Gift the JOY of Play…
By: Angela Lyonsmith, Artist-In-Residence
“Creativity takes courage” -Henri Matisse
Let’s raise courageous children.
Hello, I am Angela Lyonsmith, a mom of three amazing humans, an artist and art therapist. I have worked as an art therapist for two decades and taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the graduate art therapy program for over 10 years. I am thrilled to be working in The Studio at DuPage Children’s Museum (DCM) as the Artist-In-Residence as we move from Winter into Spring. If you have visited the Museum recently you may have seen how the amazing team at DCM has transformed The Studio into a makerspace with plenty of opportunities to explore how we make connections between materials of all sorts.
Everyday young artists and their tall assistants are exploring and problem solving how we can use glue, tape, fibers, brads, wire, yarn and more to connect different pieces and build objects of art, play, and imagination. I have seen instruments, monsters, puppets, rocket ships, masks, crowns, and dioramas of all kinds evolve in the last month.
We have also created open invitations to explore fibers, yarn, and string through wrapping, weaving, and stitching. I love seeing the space transform each week through the creativity and teamwork of the children and families visiting. This sculpture pictured below is evidence of an evolving collaboration between children. Even better than the wild aesthetic of wrapping, was the thoughtful process that has gone into creating this piece.
It is amazing to witness children working together and figuring out how to enact a shared vision. This is a perfect example of the other connections we are focusing on in The Studio. The materials and process are a metaphor for the connections we can build between ideas and other people as we make, play and problem solve together.
“Seizing new ground, making connections between people or ideas, working without a map-these are works of art, and if you do them, you are an artist, regardless of whether you wear a smock, use a computer, or work with others all day long.” –Seth Godin
We are also recording ideas about how we connect through words and images. I have loved the range of observations from swirling scribbling lines to messages of kindness for friends, parents and grandparents from wifi, to glue… to hugs. Connections in a very tangible way are the things that allow us to move from isolated knowledge to understanding the relationships between ideas.
Connections allow us to build and merge different materials in a novel way. Our connections to each other are what makes our lives more meaningful, and literally improves our health and wellbeing (Martino, Pegg, and Pegg Frates, 2017). With this in mind, this past weekend in The Studio we explored how making art together and making art to gift to someone we care about is yet another way to build connection.
Check out these gorgeous hearts that have been wrapped and decorated by makers of all ages. I know there are some very lucky folks who will be receiving these hearts!
These are “friendly hearts” created by two young makers who took these home as a reminder of their friendship and day at the Museum. I love this. I also love how they shared ideas, used the low temperature glue gun together (this tool was a studio favorite- please consider trying one at home if your child likes to build things) and supported each other throughout making them.
I like to set up a buffet of materials for any project we are doing, partially to create a welcoming invitation, but also to encourage choice among our young makers. Sometimes, a range of choices can be stimulating and can even be overwhelming. So, it is a fine balance. You may notice when you come in to The Studio that different materials will be offered as you cross into different parts of the project. For example, what I call “tinker trays” are pictured above with options for embellishing and adding more details and refinement. This tinker tray is filled with shiny heart sequins, gems, and buttons. Depending on what is happening in The Studio, tall assistants may watch for tinker trays on the low tables or waiting to be offered on The Studio counter.
You may also consider building a tinker tray of your own with art supplies and other odds and ends at home. Kids can bring amazing ideas to life with a little time, space to make a mess, and many things that we might initially discard.
I hope you will join me in The Studio as we continue to explore how we can make connections in art and with each other. February 7 – 8 we will be moving into a new multilayered project that blends a crayon and watercolor resist technique on wood, hammering with nails, and stringing layers of yarn and string to “connect the dots.”
I love this full process and the unique product that each maker creates. For our younger makers we will have boards prepped already. However, I also welcome and encourage you, with guidance and support, to allow your little ones to experiment with tools. There is such great fine motor practice and skill building in tool use that is a direct precursor to literacy skills. Hope to meet you and your little ones in The Studio soon!
Angela will be in The Studio:
*Martino, Pegg, and Pegg Frates, 2017: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6125010/