pick of the week: Children’s Painting by the Sea Day

This Wednesday, June 29th, Blithewold Mansion, Gardens & Arboretum invites parents to bring their kids to Children’s Painting By the Sea Day, a special day of painting en plein air on the grounds of one of the most breathtaking places in our community!  Bring your own paints and paper and wander the grounds to find just the right spot, then set yourself up and paint anytime between 10am and 4pm.  Bring a picnic lunch and make a day of it!  Artist & teacher Joanne Murrman will be on site from 10am ’til 11am to share her expertise with those who’d like a little guidance.  This event is free with regular admission; and as always, Blithewold members are welcome to paint on the grounds during regular garden hours, any day of the year.

rainy day arts project: Crayon Cakes

Ah, day 4 of this dreary, rainy weather.  Are your kids bored yet?  Are the sounds of endless dvds and video games driving you mad yet?  Are you running out of ideas?  This spring I bookmarked a few good arts projects to have on hand just in case it rained during summer vacation (but four days in a row?  Come on!).  

Yesterday we made Crayon Cakes, a project I’ve seen in magazines and around the web several times, most recently at Kids in the Studio.  This is not a difficult project at all, and it’s entirely possible you already have all the necessary materials.  You’ll need: a kitchen knife, some old crayons, and one or two mini-muffin tins.

Peel the papers off the crayons and sort the crayons by color (this makes it easier to keep the chopped-up bits separate by color, so that your kids can have fun mixing their own combinations later).  An adult should use the kitchen knife to chop the crayons into pea-size (or smaller) pieces.  When I did this some of the crayon bits went flying, so take care – and you might want to spread out some newspaper on your work surface.  The chopping part takes a while, so put on some music and ask your kids to peel the papers off the crayons and sort them while you chop. 

Once the peeled crayons are chopped and separated by color, an adult can preheat the oven while the kids fill the mini-muffin tins with whatever imaginative color mixtures they like.  Amy at Kids in the Studio says to preheat the oven to 250 degrees, but Martha says 150 degrees, so I split the difference and set the oven to 200 degrees.  When your kids are happy with their assortments you can place the tins in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes, until the waxes have melted. 

When we took our melty wax “cakes” out of the oven, they looked kind of gross.  Not vibrant and pretty at all, and I thought we must have done something wrong, but oh well.  We let them cool to the touch, and they were stuck but good in the pan, but no worries – just pop them in the freezer for a little while and they’ll slide right out.  And then the fun surprise!  When you turn them over, they ARE vibrant, swirly fusions of color!  Hurray!  My youngest said it best when he marvelled, “…and we can actually color with them, too?” 


At Kids in the Studio, Amy describes putting her kids’ crayon cakes in her summertime Traveling Art Box.  We’re going to tape some long paper, like butcher’s paper, to the wall and create a summer mural with ours, for an ongoing summertime project.  What will you do with yours?

I am an artist

Mudstone Studios in Warren has updated their summer camp information and other class offerings.  As I read the descriptions early last week I thought about just how lucky we are as parents, to have this fantastic opportunity for our kids right here in our community – wheel throwing for teens!  And for the younger ones, imagine their joyfulness as they create an Indian elephant, a Chinese dragon, African pottery, Mexican maracas, and an Adobe house!  (What a great idea, building a sculpture class around world cultures.) 

Even as I noted the dates and times in my calendar (glad to have another possibility for August!), my mind kept returning to something else I had noticed in Mudstone’s class offerings … Adult Drop-in Sessions.  We spend so much time arranging our kids’ summers, making sure they have a good mix of enriching activities balanced with a healthy amount of unstructured play time – it’s so easy to forget to give ourselves the same consideration, but … Adult Drop-in Sessions, hmmmm.

The thought planted itself like a seed in my mind, and as I went about managing the busy final full week of school, it sprouted.  On Wednesday evening I went to the Bristol Warren Education Foundation’s Grant Award Celebration and watched the short documentary created by Katie Reeves once more, and was no less impressed and touched by the enthusiasm of the children learning to play music, create sculptures, build robots, and move their bodies across the rock wall.  On Friday afternoon I got the chance to attend the arts showcase at my youngest’s elementary school, and applauded the kids as they showed us what they’d learned this year about ballads and folksongs through music and dance.  Again, the exuberant joy!

The thought was growing in my mind, though I didn’t quite know what to make of it.  And then, on Friday evening I happened upon a post by Elizabeth Peterson of The Inspired Classroom, and pop! the thought unfurled, like a moonflower on the vine!  I love to create things, and I love the process of creating something – I am an artist.  I am also a designer and a writer, and I used to be an engineer, but I am not limited to describing myself merely by what I do for a living.  And, building on Elizabeth’s thoughts, when we reclaim our inner artists, we are setting a great example for our kids and encouraging them to explore their own potential.

Pablo Picasso is often quoted as having said “every child is an artist – the problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”  Think back to the child you once were and remember, how are you an artist?  Did you love to draw, or paint, or play with clay?  Did you love to dance, or sing, or beat the drums?  Did you love to recite poetry, or make up stories, or act out scenes from plays (or tv shows)?  Or maybe you loved to knit, or bake, or plant things in the garden!  This summer, while the children are at summer camp (or playing in the backyard), reclaim your childhood artist and set aside some time to nurture your own creativity!

I will be dropping in on Thursday nights at Mudstone Studios to nurture mine.  I’ve already called artist-owner Ellen Blomgren to find out more, and she couldn’t make it any easier.  I don’t have to reserve in advance, it only costs $15 per visit plus $1.25/lb of clay (which includes glaze and firing), they welcome all skill levels (including those of us who haven’t set hands on clay since third grade!), and Ellen will be there so I can ask her advice.  This is important to me, because working in 3-d is not my easiest medium (or, genre?).  But challenging yourself is also part of being an artist, and without any overhanging expectations, challenge can be fun!

Maybe I will make something for my garden.  Or something small, to place on my kitchen windowsill to remind me of the summer.  Or something for my desk, something that winks at me and whispers the thought in my mind, “I am an artist.”

And so are you.

Find out more about Thursday night Adult Drop-in sessions and Mudstone’s Summer Camp opportunities and other classes by visiting www.mudstonestudios.com or calling Ellen at 297-9412.

Take a Peek

The school year may be winding down, but tonight at the Bristol Warren Education Foundation’s 1st Annual Grant Award Celebration, we got a peek at some great opportunities in store for our kids come September.  The BWEF was able to fund the grant proposals submitted by teachers from all six of our local public schools, for a total award of $33,500 that will bring enriching learning experiences in the arts, sciences, and other disciplines to our children next year.  Some arts-focused highlights:

  • We were so thrilled with this past year’s Stone Guardians project, so we’re pleased to learn that art students at Mt. Hope High School will have the chance to express themselves through clay next year thanks to the ‘Stories in Clay’ grant.
  • In music class next year at Kickemuit Middle School, all students will have the chance to learn about Chinese music and culture through the ‘Making Cultural Connections’ grant.
  • Students at Colt Andrews Elementary School and Guiteras Elementary School will also have the opportunity to explore Chinese culture when they’re treated to an author visit by Grace Lin, author of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and several other award-winning children’s books, thanks to the ‘Bridge Across Cultures’ grant.
  • At Rockwell Elementary School, the ‘Christmas Carol’ grant will enrich students’ literary learning by integrating theater with language arts.
  • The ‘Physics of Music Making’ grant will bring the RI Philharmonic program to third-graders at Hugh Cole Elementary School for an integrated, hands-on learning experience in both the science and music of sound.

The Arts Room wishes to extend our heartfelt thanks to the BWEF, and all those who support them, for the work they do to help our local teachers bring these enriching opportunities to our children; and to our teachers as well, for your innovative and determined efforts to offer exceptional learning experiences to our children.  The full list of grants awarded for the 2011-2012 school year can be seen on the Bristol Warren Education Foundation website.