Monday, February 10, 2014

YAM, MAM, Gram, Sha-ZAM!

YAM= Youth Art Month started this Sunday at JMKAC. The education team prepped for it all of last week by hanging art, creating labels, and filling out honorary YAM certificates. When the kids arrived on Sunday they got to see their art on the wall and then choose from several fun art-making activities. The first was a tile-making workshop inspired by some of the new A/I work that is being installed right now, and the second was a hat-making workshop with artist-in-residence Brian Schoneman.

Hat-making workshop

Tile-making workshop

These photos were taken before things got good and messy, but don't worry, plenty of mess was made. In fact, my favorite moment from Sunday was when a small, shirtless child slapping paint onto a tile was told by his parents to stop making a mess. I told him it didn't matter, that we make messes here all the time, and he looked up at me with wide, awestruck eyes and said, "You NEVER clean up here?" 

Obviously, we do. But the great part about these workshops is that the kids don't have to. It really is an unadulterated art-making experience for them, and something they will remember for their whole lives. Speaking of which, these Sheboygan-area youngsters have a strong vision even in the early days of their art-making practice. My favorite piece from the YAM exhibition:

[Student's name omitted], BEAUTIFUL OOPS!, 2013
Text: A smudge and a smear can make magic appear.

It's almost too much to think about.

True to its title, the YAM work will only be up for a month. GO SEE IT. [Thought: Rename this blog to "Go See It Yourself, Dummy."]

MAM= More thoughts on "Uncommon Folk" at the Milwaukee Art Museum last week. A few days after I visited this exhibit I had the privilege to take a tour of the JMKAC collections storage with registrar Larry Donoval, who has been with the arts center for 30+ years. Although I can't reveal too many details about the experience, I will reveal this: You can smell the art. Years upon years of obsessive art-making are stacked in contortionistic compartments in the bowels of the arts center, and if you get close enough, I mean reaallly stick your face in and inhale, you can smell the human presence in the artwork. Like you walked into the home of someone who was just cooking soup. 

I still think the show at MAM is really awesome. But after seeing our collections storage, it now feels fragmented. The difference between JMKAC and other institutions that collect art is this: Other institutions collect a person's work. JMKAC collects a person's soul.

Speaking of souls.

Gram= Grandma Ruby. I don't know why I haven't done a blog post on her sooner. She died two summers ago, but she left behind more than just memories of herself. Which is a good thing, because in the last years of her life, she didn't really have any of her own memories at all. Suffering from advanced Alzheimer's, my entire family had the gruesome experience of watching her transform into a person that none of us knew. But what was terrible for us was a thousand times worse for her. In these late years, she couldn't even paint, an activity that she spent countless hours perfecting in her beautiful home in St. Germain, Wisconsin. 

Ruby Tompkins, Heart box with flower

Ruby Tompkins, Two birds

Ruby Tompkins, Santa

Ruby Tompkins, Strawberry

Ruby Tompkins, Figure drawing

Although she never sold or showed any of her artwork, my grandmother left behind more work than we are probably even aware of. We have our own collection of her work at our house in Menomonee Falls, but I wouldn't be surprised if there are still paintings sitting Up North in my grandparent's former basement. Probably not the best place for them, but at least if they were ever found, they would still smell like Ruby and Don.

At JMKAC we have workshops through a program called SPARK! that provide persons with memory loss the opportunity to make art in a supportive and controlled environment. They are simple activities that range from casting to gardening, but they are a wonderful opportunity for Alzheimer's and dementia patients to get out and do something meditative. Like the kids at the YAM opening, everyone finds joy in making a mess. The YAM kids will remember it forever. The SPARK! participants will experience it in whatever way they can. Either way, something great gets left behind. A smudge and a smear can make magic appear.

Here's to you, Ruby. Memories are overrated anyways.

Sha-ZAM!= Well, that's just for fun.

This is a weird post. A beautiful oops, if you will.

"As artists we are hunter-gatherers." 
-Louise Berg, JMKAC Senior Education Specialist

No comments:

Post a Comment