Art

Nature Journals and Binoculars

This week in our preschool arts program, Little Makers, we did two projects to help us celebrate and appreciate nature for Earth Day! First, we created nature journals by punching holes into paper and practiced our fine motor skills to string yarn through the holes. Then, we used markers to decorate and name our nature journals.

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The second project we worked on was a set of binoculars. We used recycled toilet paper rolls and secured our binoculars with glue. After the glue dried, we decorated each pair with words and drawings. Although the binoculars have no magnifying effect, with a little imagination it worked just fine! After completing the projects, our little makers were excited to give them a go!

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These projects not only helped us appreciate nature, but also centered on the early literacy practice of writing. By writing descriptions or drawing pictures of what they see in nature, a child is working on building the skills they need for writing and reading.

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Writing is like learning a code. Each letter has a meaning and those individual meanings strung together create a word. Did you know that when a child scribbles, they’re practicing writing? A shape may represent a letter or a mark on a piece of paper can represent a word. It may not look like words to us, but to the child it has meaning. It’s building their print awareness, which means knowing that print has meaning, and helping them build the skills they’ll need when they’re ready to read.

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Now that we have a trusty pair of binoculars and a brand new nature journal, why not play and build up some of our early literacy skills from Every Child Ready to Read’s five daily practices: reading, writing, singing, talking or playing? Ask your child to describe a bug they see! Is it fluffy or solid? What color is it? How many legs does it have? Make up a silly song about the bug! Another fun way to explore an early literacy skill is to draw a picture and label it. Have a child draw a picture of an animal and label the head, eyes, tail, arms, or paws. Make it a game, early literacy should be fun!

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To learn about other programs that build upon early literacy skills, check out our program and event page or come visit us!

Pasta Painting!

Here in the Children’s area, I have the privilege of working with caregivers, parents, and children almost every Tuesday at a program called Little Makers. This is an arts-based program where we strive to engage children and their caregivers with open-ended projects that support early literacy skills, an inquiry-based learning style and foster creativity. This week we did pasta painting and used pasta noodles in exchange for paint brushes!

Whether you’re using the noodles as a brush or using them as stamps, this is a exciting project to explore. It’s a great way to discover different materials and how they interacted with each other as well as incorporate everyday objects into your child’s play and literacy. We were ready to experiment and talk about the different shapes and textures of the pasta and had a variety of noodles including spaghetti, macaroni, fiore, and rotini.

In addition to building creativity, art is a great way to build early literacy skills. It can incorporate some of Every Child Ready to Read’s five daily practices: reading, writing, singing, talking or playing. While experimenting with our pasta paint technique, we combined early literacy practices by engaging in talk and play by asking open-ended questions such as: What are you drawing? What’s happening in your painting? Creating an abundant verbal atmosphere, while having fun, gives preschoolers an advantage for when they enter kindergarten.

 Early literacy shouldn’t be a chore, so make it fun! Bring out the markers, paint, and chalk. You are your child’s first and most important teacher and enjoying art together can help build the skills that lead up to reading. Come join us at Little Makers or ask us at the reference desk about other programs that incorporate early literacy skills!

Monuments Men

ISBN: 
043396424883

It’s not often that a World War II film comes my way that stirs my soul.  It’s even rarer that what stirs my soul is not the personal story of an individual or a small group  of people standing up for what is right against the Nazi’s or an escape from a German internment camp despite impossible odds.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy a good war film, but most war films have the same basic features, Read more »

How Artists Work

ISBN: 
9780307273604

Do you believe creative artists should be disciplined? Honor routines?  Sit (or stand) at their desks, go to their studio every day? Or do you think they should be free spirits? Explore the world? Pound the pavements; hike in the woods? Visit coffee shops and saloons and meet people? Write or paint or compose as the feeling strikes them? Perhaps after delving into this book of 161 summaries of artists’ routines, you will change your mind.

It’s surprising how many of these creative spirits rise at sunbreak and commence work quickly. This book gets into the nitty gritty. Did you know that Beethoven made his own coffee every day? He routinely counted out sixty coffee beans.  He also loved to bathe before a sink, splashing pitchers full of water over himself, but unfortunately, this water spilled on the floor and dribbled downstairs to his landlord’s place,  forcing the owner to put a concrete base under the great composer’s sink. The esteemed composer’s servants also had a laugh-fest each time he bathed because he did so while “bellowing up and down the scales.” Read more »

The Flight of a Painting of a Little Yellow Bird

ISBN: 
9780316055437

“Bad artists copy, good artists steal.” Toward the end of this novel, Hobie, the elderly painter of masterpiece copies, says this to Theo, his sorta-kinda adopted son. Is it ironic that Theo has stolen a famous painting, The Goldfinch? This long, convoluted, powerful novel tells the story of a young boy whose life was transformed at age 13 by this random act.

And a random bombing in the art galleries of New York’s Metropolitan Museum that killed his mother.  Theo’s mom had left him to buy a present in the museum store when the bombing happened. After the blast, Theo crawls amid bodies on the floor to find one older man alive. With some of his last breaths, the man points to the painting and says, “I beg of you.”  Theo interprets this as a plea to rescue it. The dying man Welty also gives the boy an elaborate ring and the name of a business in Manhattan: Hobart and Blackwell.  “Ring the green bell.”

Thus begins the travels/travails of Theo.  His dad, an alcoholic is alive, but in no shape to care for him. Ditto for his one surviving grandparent. Read more »

Parenthood, Birth, and Other Transformations

ISBN: 
9781594487958

In A Guide to Being Born, Ausubel’s narrative voice is strong and unique.  She takes chances in her fiction yet unlike some modern authors, she still includes distinct narrative threads. You can tell she is an independent-minded author just from the layout of her collection--four sections titled: Birth, Gestation, Conception, and Love. Notice the order of her subjects, the reverse of what you might expect.

I fell in love with the first story “Safe Passage.” It begins this way, “The Grandmothers—dozens of them—find themselves at sea.” This boat full of older women find themselves adrift with hundreds of crates; they open them to see if any of the items will allow them to save themselves. The story is funny, whimsical, and fantastical all at once. Plus, it conceals a deeper level that you won’t discover right away. The grandmothers find shipping containers full of yellow roses, and they fill their arms with them despite the fact that the thorns leave blood tracks on their hands.

Another fantasy-rich story is “Chest of Drawers.” Toward the end of the wife’s pregnancy, her husband suddenly grows live drawers on his chest, a problem that necessitates many medical appointments and tests. Yet, the compartments come in handy for carrying things such as his wife’s lipstick and a bunch of tiny diversity dolls. Read more »

A Conversation about Art: Writing Ekphrastic Poems

ISBN: 
0802141579

We're in the closing days of National Poetry Month, and this Sunday if you'd like to compose a poem of your own, we're offering a program about writing ekphrastic poetry in partnership with The Writers Guild at Bloomington. It's at 2 p.m. this Sunday in Room 2B. Call 349-3228 to register. The word ekphrasis comes from the Greek and simply means description. The original Greek root phrazein meant to point out or explain. An added meaning was to name an inanimate thing.

Many of the Romantic poets celebrated art including John Keats in his "Ode to a Grecian Urn." The list of modern poets who have worked in the form include W.H. Auden, William Carlos Williams, Anne Sexton, Muriel Rukeyser, Greg Pape, and former poet laureate, Kay Ryan, among many others.

You can write about any art form in ekphrastic poety: sculpture, paintings, ceramics, prints, and photographs. Some poets describe the work in vivid detail; others just use the art piece for a jumping off point. This is especially true when an abstract painting is the subject of the poem as in the example I've included below. Read more »

A History of the World in 100 Objects

ImageWhat a cool idea for a book. Telling the history of the world by looking at museum artifacts. To make it even more interesting, these descriptive reports of jewelry, mummies, pottery, coins, art, textiles, etc. were written by experts for radio.  Luckily, for us we get to view the pictures also, hundreds of them.

A History of the World in 100 Objects is no coffee table book but a book to be read end to end. The entries for each of the objects (that range in date from 2,000,000 B.C. to 2010 A.D.) describe not only the artifacts themselves but what they teach us about history and about humanity. For example of silver bowl full of coins from around the year 927--shows that already England was well on its way to becoming a monarchy. Inscribed on one coin is Athelstan Rex totius Britanniae or Athelstan, King of All Britain.  

Other items found in this same buried stash were arm bracelets from Ireland, Viking coins, and others from as far away as Afghanistan. A Viking stash of coins showed that they were becoming Christian--engraved on several was St. Peter's name (Petri), but also inscribed was the hammer from Thor, the old Norse god. Read more »

Altered Books

Playing With BooksAmazon's blog Omnivoracious is a great read to keep up with not only what is happening at Amazon, but also generally in the publishing world, complete with reviews of reviews, author interviews, and other literary minded topics. Today's post was exceptionally astonishing and beautiful. Profiled is Chicago based artist, Brian Dettmer, who sculpts old books into amazing works of art. Check out both the blog entry and his website to see the images. I don't want to generally advocate cutting up books, but his end result is truly extraordinary.
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