As we wait to welcome you back to the Museum, work continues behind the scenes. In the conservation department, we prepare for many different disaster scenarios that might potentially strike our collection. Fire, flood, insect infestations, mold, and even terrorism are all covered in the Museum’s Emergency Preparedness Plan; COVID-19 and Wisconsin’s Safer at Home order are not. Having the Museum closed to the public for an extended period presented us with an entirely new set of challenges.
What happens when a group of curators following the Safer at Home order plays a game with works from the Museum’s collection? You’re about to find out.
Just how does Robert Indiana’s The American LOVE sculpture make its way from the truck bed to become a fixture on the lakefront? What does the back of a Robert Henri painting look like? How does a three-dimensional sculpture get packed for safe travel to Spain?
In the early 1950s, designers Charles and Ray Eames painstakingly arranged penny cars, pencils, pills, and papers to photograph for their House of Cards construction set. They probably never imagined that decades later, thousands of children and adults in the Milwaukee region would meticulously decorate their own House of Cards, let alone that these cards would be installed together in a towering spiral at the Milwaukee Art Museum in conjunction with the exhibition Serious Play: Design in Midcentury America.
Throughout the month of January, families who visited the Kohl’s Art Generation Studio made art for other kids to enjoy by contributing to a community mural that is displayed at Penfield Montessori Academy.
Penfield Montessori Academy employs a child-centered exploratory approach to learning, while also allowing children with special needs to grow in the classroom amongst their peers. They work in collaboration with Penfield Children’s Center, a fellow Kohl’s Hometown Partner, extending the opportunities that families can receive into their child’s schooling, as well as providing after-school care. Penfield Children’s Center creates a positive start in life for infants and children, many of whom have developmental delays or disabilities, by providing early education, health services, equipment, and family programming.
Penfield Montessori Academy opened for their inaugural school year in September 2016, so our Youth and Family Programs team met with their staff to brainstorm about what we could create to help beautify the school. We decided on a community mural, taking inspiration from artwork at the Museum and Penfield Montessori Academy’s mission of growing and learning together.
Being a part of this process was an amazing experience. I have the pleasure of working with a fantastic team of educators who designed this mural as a way to invite kids and their families to contribute to a project that not only provides them with a unique art making experience at the Museum, but benefits the Milwaukee community as well.
When families dropped by the studio, they drew from real flowers and plants, inspired by Nature and Opulence: The Art of Martin Johnson Heade, using a magnifying glass to get a closer look. They also drew from a variety of school supplies: pencils, scissors, glue, and other items that kids might recognize from their classrooms. Drawings were made directly onto transparencies, which were then transferred to the canvas, and painted. (See photos of the entire process in the slideshow below!)
It’s not quite as simple as I’m making it sound. We had a lot of help from our visitors, as well as incredible staff. But when it all came together… wow! Just look at this beauty!
We unveiled the mural to the students and staff on February 21st, and boy, were they excited. As a part of the unveiling, Kohl’s Color Wheels, the Museum’s off-site studio program, provided a hands-on art activity to the kids at Penfield. The kids created colorful paintings from real flowers!
Penfield Montessori Academy and Penfield Children’s Center hold a very special place in my heart with everything they do to serve families in our community. I am constantly amazed by their dedication, and I’m thrilled to call their amazing school home for this mural.
To see more photos from the mural unveiling and the beautiful paintings the kids created, check out the Flickr album.