Sunday, June 30, 2013

PlayWatch: Painting the Rabbit

This story was shared by Exhibits Director Robin Meisner

Walking out into The Children’s Garden, I noticed a girl – about 4 years old – instructing two other young children in how to “paint” the rabbit. They had lined up their materials on the ground next to the rabbit – small wooden pots from Underland filled with water and a larger bowl with sand. With a paintbrush from the sand pit in hand, the girl instructed the others, “first, you dip the brush in the water, then in the sand, then you paint the bunny.” She demonstrated dipping, then painting in long slow strokes following the direction of the rabbit’s fur. The others joined in, each getting bits of advice on proper painting techniques.

A short while later, I watched as the same girl and a young boy approached the fountain with their empty water containers and paintbrushes. They climbed onto the rocks surrounding the water, soaked their brushes and filled their pots. They then started to make their way down from the rocks but quickly discovered that climbing down with water was tricky. My first instinct was to offer my empty hands, but I held back and observed. After a few moments of fidgeting, the girl handed the boy her water, set her brush down and jumped off the wall. She then reached up and took the two filled containers and both brushes from the boy. He climbed down carefully, gathered his supplies and they made their way back to the rabbit – no adult help needed.

I followed the pair and watched as the painting continued. New children approached, got their lesson and painted for a few minutes before moving on. And, hours later after all the kids were gone, the rabbit was still specked with painted sand.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

On Display

New in the Museum’s lobby display case: discover Blooming, a scene that celebrates the wonder of nature and its power to inspire the imagination. The display was created by AmeriCorps Museum Educator Sarah Schnurr, who described her inspiration and process.
I started coming up with concepts and sketches for the case in February – I was missing the warm weather and a lot of my ideas were about spending time outdoors! The more I sketched, the more I found myself thinking about poems, stories and children's books illustrations, specifically “The Giving Tree,” “Where the Wild Things Are” and the ee cummings poem “who knows if the moon's a balloon.”
I liked the simplicity, nostalgia and imagination of these stories and wanted to create a backyard scene that would capture that. I enjoyed working with materials kids might use in art class or at home – newspaper for the tree, paper scraps and thread for the leaves, masking tape and tubes for the tire swing, pom-poms, beads and pipe-cleaners. I also incorporated furniture and characters from the Museum’s collection of antique toys – it was really interesting to see all of the things kids used to play with and how different they are from our modern-day plastic toys.

The case was definitely a collaborative effort among the AmeriCorps members – Dylan cut hundreds of leaves, Francesca became a certified origami fashion designer and Megan lent a hand doing the tedious job of leaf-hanging.
Day.  And night.
Blooming will be on view for a while, so take a peek next time you visit to discover all of its lovely and clever details!

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Story of Nori: A Dragon Tale

Once upon a time, not so very long ago, a Children’s Museum and a Chinese dragon moved to Providence.

In 1997, the Museum was preparing to move from Pawtucket to its current building, which housed a printing business in the 1930s and, a little later, jewelry manufacturing.  Prior to the move, the Museum completely renovated the building’s interior, created two floors of imaginative exhibits, and added the atrium walkway, workshop, parking lot and landscaping, all while keeping the building’s historic character.

At the same time the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston was ready to part with a colorful dragon head, originally created for a Chinese painting exhibit by Symmetry Products (located in Lincoln, RI).

And so the dragon came to perch upon the Museum’s rooftop in July 1997.
Two years later, Julie Lancia of Symmetry Products volunteered to create a dragon tail to mark the Museum entrance.  In conjunction, the Museum held a “name the dragon” contest.  The new tail was unveiled and the name announced – Nori, suggested by 11-year-old Michael Felmly of Newport.

Although Nori is a Chinese dragon (or lung), Michael named him after a Japanese friend.  The word refers to a kind of seaweed (and a seaweed dish) and Nori is a water creature, as all Asian dragons are – appropriate, as he lives in the Ocean State.  Also common to Chinese dragons, Nori is a benevolent spirit. 

After well over a decade of dwelling above the Museum and weathering New England winters, Nori was sorely in need of a makeover.  So, over the last two weeks, Nori got a face (and tail!) lift – repairs and a fresh coat of paint – courtesy of exhibit technician Hillel.
Nori has been beloved by Museum visitors since his arrival and has also become known as a signature Providence landmark. He’s seen a lot in his 16 years at the Museum and undoubtedly has many tales to tell…
Nori watches over window replacement and other renovations in 2008.
Nori chilling in the snow.
Nori partakes in some April Fools fun.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

PlayWatch: A Climber Tale

This story was shared by AmeriCorps Museum Educator Leah Taradash

As I was sitting out in the garden with my back turned to The Climber, I heard a child yelling, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel let down your hair!” Then I heard a high-pitched voice yell back, “I can’t, it’s stuck in the beanstalk! You have to come up to get me!”

I turned around to see who was playing the part of Rapunzel, only to discover that the players were twin boys, about 7 or 8 years old. They continued in their roles for the next 20 minutes, fully engrossed in their pretend play. Rapunzel was eventually rescued by her prince, who used pretend suction cup shoes to climb the “beanstalk.” When the boys' mother noticed me watching them play and smiling, she turned to me and said that the son playing Rapunzel always talked about wanting to be an actor in movies.