Permission to Play: Artcars

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Today was lovely outside. Not too hot, not too cold.  Just right…for painting.

Cora and I hadn’t painted together in awhile.  Her easel caught a wind early this spring and flew off the porch while we were working and I haven’t had a chance to fix it.  Our sessions at the museum provided a few good opportunities, but it had been awhile.  Today we got out the paint and brushes and went wild.

We started painting on some large sheets of cardboard I had around, but Cora was loosing interest after what felt to me like a very short time (probably about 15 minutes).  Then I remembered she wanted to paint her toy car red like Lightning McQueen from the movie Cars. I had said we’d get some spray paint, but there didn’t seem any reason to wait. We had paint and brushes in hand and the car was sitting just a few feet away.

I went first to show her I was serious but she caught on quickly.  We started on the sides but quickly our brushes migrated to the roof, wheels, and eventually inside the cab. We were busy for at least an hour though I truly lost track of time. We were in an amazing flow together.

Cora doesn’t know anything yet about the tradition of art cars.  I’ll have to show her some pictures one of these days. She’ll see some in person at various festivals around town this summer.  Perhaps she, and some of her friends, will even drive a fleet of their own creations in our local Doo Dah parade.

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Picturebooks on the Potty: Vol. 1, No. 4

There have been a lot of times when I sat down to blog and felt like starting with, “I can’t believe it’s been so long since I posting anything to this space.” Mostly that seemed like a lame beginning, an excuse, and my friend Amy taught me a long time ago that you shouldn’t live your life apologizing, so I usually don’t start that way.  But today it seems apt, since one of the primary reasons I haven’t written here in a few weeks is related to what I plan to write about – gardening.  Before I moved into this house I never would have identified myself as a gardener. In fact, I routinely joked about having a black thumb and couldn’t keep a houseplant happy.  But these days, it is one of my primary pastimes.  Over the past few years I have removed a sizeable percentage of the sod in our yard to make way for new vegetable and perennial beds. I don’t feel quite like a member of the Food Not Lawns movement yet, but I aspire to that title. I’ve updated my Facebook status to complain about incorrect weather forecasts and the lack of rain 3 times in the past 5 days.  I have spent too much of my last few paychecks at the garden center – even found myself wondering why’s there’s no pre-tax savings plan, modeled after health savings accounts, for landscaping and other environment-enhancing endeavors.

So, I can totally identify with Liam, the main character of The Curious Garden (Brown, 2009). Liam lives in a dreary city where nothing green grows.  One day he makes his way up to an abandoned train track and finds a small patch of fertile ground.  He tends it back to health and watches it spread over the tracks until it reaches into every corner of the city. People living nearby get a taste for living amongst the plants and flowers and eventually the city is covered – from the tippie-tops of skyscappers to the cracks in the sidewalks – with mosses, flowers, bushes, and trees. We learn from the dust jacket that Liam’s garden is in fact the New York City High Line, a model for urban public gradening clubs worldwide.  

My yard isn’t the high line, but over the years I have not only learned to take care of the plants that were here when I arrived, all planted by my husband’s grandparents who lived here before us. I’ve divided and moved them around the yard, spreading them into places previously occupied by less than vibrant grass and weeds. I’ve added new plants, many given to me by friends and neighbors, each with its own story to tell. And then there are new edible bushes and vines – blackberries, blueberries, and grapes – each bearing more and more sweet fruit each year.  Every corner of the yard is now blooming – which means there is a lot for me to do this time of year. I haven’t been blogging, but I’ve been busy painting the world around me with soil and seeds.

Here are a few other picturebooks inspired by spring that you might enjoy:

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Toddler Time @ The CMA: The Finale

This post is woefully late, but it has been a busy week.  Come to think of it, our last session of Toddler Time at the Columbus Museum of Art was busy too.  We started with just one station (light boxes) and simultaneously worked on our big project -a collage using contact paper as a ground and tissue paper for the medium.  If this sounds familiar, it may be because I’ve written about this process before. The kids all seemed to find success with it. Some tore the tissue into small pieces, some cut with scissors, and others took big sheets of color to form quick compositions. It’s interesting how after just four weeks with them, I started to get a sense of how some of the children expressed their on style through their work.

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After about 20 minutes, everyone seemed ready to move onto something else and we walked up to an interior courtyard that houses a large glass assemblage by Dale Chihuly.  It’s very colorful and the kids ran towards it like moths to a flame.  Amanda read them a story and then talked to them a bit about the colors and shapes they saw in the piece.  After making a few shapes with our bodies, we moved into the galleries for one final stop together.

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We all gathered around a still life and the children talked about the fruits they saw in the painting and which ones they liked to eat. As they did this, Amanda pulled faux fruits from a sack and passed them around. This enabled the children to touch something that looked like what they were talking about.  I think this really helped them connect with the image. At the end of the conversation, they each put whatever fruit they were holding on the floor in a pile approximating a still life.

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I’m sitting here thinking it would be fun to try this with really fruit sometime, which the children could eat, engaging their senses of taste and smell. While I would ordinarily read an idea like this and think it trite, in this context, I’m understanding how it might solidify a connection between what they were looking at in the image and their own experiences.  Of course there’s no food or drink allowed in the galleries!

I have yet to sit down and reflect on this series of gatherings as a whole in any meaningful way. When I do, I’ll be sure to share any insights I discover. At this point, I’m helping Amanda plan a survey for the participants and I look forward to seeing what it reveals about how others experienced the sessions. I plan to fill it out as well, responding as a parent, apart from my role as a facilitator to whatever extent I can. I have a running list of people interested in this type of programming should it continue, and I’ll be curious to see how and if it does.