Tag Archives: animal art

Walk on the wildlife side

Humor with snapshots is the closest I get to creating animal art

I encountered all sorts of animals during a weekend trip to Prescott with our youngest daughter Lizabeth. Live sheep and goats at the Sharlot Hall Museum’s Folk Art Fair. Dozens of dogs walking their owners at a dog fair held in Prescott’s Courtyard Plaza. And lots of horse-inspired paintings and sculpture at the Phippen Museum.

All reminded me about a new “Wildlife Restoration Ecology” program at Scottsdale Community College — which features coursework in wildlife, plant biology and ecology with “an overall emphasis on restoration of populations and habitats.” Students in the program can earn an A.S. degree at SCC, then transfer SCC credits to ASU — which offers a B.S. degree in Wildlife & Restoration Ecology.

Our son Christopher has long been interested in wildlife conservation, so this comes as exciting news. The rest of us merely admire, read about and sometimes draw animals. Turns out folks can earn a good living in wildlife-related careers, helping both people and animals in the process.

I learned while visiting the Phippen Museum on Sunday that they’re opening an exhibit called “The Wild West” next month. But don’t expect cowboys and such. Instead, the exhibit will feature “the very best in contemporary Western wildlife art.” It’ll run July 21-Oct 29 (there’s a preview and reception on July 20).

There’s much for animal lovers to enjoy at the Phippen Museum. Small sculptures of animals in an exhibit featuring miniature works. Gift shop fare including home accessories sporting beautiful images of horses. And plenty of demonstrations and activities.

Artist Edward Aldrich will share tips and techniques for drawing and painting animals during a July 21 (1-3pm) demonstration at the Phippen Museum. Artist Ken Rowe will discuss his techniques for capturing animals in art during an “Art Conversation” on Oct. 6.

Christopher’s favorite by far would be a “Live Animal Demonstration” headed to the Phippen Museum on Aug. 11. It’ll feature animal handlers from Prescott’s Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary, sharing information about native animals of Arizona — along with a few animals from the wildlife park.

A more serious artist created this work displayed in the Phippen Museum’s family area

Our girls, also in college now, would love the “Youth Art Workshop” coming to the Phippen Museum Oct. 6 were they a bit younger. The 1-2:30pm event is for kids ages 6 to 16, who’ll be able to “paint their very own 3-dimensional horse sculpture.” Lizabeth came home with a just a single souvenir of our weekend in Prescott — a small stuffed animal from the museum’s gift shop.

I’ll share more about the Phippen Museum in a future post. For now just mark your calendar with their events that pique your interest — and tell fellow wildlife lovers about the new SCC/ASU partnership. Whether through art or science, learning to appreciate wildlife is a good thing.

– Lynn

Note: Remember SCC’s Center for Native and Urban Wildlife when planning school field trips for the 2012/13 school year.

Coming up: Brooklyn meets Scottsdale, Dancing in the line of duty

Art meets awareness

A spied this child-friendly quilt featuring animals and flowers during a recent visit to the United Nations Visitors Centre in New York City

The U.N.’s World Health Organization notes that mental disorders are responsible for 13% of the global disease burden — and urges all countries to allocate more resources to mental health care. Here in the Valley, several organizations are holding events with an art twist in recognition of May as National Mental Health Month (Kids are the focus on May 9).

Detail of quilt at the U.N. Visitors Centre in NYC

The People of Color Network in Phoenix invites Valley families to join their “2nd Annual National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day” celebration from 10am to 8pm on Wed, May 9 at 4520 N. Central Ave. They’re joining several community partners for the event designed to “raise awareness about the importance of mental health in a child’s life.”

Event organizers note that “mental health is essential to a child’s healthy development from birth,” adding that their priority is “building resilience in children and youth dealing with trauma so they can reach their fullest potential.” Wednesday’s event includes an art contest and exhibits, children’s activities, and workshops for kids and parents.

Detail of quilt at the U.N. Visitors Centre in NYC

The People of Color Network provides behavioral health care services to children and adults in Maricopa County, and seeks to raise awareness throughout the state of the importance of good mental health. They’ll have information about childhood mental health at the event.

Their partners include Chicano Por La Causa, Native American Connections, Empact, Ebony House and Centro de Amistad. All work to foster best practices delivered with respect for cultural heritage.

Folks who ride the bus or light rail to the event can present their ticket at the information booth when they arrive, and they’ll be entered into a free raffle. Learn more at www.pocn.com.

– Lynn

Note: You can find “People Colors” arts and craft supplies at Lakeshore Learning Materials in Phoenix and Paradise Valley — or online.

Coming up: Disco meets “Dark Shadows,” Developing new plays for young audiences

Update: I’ll be blogging about art and mental health all month. If your Arizona organization offers art-related programs by and/or for people living with mental illness, I’d love to hear from you at rakstagemom@gmail.com. 5/8/12

I-Spy: Animal art

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Next time your children are restless, consider a friendly game of “I-spy” ala art — encouraging them to look for art in everyday places, perhaps picking a kid-friendly theme like animal art.

Most of the photos in this post were taken during my everyday travels, but one — featuring the live snake — hails from the ASU Art Museum. Folks who attend the museum’s Nov. 5 “First Saturdays for Families” event can see the anaconda pictured above.

The snake is part of an exhibition titled Juan Downey: The Invisible Architect. “Diablo is pretty magnificent,” says the museum’s Deborah Sussman Susser, “and worth a visit.” How lovely to be on a first name basis with a reptile that’s morphed into an objet d’art.

I’m told that Jean Makin, who curates the museum’s annual family exhibition each summer, has put together another show titled “Just Animals” that runs through December.

“Kids’ view of their world includes furry, feathery and sometimes scaly friends,” says Makin. “They are part of a child’s family.” So seeing prints of fuzzy cats or fluffy dogs brings “instant recognition and comfort.”

“Art,” adds Makin, “can be very complex and unapproachable to a child, but packaged in an image of an animal, it is understandable. Little kids can draw animals from their memory and heart, conveying a sense of what that animal means to them.”

Families who attend the Saturday event will enjoy opportunities other animals can’t experience — like spin-painting and making musical instruments out of recycled materials.

Parents familiar with the Blue Man Group, performing at ASU Gammage through Sunday, know that some humans actually get paid for doing such things on stage.

I suppose that if my kids were little again (they’re all in college now), I’d challenge them to imagine a world where animals had the cameras and humans were the subject of all their photos.

Then I’d turn them loose with art materials so they could play with ideas about what those animals might capture with their cameras. Something tells me we’d make hilarious subjects.

– Lynn

Note: Animals lovers should check out the “National Geographic Live! Speaker Series” at Mesa Arts Center and an upcoming Childsplay production featuring “Lyle the Crocodile.” Click here for information on the Arizona Animal Welfare League, and here for information on the Center for Native and Urban Wildlife at Scottsdale Community College (which offers tours for 4th graders).

Coming up: A loaf of bread

Prescott: Zoo tales

I remember enjoying a lovely afternoon at the Austin Zoo and Animal Sanctuary with my oldest daughter Jennifer several years ago. My imitations of one particular monkey still bring a giggle when performed for my youngest daughter Lizabeth.

It’s a much smaller affair than our own Phoenix Zoo, regarded as one of the best in the country, but has its own charms like the ability see see deer, and even a big cat, at closer than usual range. I expected something similar when visiting the Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary in Prescott last weekend.

I spent part of Sunday in Prescott with Lizabeth and two of her friends from high school — one a future marine biologist, another a future music librarian. We headed to the Zoo eager to see certain animals we’d read about online, including their big cats — but found just this one.

Apparently several of the animals weren’t on exhibit when we arrived, a little over an hour before closing on Sunday afternoon. To see them, we were told, we’d need to come earlier in the day — something easier said than done for those of us driving up from the Valley.

I’d have been happier with a waived ticket price ($8 adults, $6 students–less for seniors and young kids–but none of us qualified), or a site a bit closer to Prescott proper. Paying to see empty bear and wolf habitats isn’t my idea of a good time.

I was especially peevish once we got into Prescott and learned that the Zoo detour cost us precious time we might have spent in antique stores and art galleries, but Lizabeth and her friends were good sports who settled for other adventures I’ll share in a future post.

Many animals were in their habitats and Lizabeth was excited about seeing them. A coati. Ring-tailed lemurs. An owl and several other birds it’s nice to see up close. Plus two pot-bellied pigs pictured below with a shared soccer ball.

I was thrilled to find a wallaby habitat not noted online because it’s one of Jennifer’s favorite animals — but miffed I couldn’t get close enough to photograph it for her because the ‘walkabout’ portion of the exhibit was padlocked at the time.

Still, there were several things we enjoyed during our visit. A cheerful and helpful staff member in the zoo’s gift shop. Signs at exhibits noting animal names and basic details. The chance to see animals like lemurs outside of a movie theater.

If you don’t have your hopes set on seeing particular animals, the Prescott zoo makes for a charming stroll on days other pursuits aren’t pressing. It’s got lots of child-friendly features, including a large play structure with swings and a small play area filled with sand.

Even fun art like animal murals on the sides of buildings and a giant bug sculpture — which reminds me of the “Big Bug” exhibit coming soon to the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. The coolest exhibit space, pictured below, belongs to the tarantula.

My favorite was a giant red shoe, where I snapped a photos Lizabeth and her friends. In time, it won’t matter that some of the animals weren’t available for us to see that day. It’ll be enough that they had the time together before heading off to separate lives in an entirely different sort of zoo some call being a grown-up.

– Lynn

Note: Learn more about the Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary at www.heritageparkzoo.org. Visit www.cityofprescott.net/visitors for information on current and upcoming events in Prescott.

Coming up: Curious critters

Art meets spaghetti?

When the Blue Bike Kids Show gang premiered their “Hall of Art-O-Vation” at a recent ASU Art Museum Family Fun Day, proud parent Kimberly Flack was busy snapping photos.

Kimberly Flack snapped this photo of the Blue Bike Kids Show at work

Flack is the associate general manager of educational outreach for Eight, Arizona PBS – something I find especially nifty given that the Blue Bike Kids Show would make for a lovely public television offering.

Steve Wilcox of Blue Bike taking photos at ASU Art Museum

The Bike Bike Kids Show brought along “four new art tools invented in the Blue Bike labs” — including the “Brushghetti Brush,” created by “binding a handful of spaghetti with rubber bands and boiling the ends” to make a paintbrush.

A young artist tests the Blue Bike method for mixing art and spaghetti

Also their “Ye-Old-Chalk-Mill” (a chalk-filled pepper grinder for making art with glue stick drawings), “Roll-O-Writer” (a toy truck with marker attached so kids can race and draw at the same time) and “Drizzle Drawer” (a straw for blowing ink to make interesting patterns).

Folks who stay tuned to the Blue Bike Kids Show website can learn of other public appearances featuring the gang’s interactive installations. The Blue Bike Kids Show gang consists of three Valley artists and teachers with ties to ASU.

When I think of the Blue Bike Kids Show, I think curiosity, creativity and collaboration. Also imagination and innovation. I’m starting to wish they’d jump on those blue bikes of theirs and head to Capitol Hill, where problem-solving and playing nice seem in short supply.

This Blue Bike image reminds me of politicians facing off over raising the debt ceiling

The next First Saturdays for Families at ASU Art Museum (Sat, Aug 6 from 11am-2pm), inspired by their popular video exhibition titled “By myself and with my friends,” features all sorts of animal crafts.

Another Blue Bike photo with a science and art history twist

Also animal-inspired dancing with dancer/choreographer Elizabeth Johnson and a visit from some animal friends courtesy of the Arizona Animal Welfare League. The event is free and open to kids of all ages.

More art & photography magic from the Blue Bike Kids Show gang

And it has me wondering how the family cat Pinky might look in one of the Blue Bike Kids Show’s old-timey photos.

– Lynn

Coming up: Oh-My-Oz!

For Christopher

For our cherished son, Christopher, a sampling of powerful words and images exhibited by Young Arts Arizona at Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn Medical Center…

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For those not yet familiar with the work of Young Arts Arizona and their many community partnerships, click here to learn more. And please join me in thanking the children and teens who created these inspiring works.

– Lynn

Note: Thinking how amazing kids’ art looked when framed and exhibited? Consider framing your own children’s art for hanging at home or sharing as gifts (Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are just around the corner).

Coming up: Green Day meets ASA, Focus on Free Arts, Theater lingo: Greasepaint

Art adventures: Phoenix Children’s

One of a pair of prints featuring children's toys

It might seem an odd place for an art adventure, but I uncovered all sorts of paintings, photos and sculpture on a recent visit to the new 11-story tower at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

I swung by the hospital one day after taking Lizabeth to school — and ran into Steve Schnall, a fellow Desert View Learning Center parent and longtime PCH administrator, just outside the cafeteria.

You see art at PCH from the minute elevator doors open

“What happens in the PCH cafeteria,” I thought, “should stay in the PCH cafeteria.” Happily, he was way too busy to witness my carbo binge as I morphed from arts writer to food critic.

I wondered how the pizza and bread sticks would compare with my kids’ favorite pizzeria at the mall, and felt it was my duty to find out. Thumbs up, by the way, for the spicy pepperoni and generous crust.

Giant art piece viewed from a family laundry room on the third floor

I’d have stayed and “done the laptop” all day if I’d been clever enough to access the guest wireless account, but ended up roaming the first couple floors instead — searching for kid-friendly art.

You’ll be happy to know that you won’t get far at PCH without signing in, snagging a visitor pass and such. I learned the hard way after turning my camera loose before connecting with the fine folks who manage such things.

When a volunteer and security guard got to wondering that I was up to, I felt like I’d just time-traveled back to my college days — when museum security guards had to constantly remind me that artwork was for admiring, not touching.

As I sat with a security guard waiting for clearance to finish my photo shoot, I noticed that every single person who walked by one particular piece of art had to touch it.

One of many bright and cheerful conversation areas on the second floor

Instead of shaking a finger, the security guard shared my delight — remarking that the best art invites interaction. Once I was cleared for take-off, he pointed me in the direction of some of his favorite pieces.

The three paintings of coy fish in a 2nd floor waiting area. The two photos of frogs, in brilliant green and purple, tucked away near the back of another clinic’s reception area.

This is the piece on the second floor that folks find so touchable

The rabbit sculpture near one of the tower’s many vast windows overlooking mountains in the distance. The painting of a dog at the wheel of a colorful car.

Turns out he’s an artist who creates some serious oil paintings when he’s not on duty. Thanks to a handy cell phone picture, he was able to show me a photo of a horse painting that looked remarkably expressive and rich in detail and color.

Knowing he was on duty, I didn’t want to inquire any further into his work. But I do hope he’ll contact me one day during his spare time so I can learn more about what seems a fascinating double life.

One of a trio of paintings featuring coy fish

And I have to wonder, how many of the people we encounter each day spend their evening or weekend hours engaged in creative enterprises that never reach our radar?

After penning nearly 500 posts, I still find the world exploding with stories — some obvious, but most tucked away. They’re revealed in chance encounters, authentic conversations and the everyday wonders of our world.

– Lynn

Note: Many Valley hospitals serving children feature child-friendly artwork, so make time to notice and appreciate it next time you’re there.

Coming up: Google meets museum

“Hairspray” is big fun

Shawna Quain, Chase Todd, Lillian Castillo, Antyon Le Monte and D. Scott Withers (center) of Phoenix Theatre's "Hairspray" Photo: Laura Durant

Big hair. Big props. Big set pieces. Big band. Big vocals. Big dance numbers. Big talent. Big message. Big fun.

You’ll find it all in Phoenix Theatre’s production of “Hairspray,” which runs through Dec 12.

I’m often drawn to particular shows for sentimental reasons. They remind me of an early childhood experience, relate somehow to a cause I support or feature folks we know as teachers or friends.

This time around it was three actors in particular.  

D. Scott Withers, who’s been with Childsplay in Tempe just a wee bit longer than I’ve been a mom, perfectly plays Edna Turnblad’s transformation from mousy to magnificent. (Though, sadly, his ironing skills appear to be lacking.)

Toby Yatso, a Phoenix Theatre artist-in-residence and member of the theater faculty at Arizona School for the Arts who plays Corny Collins, offers a performance that blends pristine attention to detail with a big, bold bundle of energy. (An observation shared with me by an astute ASA student who also attended on Saturday.) 

And Dion Johnson, who we first met a decade or so ago when Lizabeth was one of many daughters to his King in the Greasepaint Youtheatre production of “The King and I,” makes for a hilarious hat-donning and hip-thrusting Wilbur Turnblad. (With him, Edna doesn’t hear the bells — she feels them.)

I also give big marks to Antyon Le Monte, who makes his Phoenix Theatre debut as Seaweed, and Chase Todd, whose performance as Link Larkin makes you wonder whether the stork delivered him in a skinny tie and dancing shoes.

My daughter Lizabeth was thrilled to see Yolanda London make her Phoenix Theatre debut in “Hairspray” (Kamilah, Hooker, Female Ensemble). She’s another longtime favorite from Childsplay, where Lizabeth has enjoyed London’s big talent and big heart as an instructor in their Childsplay Academy.

She’s one of many women whose performances made us smile ourselves silly and tap our toes like there’s no tomorrow.

Jacqueline Rushing (Little Inez) was last seen in Mesa Encore Theatre’s “Once on This Island” and I became a fan the second I read these words in her “Hairspray” bio — “In her spare time she enjoys writing stories and inhaling books.”

Andi Watson, who plays the delightfully devious Velma Von Tussle, was last seen as Poppy in Phoenix Theatre’s “Noises Off.” Her off-stage adventures include “photography and maternity casting.” She’s also co-founder of Living Arts Studio.

Daughter Amber Von Tussle is capably played by Jacqueline Dunford, a music major at Scottsdale Community College making her professional theater debut.

Shawna Weitekamp (Penny Pingleton) is a Phoenix Theatre repeat offender (it’s a good thing) whose bio advocates the benefits of eating healthy chocolate. Perhaps she can get the folks in San Francisco to replace all those banned Happy Meal toys with candy bars.

Lillian Castillo plays trailblazing teen Tracy Turnblad in Phoenix Theatre's "Hairspray" Photo: Laura Durant

Audience favorites included Lillian Castillo as the spunky and single-minded Tracy Turnblad, whose insistence on racial integration on the dance floor shows that one person (often a teen) truly can change the world.

Also De Angelus Grisby (Motormouth Maybelle), whose bio includes this note to sons Roman and Elijah — “Thank you for allowing your mother to dream out loud on the stage.” Her vocal performance of “I Know Where I’ve Been” left the woman sitting next to me dabbing tears away with a tissue while other audience members stood to applaud.

They didn’t wait until the show was over, which tells you just how moved they were by her soul — and the collective strength of the ensemble singing behind her. It was the finest vocal performance I’ve ever experienced in Valley theater.

The creative team is no less impressive. It includes director Michael Barnard, choreographer Robert Kolby Harper, and resident music director Alan Ruch. Michael J. Eddy, also well loved in youth theater circles, is production manager and lighting designer.

Phoenix native Katie McNamara, a graduate of Southern Utah University and one-time prop artisan with the Utah Shakespearean Festival (now the Utah Shakespeare Festival), does property design with pizzazz. The equally impressive scenic design is by Robert Andrew Kovach.

Wig designer Gerard Kelly did “Hair” on Broadway, but my one criticism of the show is that not all the coiffed cast members turned it loose during their final dance numbers — looking like they feared their hair might end up flying across the room. So ladies, let your hair down.

A few things of note in this particular musical…

References to bygone days and ways are plentiful. The more you know about Geritol, Perry Como, Ripple, Cooties, Mydol and Green Stamps — the more lines you’ll meet with laughter.

The sexual inuendo is relatively tame but there’s enough of it to satisfy those who go for such things. And “Hairspray” is a dream for one-liner lovers with quips like “I lost my man and my hair deflated in one day.”

Lillian Castillo and D. Scott Withers of Phoenix Theatre's "Hairspray" Photo: Laura Durant

Whether you go just for the fun of it or for the fabulous social justice vibe of this “Welcome to the ’60s” musical, you’ll find plenty of what you’re looking for.

I think it’s an especially powerful show for teens in an age of face-to-face and online bullying.

The message is simple, but timeless.

Big is beautiful. Black is beautiful. Being yourself is beautiful.

Above all, follow your dreams. Remain loyal. And keep moving forward.

– Lynn

Note: The musical “Hairspray” features book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Scott Wittman. Click here for Phoenix Theatre ticket information. Read yesterday’s post titled “Saturdays & serendipity” to learn more about Lynn’s “Stage Mom” adventures before and after the show.

Coming up: Art in the animal world, Pearls from “Playing for Change,” Art adventures: City of Surprise, Museum exhibit that asks “Are we that different?”

The fine art of animals

Scene from Childsplay's "A Year With Frog and Toad"

I got to thinking about art with an animal theme as I was making plans to attend “A Year With Frog and Toad,” the opening production of Childsplay’s 33rd season, which runs Sept 18 to Oct 16 (Sat/Sun 1pm & 4pm) at Tempe Center for the Arts.

Turns out there are plenty of theater works for children who enjoy animals of all shapes and sizes — including another Childsplay offering (“Go, Dog, Go!”) scheduled for Jan 29-March 6 of next year, and a Phoenix Theatre Cookie Company production of “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” to run Nov 19-28 at Greasepaint Theatre in Scottsdale.

The Great Arizona Puppet Theater closes its run of “Baby Bear Goes to School” on Sept 12, but has oodles of animal fare lined up for the rest of their season — including “Jack in the Beanstalk,” “Apolodo,” “Little Bunny’s Halloween,” “The Little Red Hen,” “Cinderella,” “The Tale of Peter Rabbit,” “The Monkey and the Pirate,” “The Three Little Pigs” and more.

Scene from Childsplay's "Go, Dog, Go!"

I’m especially intrigued by “Apolodo” — which the puppet meisters will perform one night only, Sept 17, at 8pm. It’s based on a poem by Gellu Naum, “one of the greatest Romanian avant-garde poets.”

It’s the tale of a little penguin from a great circus in Budapest who has a full time job as a tenor and entertainer — and “is a bit of an actor on the ice rink.” Sounds like most of my multi-tasking theater friends.

Scene from Great Arizona Puppet Theater's "Apolodor"

Great Arizona Puppet Theater often presents work that increases youth appreciation for wildlife and their habitats.

In “Hotel Saguaro” (Feb 2-20, 2011), grandpa Sammy tells little Sammy about the relationship between desert animals and the saguaro cactus. With “Canyon Condor” (Feb 23-March 6) children learn about the importance of the condor and protecting its environmental niche.

I recall enjoying many a show by the Great Arizona Puppet Theater when my three children, now ages 17-21, were younger. It’s a wonderful introduction to the joys of storytelling, live theater and communal arts experiences.

"Dancing Bear" by Inuit artist Pauta Siala (from Heard Museum in Phoenix)

Many a Valley museum features animal-related arts and culture — including the Heard Museum (which has both Phoenix and North Scottsdale locations). I’m especially fond of the polar bears and other North American wildlife depicted in their “Inuit Art” collection, but visitors also can enjoy a host of other animal art from several different cultures — created in all sorts of mediums. The Heard Museum is an especially fun place to play games like “How many fish can you see in this room?” or “Can you find a wolf in this exhibit?”

Keep an eye out for animal-related art at local zoos, nature centers, animal rescue organizations and wildlife habitats. The Phoenix Zoo offers their next “Wild Art” class for 2-5 year olds at 9:30am on Sept 25. (Did you know that koalas are headed their way?) Take a sketch pad and some charcoal or colored pencils along on animal/nature adventures and create your own animal-inspired art.

"Animals and People" by Inuit artist Winnie Tatla (from Heard Museum in Phoenix)

If birds or butterflies are your thing, check the offerings at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson.

Upcoming art gallery exhibits at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum include an “Art Institute Student Show” opening Oct 2 and “The World of Nature in Miniatures” opening Dec 11.

Several of the Native American petroglyphs at the Deer Valley Rock Art Center depict animals. The museum also offers an educational program called “Ollie’s Storybook Adventures” which offers “fun and interactive ways for children to learn about…plants, animals and archeology of the American southwest.”

Cat in the Hat” fans (of all ages) can now enjoy a new television series on PBS. “The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That,” which first aired on Monday, introduces young children to the wonders of science and the natural world. Comedy lovers may be especially delighted with the choice of actors to voice the role of the Cat — Martin Short (featured just last season at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts).

"Raptors of Arizona" opens Sept 11 at the ASDM Art Institute (Pictured is Richard Sloan's "Harris' Hawk")

Movie buffs who love animal fare can look for a 3-D film about two wolves named Kate and Humphrey opening soon in theaters Valleywide. “Alpha and Omega” also features angry bears, prickly porcupines and a golfing goose with a duck for a caddy.

Remember too that museum gift shops often offer unique animal-related gifts like the mouse-shaped cheese grater I recently picked up at the Phoenix Art Museum gift shop for a certain pasta-lover at our house. I also found a fanciful stuffed animal (a “Deglingos” offering called “Pikos the Hedgehog”) at the Phoenix Art Museum online shop. Alas — I have so far been unsuccessful in landing the rare “Mr. Pricklepants” of thespian and “Toy Story 3″ fame.

Mireya Mayor (photo by Mark Thiessen) comes to the MAC in 2011

Finally, you can enjoy any or all of four “National Geographic Live!” events coming to Mesa Arts Center this season. The first, featuring “Ocean Adventures” with Jean-Michel Cousteau, takes place Oct 20. The final event in the series this season  (March 23, 2011) will feature Mireya Mayor — pictured above with a new lemur species she discovered.

If your organization or venue offers visual or performing arts with an animal theme, please comment below to let our readers know.

– Lynn

Kennedy Center tour hits Higley

Note: Higley Center for the Performing Arts presents a rare treat on Nov 16 for school children pre-K to 1st grade — the touring production of “Knuffle Bunny, A Cautionary Musical” presented by Kennedy Center Theater for Young Audiences. Reservations are required.

Coming up: Sampling of symphonies, A weekend of “Bollywood & beyond”

Here are the answers to trivia questions posed in a recent “Laugh Your Brass Off” post about this weekend’s production of “The Music Man” with The Phoenix Symphony and Phoenix Theatre: “The Music Man” received the 1958 Tony Award for “Best Musical” nominated alongside “New Girl in Town,” “Oh, Captain!,” “Jamaica,” and “West Side Story.” Actors who have performed the role of Winthrop Paroo on stage or screen include Ron (then “Ronnie”) Howard, Eddie Hodges, Cameron Monaghan and Christian Slater.

Pop goes the easel!

Sometimes pop art isn't pretty

Lest you think my fascination with pop culture extends only as far as the green room, I thought I’d treat you to a taste of Valley venues featuring pop art of the visual variety.

The Heard Museum in Phoenix (there’s another location in Scottsdale) currently features four “changing exhibits,” including one titled “Pop! Popular Culture in American Indian Art.”

It’s described by the Heard as a collison of pop culture and innovation with traditional art forms and cultures.

Works include fashion, graffiti art, comics, pottery and beadwork–reflecting “contemporary issues and imagery in an often comedic, tongue-in-cheek way.”

Let your kids believe you're reading it because they like it

The wonderful thing about most museums is that they feature multiple exhibits, so there’s often a little something (or a lot of somethings) for everyone in the family.

Other kid-friendly changing exhibitions currently at the Heard Museum include “Hopi Katsina Dolls: 1oo Years of Carving” and “Arctic Spirit: Inuit Art from the Albrecht Collection.”

Who doesn’t love dolls and animals?

Ask yourself: What would Warhol do?

There’s also the “Allan Houser: Tradition to Abstraction” exhibit featuring large sculptures, paintings, drawings and more by “one of the most important artists of the 20th century.”

Art critics could give you lots of reasons to check it out but I just think Houser’s work is cool.

It’s smooth, clean, tranquil. All the things I have a hard time finding at home some days.

If you have a chance, explore a bit of the museum’s “About the Exhibit” section on the “Pop!” portion of their website. You’ll enjoy a mini-tour through the origins and evolution of pop art–which blossomed during the ’60s, a “decade of social change in which questions of identity, civic roles and political authority were paramount.”

Can pop art ever heal a broken heart?

Your teens might think they’re the only ones who wrestle with such issues, but art is your living proof that we all share the questions of the ages. Exhibits such as these can encourage young people to make the creation and enjoyment of art a part of piecing together their own answers–or fashioning their own questions.

Check out the “music playlists” featured on the “Pop!” portion of the Heard Museum website.

“Pop!” curator Diana Pardue favors everything from the Rascals and Jimi Hendrix to Jefferson Airplane and Otis Redding.

Pick pop art for playtime

Caesar Chaves, creative director and graphic designer for “Pop!,” says his mix includes everything from David Bowie to Petula Clark–end even added a Miley Cyrus tune for his daughter.

Senior exhibit designer and mannequin dresser for “Pop!,” Melissa Martinez, wins the contest for one name favorites–which include Elvis, Madonna, Nirvana, Aqua and Nelly. (And hey, how cool does that job sound?)

I’m feeling rather inspired to visit with one or more of my young adult children so I can challenge them to develop an apres-viewing playlist that reflects their impressions of the exhibit. No doubt at least one of them will open their set with “Pop Goes the Weasel!”

Even the peace sign has gone pop art!

I’d have a harder time designing a playlist for “Jump to Japan: Discovering Culture Through Popular Art,” currently on exhibit at the Arizona Museum for Youth in Mesa.

I’d simply default to searching for a live recording of a Bruce Springsteen concert in Japan and call it a day. Any child from preschool age up could run circles around me when it comes to breadth and depth of knowledge about anime (animation art), manga (comic art) and other popular art forms of Japan.

I suppose that means that I need to visit the exhibit myself just to broaden my own horizons–and to try and keep up. Just so you know, I’m waiting for cell phone technology out of any country that’ll allow me to do everything by voice. I’m so over typing text messages on those teensy little toy-like keypads.

Pop art can make for a pleasing pet

In any event, these exhibits won’t last forever. So hop online to learn more about specific dates/times and costs. During recessionary times, you may not have the ability to shop until you drop. But never fear–I find that it’s equally satisfying to “pop until you drop!”


Note: If you really want to “click to look inside” the pop art books pictured here, you’ll have to visit www.amazon.com or another online book source. To learn more about pop art exhibits in the Valley, check out “Pop Art” by Niki D’Andrea in the July 24-30, 2010 issue of “Phoenix New Times.” Or click here to see an article about a Valley exhibit by an artist whose big brother battled schizophrenia.

Coming up: Fundraisers for Valley arts organizations (feel free to send your info to rakstagemom@gmail.com)