Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Artists' Birthdays

Recently I sat down with Mark Dilks, Please Touch Museum's Arts Coordinator, to talk about Artists' Birthdays!

Pinky: Hi Mark, I understand you celebrated some artists’ birthdays on June 13th. What artists’ birthdays did you celebrate?

Jeanne Claude and Christo are an artistic duo; both go by their first names. The two were born on the same day, June 13, 1935. In 1958, Christo met Jeanne Claude in Paris while he was painting portraits of Jeanne Claude’s mother. The two married in 1961 and are still married today.

Pinky: What kind of art do they create?

These artists are best known for wrapping objects, buildings and even landscapes. One example of their large scale artworks is “Surrounded Islands”. Made in 1983, “Surrounded Islands” is the result of 11 islands off the coast of Miami, Florida, being surrounded with 6.5 million square feet of pink woven polypropylene fabric covering the surface of the water.

Pinky: Have I ever seen their work in a museum?

You might have seen an example of these artists’ work in their recent exhibit in New York City. In 2005, the artists installed their Gates project in Central Park. The project placed 7,503 orange colored gates overtop the walkways through the park. As people walked on the walkways they walked through The Gates. A fascinating aspect of these large scale projects is that they fund the work themselves by selling their preliminary sketches and studies.
These artists were not always working on such a large scale. When they first started, they would take everyday objects such as, magazines and motorcycles, among other things, and wrap them up with fabric and string.

Pinky: What did Please Touch Museum do to celebrate their birthdays?

On June 13th, in the museum’s Program Room, we wrapped furniture and foam blocks with fabric and string to honor these two fabulous artists. It was a ton of fun!

Pinky: That sounds cool. Is this something families can do at home if they didn’t make it to the museum that day?

Sure! You can easily do this project at home using bed sheets with yarn, string or ribbon and wrapping up anything from a table to a lamp to a salt shaker. As long as it’s safe for a child any object could work. Another way to do this activity could be in reverse. Wrap an object with fabric and string to conceal its identity and have the child guess what it is that is wrapped up. Have the child handle the object, using all his or her senses to explore it and make a guess about its function.

Pinky: Why did the museum pick this specific art project for the Artist's birthday?

This project encourages children to look at their space in a new way and to see the many ways people can interact with objects and environment. The importance of encouraging and facilitating a child’s active engagement and manipulation of his/ her environment has been successfully explored and writing about in the teachings of the Italian town of *Reggio Emilia.
Families should feel free to go outside and wrap up a bush and watch the breeze and light change the look of the fabric. And as the teachings of Reggio Emilia encourage, don’t forget to document the process by taking photos to show to the children later AND as you are creating.

Pinky: Thanks Mark, sounds like I have some objects, string and fabric to find!



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We're all about learning through play.

Join Pinky, one of Please Touch Museum's resident puppets, on an inside look into all the fun, educational things happening at Philly's Children's Museum. This blog is not just about what we do at the museum, but about the educational philosophy behind why we do what we do.