Thursday, October 27, 2011

Museum Visit: CMA Children's Museum of the Arts

The Children's Museum of the Arts has a new home at 103 Charlton Street. It is light and bright and occupies 10,000 square feet of space. It's spectacular. Very designer.

CMA’s focus is purely on making art, drawings and sculpture, sound art and stop-motion animation. Their belief is that art can have a positive effect on communities.

The space is divided into "Labs" with long counters. Kids pull up stools and teaching artists offer them art materials and tips on how to use them. There is a Clay Bar for making all sorts of clay art. There is a Media Lab, where kids can film their clay art on landscapes of plastic foam or electronic bits and pieces.

There is a Sound Lab, where kids can try out electronic music scores.

This is the 2000 square foot  art gallery, filled with artists’ work by Keith Haring, Freidrich Hunderdwasser, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, and a sea goddess by Swoon.

There is a Wee Arts space for preschoolers, two art labs, a Quiet Room with storybooks, and a bright yellow active space, with a webbed floor, portholes, and a ball pond, where kids can run off their extra energy. It's called The Groove Tube. 

CMA has started a progam of evening classes, where older kids 13-15 years, can design fashion, study advanced filmmaking, drawing and painting.

The Children's Museum of Art is definitely where new art adventures are happening!!!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Museum Visit: New York Historical Society

Question: Can a painting be like a newspaper?
Answer: Sure, when it reports the news of the day.

According to the New York Times, in 1861, paintings often reported the news. This painting told the story of the soldiers of the Irish Regiment returning to New York from fighting in the First Battle of Bull Run during the Civil War. It is called “Return of the 69th Regiment, N.Y.S.M,  From the Seat of War.” It was painted by artist Louis Lang. You can see New York Bay from Bowling Green. A happy crowd welcomes the soldiers, flower sellers, fruit vendors, dignitaries, newsboys, happy families. The newsboy is selling pictures of Colonel Michael Corcoran, who led the Regiment. The man on the horse is Thomas Francis Meagher, who became a captain in the Regiment.

The painting is huge: 11 feet wide by 7 feet tall. With the frame, it weighs 700 pounds. (It is the largest and heaviest“ newspaper” you’ll ever see.) The New York Historical Society decided to restore the painting in 2006. They found it in storage, in pieces. Happily, all the pieces were there. The Williamstown Art Conservation Center in Massachusetts put the painting back together and restored it. It was like doing a giant jigsaw puzzle.

Louis Lang painted the “Return of the 69th Regiment, N.Y.S.M From the Seat of War,” to tell an exciting “news story.” Now, it is American history. 

You will find the painting at the newly renovated New York Historical Society, hanging in the exhibition “Making American Taste: Narrative Art for a New Democracy,” on the fourth floor. 


Choose a story from today's news and paint a picture to tell the story. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Gallery Visit: Alexander Calder at Pace Gallery

We're going to the Pace Gallery on October 27th, to see Alexander Calder's sculpture. His grandson, Alexander Rower, the President of the Alexander Calder Foundation, helped Pace Gallery assemble the exhibition. Calder's sculpture is amazing. He cuts metal shapes and bends them into perfectly balanced sculpture. Sometimes he paints them. Sometimes he hangs them from wires and the slightest breeze makes them move. They appear light as feathers, but we know that all that metal is very heavy. 

Here is an introduction Calder's genius:

Alexander Calder (born 22 July 1898 - 11 November 1976) was an American sculptor, one of the giants of American art. He is renowned for his invention of mobiles, hanging steel sculptures, that were so perfectly balanced they could move in the slightest breeze.

Calder's giant, bolted-steel, standing sculptures were called Stabiles.

Admired by many architects, Calder's grand-scale sculptures have been chosen to stand in the plazas of our modern office towers.

Early in his career, Calder developed new methods of sculpting. Here he "draws" a three-dimensional portrait by bending and twisting wire.

He created a miniature circus he called "Cirque Calder," with small, bent-wire belly dancers, lion tamers, animal trainers.  He loved to "perform" the circus for his friends. 

You can see Calder's original circus figures at the Whitney Museum. There is a film of Calder performing his tiny circus with his own wild sound effects.

Join us when we visit the Pace Gallery at 32 East 57th Street,  to see the Calder exhibition.


Here is a sculpture project inspired by the Cirque Calder. You can try it with your child at home. Build a circus with a few fun circus acts and animals.  Or, you can select a familiar book and construct the characters. Create your own special "performance"of the story. "Perform" it for your friends. Do a video of the story.

You'll need some pipe cleaners, playdoh, scissors and construction paper.

Twist the pipe cleaners into small figures.
Press some playdoh, and pieces of fabric(?) onto the pipe cleaners to add color.
Construct a "stage set" using construction paper.
Have your characters "perform" the story.
Put on some music.
Don't forget your video camera.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Studio Visit: Bucky Fuller Dome at CFA

A group of kids and their parents met at the AIA (American Institute of Architects) to build a 14 foot geodesic dome, designed by Buckminster Fuller, the great engineer and inventor. Catherine Teegarden, the Director of Programs at the Center for Architecture Foundation, led the project. This is how we did it:

Our first step was to draw a circle using chalk and a string.  Then we placed a foundation of sticks that followed the circle.

We constructed pentagrams. 

and joined the pentagrams to the foundation of sticks.

The system was color-coded; the blue sticks were inserted in the blue joints, making construction a whole lot easier.

We joined the pentagrams to hexagons. 

Slowly, the dome began to take shape.

When we reached the top, we gave it a little push and wow, the dome was standing.

Here it is, 14 feet in diameter and 8 feet high. 

Part Two: We built dome models with marshmallows and toothpicks.

The trick was not eating the marshmallows.

Even very young kids built small domes.

For the grand finale, we took a group picture, with everyone looking really pleased with their dome adventure. Thanks AIA.

The Center for Architecture Foundation hosts monthly Family Days like this
for kids ages 5 and up and their adult companions. More information about these
and other architecture and design programs for kids can be found at

Museum Visit: The Metropolitan Museum

Join us for an amazing art tour for parents with young children. We're meeting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Saturday October 22, at 12:00 pm. We will play "The Matching Game," an art treasure hunt, with "postcards" we buy  in the Museum Store. We will hunt for the original paintings in the Impressionist collection of the Museum.

At the Museum store. 

Selecting postcards of our favorite Impressionist paintings.

Van Gogh’s Sunflowers?

A Degas Ballerina?

Monet's famous Japanese Bridge?

You could also choose a postcard of “William,” the little blue hippo from Egypt, and search for him in the Egyptian Wing, near the Temple of Dendur.

First lunch. (It's always good to begin a visit to a Museum with lunch. (Don't forget dessert.) We will take the elevator down to the Met's informal restaurant, where you will find a fresh salad bar and lots of delicious-looking desserts. We will nibble our salads and study our Impressionist postcards.

After lunch, we will take an elevator to the second floor to the Impressionist galleries. 

You will find the Van Gogh's Sunflowers immediately. Hold up your postcard, “matchy, matchy."

The Degas Ballerina is nearby.

 Monet's "Japanese Bridge" is in the next gallery. “Matchy, matchy.”

You may be inspired by all the art around you and might want to draw. Bring along a small drawing pad and some colored pencils. You can sit on the round sofa in the center of a gallery and draw some some colorful lines and circles.

After we find the Impressionist paintings, we will take the elevator down to the lobby and search for “William,” the blue hippo, in the Egyptian Wing.

Little  “William” is in a corner of one of the Egyptian galleries. “Matchy, matchy."

As we walk on,  you will pass some gigantic Egyptian sculptures. Take some photos of your small children next to the big figures.

The Temple of Dendur sits in a soaring space designed by the architect Kevin Roche. (Roche also designed the entrance stairs to the museum.) A large, sloping, glass wall floods the gallery with daylight. A reflecting pool invites you to toss a penny into the water and make wish. You can walk over to  the little Temple of Dendur and explore it inside and out.

At the end of our visit, we will walk through the lobby toward the main entrance. Drop your little metal Metropolitan buttons into the recycling box.

Outside, as you stand at the top of the grand stairway at the entrance to the Met, you may hear some music, some jazz musicians entertaining the crowd.

You can sit down on the steps and listen for a while. When you are finally ready to leave, you can walk down the steps and catch the Fifth Avenue bus home. 

When you get home, don't forget to put your "Matching Game" postcards on your art wall. They will be the beginning of your own art collection, and remind you of your exciting art tour of the Impressionists at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

How to Play the "Matching Game"
You will find some postcard reproductions of the paintings in the permanent collections in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's store. Select a few of your favorite art works and then hunt for them in the galleries. (You can pick up a map of the Museum at the Information Desk to guide your search. Also, check there for a list of daily events and special activities for children.)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is open on weekdays and Sundays, from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm, and until 9:00 pm on Fridays and Saturdays. It is closed on Mondays.