh. She is most excited to facilitate learning and encourage creativity through play during her year of service.

Casey is from Concord, MA and studied History at Mount Holyoke College. She is excited to bring fun, enriching Museum experiences to the kids of Providence and to develop her skills in museum education.

Hannah is from Cambridge, MA and studied Studio Art and Politics at University of Virginia. She is most excited about finding creative ways to integrate art projects into the Museum’s STEM programming. 


James is from Gary, IN and studied Biology at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis. He is most excited to educate children about the world around them.

Jordan is from Great Barrington, MA and studied Community Arts Education and Theater at Lesley University and Cultural Studies and Arts Education at Bard College. She looks forward to charting her course to becoming a culturally responsive educator.

Lilia is from North Kingstown, RI and studied Biology at Wheaton College. She recently spent 16 days living in the rainforest tracking monkey trips in Belize. She is excited to take time to serve her community.

Olivia is from Stillwater, OK but has been in the Providence area for the last several years studying Visual Art and Modern Culture at Brown University. She is excited to develop creative approaches to education and learning and to build relationships in the Providence community.

Trinere is from Worcester, MA and studied Architectural Design at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She is most excited about working with a new age group and growing her skills in youth development.

Tristan is from Baltimore, MD and studied English at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He looks forward to getting to know Providence as deeply as possible.

To learn more about the Museum’s AmeriCorps program, please click here.

The Museum’s AmeriCorps program is made possible by the Corporation for National and Community Service and Serve Rhode Island, with support from additional sponsors for the Head Start and Learning Club programs.