By local artist and musician Karl Mullen
Curious children, aspiring artists, outdoor adventurers, and people of all ages interested in magical thinking and being inspired, that’s who.
For the past three Saturdays, I’ve led Discover, Collect, Create, a four-week series of art walks on the Clark campus exploring the winter landscape and the creative process. Ronna Tulgan Ostheimer, head of education programs at the Clark, Willinet executive director Debby Dane, and I collaborated on this program, which invites children and parents on open-ended nature walks that heighten their senses and inspire art making. And the Clark’s grounds manager Matt Noyes taught us about the trees, paths and geology of Stone Hill.
Each of the Saturday sessions is different and the participants vary, the common theme being Paul Klee’s famous observation that “drawing is a line that goes for a walk.” After discussing the concepts of line, pattern, shape and texture, we go exploring. Next thing you know, everything in sight spurs ideas for drawing: footprints on the path, animal tracks, tree branches, cloud formations, the horizon line atop Stone Hill, geometric shapes of museum buildings down below.
I encourage participants use video and their imaginations to “draw with a camera.” Thanks to an investment by Willinet in Flip cameras that will be used in this and other community projects, children zoom up the trunks trees, crouch down to capture pockets of stones hidden beneath the snow, and run with the camera to create a kind of kaleidoscope montage. One intrepid artist climbed up the trees (with mom’s supervision) to get a better vantage point for her footage. It’s about nature from the kids’ point of view.
The first Saturday of the project was 40 degrees and snowless, so participants hiked the Howard Path up Stone Hill and collected sticks, branches, leaves, and stones. They danced to a tin whistle and mimicked the rustling of golden leaves that hang onto the branches of beach trees, despite winter’s bluster. They also played piano on the trees.
The art project that week was making temporary kinetic sculptures out of birch bark installed on a majestic ash tree that crowns Stone Hill.
Week two was chillier, and, in the spirit of Paul Klee, the group took turns taking a ball of string for a walk to make wonderful line drawings in the fresh snow.
To heighten their audio awareness, they took turns playing musical instruments and listening—really listening—to their echoes off the museum building and the deadened sounds of the music throughout the snowy trails. They talked about the notion of music being a note going for a walk.
Week three saw a blizzard! Undaunted, the artists made glorious drawings with sticks and strings and left trails of circles and primary shapes that the falling snow quickly erased as nature reclaimed the temporary markings. More art-making continued inside in the warm penthouse of the Manton Research Center where participants made drawings inspired by their experience outside.
This Saturday is the fourth and final session of Discover, Collect, Create. And it looks like the weather is cooperating—as of this writing the forecast is sunny and in the 40s! Bundle up and meet us at 1:00 pm in the Clark’s courtyard lobby for a memorable artistic adventure.
Photographs by program participant Michael Stern and Karl Mullen.