Tag Archives: art and science

Get creative!

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The weather’s too lovely for living at my laptop these days, so I headed to the Mesa Festival of Creativity with my son Christopher recently after Mala Blomquist raved about her family’s last Mirazozo experience. He gravitated towards the LEGO brick creations from guitar to cactus, even a LEGO brick portrait of artist Dave Shaddix’s father.

We chatted at length with Brian Scott of Building Bonanza, who eagerly told me about their camp, school and community programs. The Chandler-based business, started in 2009 to provide after-school programs, is run by three friends seeking to teach students life skills like “communication, teamwork, problem solving and critical creative thinking.”

After watching several families working on a community LEGO build, we explored several other hands-on activities taking place around the Mesa Arts Center where I’m often found enjoying the works of resident performing arts groups – Southwest Shakespeare Company, Ballet Etudes, East Valley Children’s Theatre and plenty more.

We watched families folding origami birds at the Bookmans Activity Area, and spied several birds that’d been created earlier and hung on trees outside the Mesa Arts Center entrance. Then discovered James Reid juggling and sharing “how to” tips with children gathered all around while a nearby stilt walker from Taylor Family Troupe exchanged plastic bowling pins with a little girl who looked mesmerized. Also a trio doing mime time donned in white.

We saw seniors choosing fabric strips to tie onto a community weaving wall — a long bit of fencing outside the Mesa Contemporary Arts museum (currently home to several exhibits) which is also sporting all sorts of signs with creativity-related quotes during the festival that runs from noon to 9pm each day through Sun, March 18. And we enjoyed music on two outdoor stages.

Most of the younger set was busy exploring “The Desert is My Playground” — a group of interactive artworks created by a team of artists and technicians led by Boyd Branch and Daniel Roth. I tried my hand at playing a cactus pipe organ, and spotted children floating paper rocks down a water feature before heading over to a portion of the MAC parking lot transformed into a chalk art canvas — where we also marveled over the design and scale of the inflatable “Mirazozo” sculpture.

We went in search of the giant “Earth Harp” after Robin, who was rocking the Arizona SciTech Festival booth, told us it was a must see — but the knee my kids have taken to calling “delapidated” wasn’t up to the task after my first attempt to find it failed. Best to hit just two more high points, I decided — sample classes in the MAC Art Studios and, of course, the gift shop.

Christopher will be the first to tell you that there’s no such thing as seeing “just two more things” in my world. Soon we were talking with one artist about musical instruments made of paint cans and another about his hanging metal work depicting Arizona’s 5 Cs. After exploring the Mesa festival, I’m inclined to lobby for the addition of a sixth — creativity.

I might have walked right by the incredible classroom and camp spaces at MAC were it not for a teaching artist who beckoned me in with a silkscreened square of fabric bearing a shamrock. Lucky call. She introduced me to Billy Jones, arts education program coordinator, who described teaching high school English to one of my friends at MAC. I assured him that he’d done good — then paused to admire works crafted by young campers.

After exploring space used to throw and fire pottery, I realized that this might be just the place I was looking for — a home for my oldest daughter, Jennifer, who’s been creating with anything she can get her hands on since she was a wee little thing. And I remembered my own ceramic works created in high school art classes back when art and science weren’t seen as dichotomous.

The Mesa Festival of Creativity is a fun place to explore the overlapping worlds of art and science, best appreciated by parents who understand the importance of unhurried, open-ended play that lets children take the lead in their own journeys of discovery. Thanks to Mala and Mirazozo for inspiring us to take it all in.

– Lynn

Note: While at MAC, you can view artworks created through MAC’s creative aging program, enjoy student art exhibitions at the MAC Art Studios and sign up for the museum shop’s new gift registry. Click here to learn more about ticketed events from concerts to theater productions — and remember that the area is also home to three additional museums. The Mesa Festival of Creativity runs through March 18. Click here to enjoy Mala’s amazing photos of Mirazozo inside and out!.

Coming up: Musings from “Lynn’s Library,” Smashed!, Art meets U.N.

Bringing art alive

Learn more about this Van Gogh-inspired artwork at http://www.edunloaded.com

The Arizona Science Center in Phoenix is the first venue in North America to host a touring exhibition titled “Van Gogh Alive,” which was created by Grande Exhibitions in Australia. Two members of the Australia group were on hand for its opening, which presented some challenges because everything was designed for 220 volts rather than 100 volts.

The exhibition materials arrived in just two trucks, according to Janice Dell of the Arizona Science Center. Seems the recent pirate-theme exhibition required 40. So there’s much to love about the exhibit before you even see it. It’s got a smaller environmental footprint than most, so proponents of all things green can rejoice.

Learn more about this Van Gogh-inspired artwork at http://www.thecraftycrow.net

Though some have been surprised to learn that the Arizona Science Center is hosting an exhibition focused primarily on art, Dell hails the historical connection between art and science. There’s plenty of evidence, including the work of Leonardo DaVinci, to support her observation that fields like art and math are fundamentally intertwined.

Van Gogh Alive” demonstrates that art, music and language are similarly connected. Visitors to the exhibition enter a pitch black entryway that opens onto a vast space full of giant panels awash with Van Gogh’s works, a lone black wall with rotating quotes and musical selections from Van Gogh’s own period in history. Images also scroll over several groupings of large platforms on the ground.

Several people were experiencing the exhibition during my visit, and it seemed they all had a different way of approaching it. I focused on Van Gogh’s quotes — on everything from nature and friendship to colors and poetry — glancing all around me as related images scrolled over giant screens on nearby walls, columns and platforms. Self-portraits. Famous and lesser known paintings. Handwritten letters. Simple and sophisticated sketches. Photos from the time.

Others seemed more gripped by the images, or music and sound. Dell notes that the music is meant to mirror Van Gogh’s changing moods. It shifts throughout from light and airy to somber. Sometimes with a slow, consistent tempo — other times with a fast, irregular pace. Even those not well versed in classical music will find familiarity in much of what they hear.

While museums have been trending for many years towards featuring more interactive exhibits, Dell notes that this type of exhibition takes the museum experience to a whole new level through “immersion.” It’s plenty effective. After spending time with “Van Gogh Alive,” I began to feel a part of his world. I know Van Gogh, the artist and the man, better for having seen it.

Learn more about this Van Gogh-inspired artwork at http://www.meetthemasters.com

I suspect that children will be as wowed by the technology used in the exhibition as they are by the works of art. It’s all good, and we’ll all be seeing more of it as museums continue to finesse the fine art of adapting new tools to showcase classic and contemporary works.

Parents hoping to bring out the artist in their child should remember that Van Gogh didn’t paint with real passion until well into adulthood. His first loves as a child and teen were spending time in nature, and losing himself in books. Tell them the story of Van Gogh before you go, and make art materials available if they run home inspired to create their own works.

But remember that artists blossom in different seasons. Not all will show an early interest or affinity for drawing or painting. But all can benefit from learning to approach the world with genuine curiosity, an open mind and keen powers of observation. Make time and space in your child’s world for moments of serendipity and spontaneity. That’s the best way to bring art alive.

– Lynn

Note: The Arizona Science Center is holding a “Van Gogh Valentine’s Soiree” (Tues, Feb. 14, 6-10pm) for singles and couples that includes time with the “Van Gogh Alive” exhibition, planetarium star shows, a romantic selection of treats and more. Call 602-716-2028 to learn more or make your reservations for this event at valetinesreservations@azscience.org. And remember the Arizona Science Center gift shop for Valentine’s Day gifts for the kiddos.

Coming up: To protect and preserve

From acting to anatomy

Robyn McBurney, the medical student formerly known as actor

We’re not supposed to choose favorites. But I always suspected, while my daughter was at Arizona School for the Arts in Phoenix, that one particular theater student was destined for a life on stage.

Her instincts, her timing, her coupling of cynicism with compassion. All made her a perfect vessel for capturing and conveying the essence of human nature. Her mom would have been perfectly justified in clearing display space several years ago for that first Tony or Obie Award.

But Robyn McBurney chose another path. In less than a week, she’ll start a five-year program in medicine at Norwich Medical School, part of the University of East Anglia. Norwich City bills itself as “the most medieval city in Britain.” Think castle, cathedral and cobble streets.

Intrigued by McBurney’s choice, I asked her to share a bit about why she was trading acting for anatomy. She graciously offered up the college application essay that helped her land the gig, which I’m honored to share with “Stage Mom” readers. My only change was separating her work, in italics below, into paragraphs.

When you have done something all your life, it is difficult to tell that there are entire parts of yourself that have never been explored. I am trained in classical, contemporary and improvisational acting, as well as technical design and work for theatre, directing, choreography, and playwriting.

One of my acting teachers brought guests into class one day, and while they were there our teacher casually asked us to raise our hands if we were planning on going to university to study theatre. Around me 4 hands shot into the air, a fifth following behind a bit more hesitantly. That class had only 6 students.

Robin McBurney applying gore make-up to one of the students who chose acting studies, who now hopes McBurney will become better at healing wounds than creating them

At that moment, I realized that there was more to me than pursuing what I could already do. I saw the future as a place of potential, of novelty and challenges, a place where theatre helps me find my footing, but where it’s up to me to find my own balance.

I wanted to study what would give me a chance to make a difference in individual lives, give me the opportunity to see humans from the outside for once, instead of always trying on new characters. I have the opportunity to create who I am, and I want to be a doctor.

When I came out to my parents as interested in medicine they were initially shocked of course, they thought it was just a phase that I was maybe too caught up in the glamour of television doctors, the latter of which was certainly true at first, but in that respect they were right and the desire to stroll casually into bars after a long day at the hospital, still wearing my lab coat, was replaced by a desire to know. I want to know the answers, especially to people.

I realized that, though I don’t believe in fate, my whole life had been preparing me for this step that I am now ready to take. I have, of course, prepared myself for this step in conscious ways, doing a summer of hospital volunteer work, becoming certified in CPR, First Aid and use of an AED by the American Heart Association, studying biology and chemistry and physics, but I have also been preparing for years in ways that I couldn’t have recognized until now.

Some important elements of medicine are teamwork, leadership, and making calculated decisions under time constraints, all of which I have been doing for years, under a different name. Leading the Technical Crew for a theatrical production is not unlike working with patients as a doctor; however, in that situation, the entire production is the patient.

Future medical student Robyn McBurney (kneeling) working her theater tech magic for an Arizona School for the Arts Showcase held at ASU Gammage in Tempe

As a techie, you must know the show with complete conviction and how it ought to run to be able to anticipate any problems that may arise, much in the same way that doctors must fully understand human anatomy so that they can anticipate any major problems that could occur if they find any deviation from the norm.

Through tech work, I have recognized that there are different ways to approach a problem. A prop that breaks onstage five minutes into the first act could easily be ignored, but if it is a danger to the actors, or perhaps becomes an integral part of the plot later on, it must be fixed quickly. They must address the problem as soon as it occurs, and, once the immediate danger is avoided, find a way to modify the prop so that it remains operational for the remainder of the run.

A doctor has the responsibility to care for the patient, to make sure that anything that needs to be fixed is fixed, whether it is a fix intended to solve a specific anomaly, or it is a fix that will circumvent any future problems caused by an underlying condition of the patient.

McBurney sporting basic black--perfect with lab coats and surgical scrubs

When a doctor leaves work each evening, no one will line up outside to nervously catch a glimpse of them. A doctor who performs will not get a standing ovation. As a technician, I have made a difference that may or may not be recognized, but I have made a lasting impact nevertheless.

Healing, to me, means raising the quality of life, whether through the art of medicine or of theatre. I want to be able to heal in a physical way, as well as in an artistic way, realizing my full potential.

You’ll want to set this baby aside in case you need proof one day that training in the arts has all sorts of applications beyond the stage. Should the paramedics ever find their way to my door, I hope they won’t mind ferrying me over to Norwich.

– Lynn

Note: Were McBurney attending acting school, I’d send her off with “Break a leg!” But I suppose that’s frowned on in doctor world. Instead, I’m pleased to share a bit of fashion inspiration with McBurney as she enters British life – Visit www.youtube.com and search for 100 Years/Style/East London. No thank you card is necessary.

Coming up: Exploring Chinese arts and culture, A pair of pandoras

Vegas has a children’s museum?

This mural greets visitors as they first enter the Lied Discovery Children’s Museum in downtown Las Vegas…

Interactive museum exhibits make learning fire and water safety fun…

Hands-on exploration is encouraged throughout the museum…

The museum’s mini-city teaches children about using energy wisely…

Several museum exhibits feature a healthy eating and good nutrition theme…

Museum exhibits encourage children to explore community life…

Several exhibits focus on performing arts like theater and music…

The museum is filled with artwork created by visiting children and families…

Science-related exhibits include this tornado and a hurricane wind simulator…

Several exhibits show practical applications of math and science…

The museum is full of activities that families can enjoy together…

A demonstration area looks like the set of a television cooking show…

You had to know there would be neon somewhere in a Las Vegas museum…

The museum has areas for mechanical science, medical science and more…

Every now and then parents actually let their children try something first…

Visit the museum online to learn about plans to move/expand on the strip…

– Lynn

Coming up: Photo tour of the Children’s Museum of Phoenix

Origami & beyond

I was struck by a series of hanging paper cranes during a recent visit to Poets House in New York City. Origami is the one form of art I simply can’t pass by without pausing — perhaps because it seems the perfect blend of purposeful and playful.

There’s a similar exhibit as you enter the Arizona Museum for Youth in Mesa, inside a foyer that also houses a giant hanging paper crane. Recently I visited the museum with my adult son Christopher, who’s been enjoying the museum with me since he was just knee-high.

We explored the museum’s ArtZone — which currently features an exhibit titled “One Thousand Paper Cranes.” Exhibit materials note that in Japan it’s believed that a wish comes true for the person who folds 1,000 paper origami cranes. 

A sign at the museum invites visitors to fold paper cranes in an effort to secure their wish for world peace — collecting them for shipment to Hiroshima, Japan — where they’ll hang in the Children’s Peace Monument.

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Admirers of Japanese and other Asian art can always find it in the Phoenix Art Museum’s permanent Asian Collection. Its offerings, which can be viewed online, include several Japanese prints and screens.

Phoenix Art Museum holds its next “First Wednesday Asian Gallery Talk” at noon on August 3. It’s free with museum admission or membership.

The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix presents a “Museum Encounter” with Bobby Seigetsu Avstreih and the Japanese Shakuhachi Flute at 11:30am and 2:30pm on Aug 6. It’s free with museum admission.

Through Each Others Eyes, an organization that uses photography to promote international understanding, has a photographic exchange exhibit with Japanese photographers. It’s the 17th such exchange between photographers in sister cities Phoenix and Himeji.

The Japanese Friendship Garden (Ro Ho En) in Phoenix, which closes for the summer months, is holding an “Opening Day Celebration” on Oct 1. Their annual “Moonviewing Festival” (Ot sukimi) takes place Oct. 15.

Musical theater fans are keeping an eye on the development of “Allegiance — A New American Musical,” which follows a family touched by the internment of Japanese Americans in parts of the U.S. following the attack on Pearl Harbor. “Allegiance” is described as a work about “love, loss and heroism.”

Cast members include Lea Salonga as Gloria Suzuki, George Takei as Old Sam Omura and Telly Leung as Young Sam Omura. A private workshop was held last week in New York, and the musical will enjoy a world premiere next year at the Old Globe theatre in San Diego.

If you share my love for origami, or you have yet to appreciate its wonder, check out the PBS “Independent Lens” film titled “Between the Folds.” It features the art and science of origami by exploring the work of ten powerful paper-folders.

You can learn more about the history of origami and all sorts of paper-folding resources from PBS “Independent Lens” online. But your best bet is still buying a bunch of origami paper so you and your children can learn by doing.

– Lynn

Note: Start today if your family celebrates Christmas and you’d like to decorate your tree this year with paper cranes like those shown in one of the images above. Paper cranes and other origami or kirigami (paper cutting) art also make beautiful garlands and table decorations.

Coming up: Valley studios offering acting classes

Nifty photo opps

A tool of the trade for the Blue Bike Kids Show gang

Recently the Blue Bike Kids Show shared a few photos taken with their nifty Time-O-Portation device, which inspired me to go in search of photo exhibits around the Valley.

The Phoenix Art Museum presents “Pure Photography, Post Production and Mixed Media” through August 14.

Mesa Contemporary Arts at the Mesa Arts Center presents “Picturing Maricopa” through August 7. It features photographs by 15 photographers who worked with 15 non-profits to capture images of “crisis care for vulnerable populations.” If legislators continue their “slice and dice” approach to health and human services, the gallery will need a lot more exhibit space dedicated to this topic.

Dallin Branch photographed by the Blue Bike Kids Show gang

Shemer Art Center and Museum in Phoenix presents “Seeking the Source: Water in the Desert” featuring works by photographer Bryon Darby through July 28.

If art and desert environments are your thing, check out the “Desert Initiative” led by Greg Esser at the ASU Art Museum. The project supports “independent and collaborative research into desert cultures and environments through the arts and sciences.”

Ellie Branch photographed by the Blue Bike Kids Show gang

The Scottsdale Gallery Association presents a “Summer Spectacular Art Walk” Thurs, July 7, from 7-9pm — featuring artist receptions, live music and prize drawings. Several participating galleries exhibit photographic works.

Method Art Gallery, for example, specializes in “photography, contemporary art and local artists.” And “Ancient Light Gallery” features the fine art photography of Cheyenne L. Rouse, who uses digital techniques to “capture rusted, abandoned artifacts of The Old West.”

Rouse offers walking photo tours of historic Old Town Scottsdale, spending time at her gallery talking with participants about their goals for the tour before heading out for a one-hour shooting session.

Meet the Blue Bike Kids Show gang at Tempe Beach Park on Sunday

I’m still partial to photos captured in that funky Time-O-Portation thing operated by the Blue Bike Kids Show trio, but I’ll try to keep an open mind. Those of you who have yet to meet the Blue Bike Kids Show gang can head to Tempe Beach Park Sun, June 26 from 5-7pm.

They’re hosting a free picnic complete with hot dogs, root beer floats and purple cows — and tell me the BBQ will be fired up for those of you who want to bring your own fare for the grill.

Expect a celebratory vibe (and maybe even an “Old-Timey full body swim suit” sighting) since they’re off and running with production of their first full-length show. Though no RSVP is needed, you might want to let them know if you’re joining the fun. A massive run on purple cows could get ugly.

– Lynn

Note: If your venue or organization has a photography exhibit this summer, just comment below to let our readers know. And click here to learn about other exhibits in the Valley.

Coming up: Photos from Ground Zero

Let it snow!

There’s a lovely gentleman who bags groceries at a Safeway store in Scottsdale who has an uncanny ability to remember weather-related facts and statistics.

Predicting snow is tricky business--especially in the Valley of the Sun

I’m tempted to make a quick milk and bread run just to get his take on the prospect of snow falling in the Valley this week. He’ll likely know when and where we last saw snowflakes in these parts.

If I want to move from the statistics of snow to the science of snow, I’ll head to the Arizona Science Center in downtown Phoenix.

Their “Science of Snow Week” runs through Sat, Jan 1 – from 10am to 2pm daily. It features “special winter-themed activities and live demonstrations” on various topics.

This snow sculpture is modeled after Robert Indiana's Vietnam-era work titled LOVE

Think how to make snowflakes. How and why crystals form. Fun with fire and ice. And more. 

Once you get home, you can continue the fun by cutting kirigami snowflakes, drawing whimsical winter scenes full of Arizona cacti, creating a snowflake mobile using pipe cleaners, decorating snowflake sugar cookies and such.

Come 1pm on New Year’s Day, you’ll even be able to “play in tons of real snow outside of the Center.”

“The Science of Snow” is free with general admission, rather like the weather insights I glean from my local grocery bagger at no extra charge when I pop in for a simple item or two.

– Lynn 

This "LOVE" sculpture is part of Scottsdale's public art collection

Note: Click here to find other family-friendly events featured in the daily online calendar from Raising Arizona Kids magazine. Click here to learn more about Robert Indiana’s “LOVE” sculpture and other public art in Scottsdale.

Coming up: The fine art of glass, Outdoor music adventures, Native American art in unexpected places