Posts Tagged 'storytelling'

Telling Stories

The DMA has enlisted the help of C3 Visiting Artist Ann Marie Newman to reimagine five Egyptian stories. Each story depicts Egyptian deities, many of which are represented in the upcoming exhibition Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt. Newman’s take on these stories will be available at a listening kiosk in the educational space of the exhibition. Before you visit, learn a little more about Ann Marie Newman and her process.

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Tell us a little about yourself in fifty words or less.
I am a creative dreamer, storyteller, and artist. Using various materials and techniques, my sensory-rich, interactive stories are a unique fusion of colorful characters, improvisation, and fine art–inspired visuals. My love for people, stories, and art is made manifest through my life’s calling to be a storyteller, a “story sharer”!

How did you become interested in writing and storytelling?
In a purely organic way! I’ve always loved stories, hearing them told orally when I was small, and later, reading them in books. Being an intensely curious person, I discovered that folktales, legends, myths, and personal tales illuminated and helped me better understand the world and its people. Writing came about naturally as I embraced my creative need to tell the stories and to share my joy, love, and respect for them with others.

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Describe your process of reimagining the Egyptian stories for the Divine Felines educational space.
It starts with research: reading three or more versions of each myth, studying the images and descriptions of the gods and goddesses, looking at maps of Egypt, noting cultural details. I jot everything down in a mess of chaotic writing only I can decipher—LOL!

Then it’s like putting a jigsaw puzzle together, except I don’t have a picture on the box lid to use for a guide. Instead, I create a movie of the myth in my mind. I look at all the pieces and select a starting point, a dramatic statement that allows the story to unfold. During the movie, I note how I feel emotionally, how my body feels, what senses are awoken. If something doesn’t “feel” right, I go back and reimagine it until it does. The ability to daydream is huge for me, and I like best to do it in cozy little coffee shops for some reason. All these tales were written, except one, in a quaint little coffee shop along the Truckee River in Reno, Nevada.

Which story is your favorite and why?
Pick a favorite!?! I love them all. Under the surface of these myths lie deeply symbolic meanings and analogies about the human condition.

Take the myth of Sakhmet for instance. Sent by the gods to punish mankind, Sakhmet is the embodiment of the ferocious lioness on a hunt. Her destructive nature knows no constrain; she quickly begins exterminating mankind from the earth. She is eventually stopped, tricked by her own gluttony. She passes out cold. Upon awakening, she immediately falls in love with Ptah, a god whose name means Life and Stability. She forgets her past, marries Ptah, and they give birth to Nefertum, whose name means Mercy. Thus, Sakhmet’s destructive ferocity disappears when she embraces life and stability, and this brings mercy. The insightful wisdom in this myth makes it a favorite of mine.

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What did you enjoy most about working on this project?
Discovering the powerful, protective, clever “superwomen” goddesses of ancient Egyptian mythology. I have been a storyteller for over twenty years, and somehow I’d missed these amazing myths about strong, heroic women. They deserve more attention, and I am a very happy storyteller who can do just that.

I should also mention a cat owns me. His name is Leonidas and he is king of our home. After working on the myths, I enjoyed becoming more appreciative of his cat characteristics. He is a male, but he inhabits all the good traits of the goddesses, and even a few of the not so good, but he is still simply divine.

Visit Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt, on view October 9, 2016, through January 8, 2017, to see more than eighty objects featuring domestic cats, feline deities, cat burial practices, and luxury items decorated with feline features, as well as a small section on dogs. Be sure to stop in and listen to Ann Marie Newman’s reimagined Egyptian stories in the educational space.

Stop by the October 21 cat-themed Late Night for lectures and programs related to Divine Felines. Ann Marie Newman will perform stories of Warrior Goddesses of Ancient Egypt at 7:30 p.m. in the C3 Theater.

And mark your calendars for the upcoming Divine Felines–themed Gallery Talks by Dr. Anne Bromberg, The Cecil and Ida Green Curator of Ancient and Asian Art; storyteller Ann Marie Newman; and Aditi Samarth, Professor of Humanities.

Jessica Fuentes is the Manager of Gallery Interpretation and the Center for Creative Connections at the DMA.

Picture *Book* Perfect

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In just a few more days, the Caldecott Medal will be awarded “to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.” (American Library Association website). For those of us who love children’s literature, this announcement is like the Oscars! Unfortunately, unlike the Oscars, the nominees aren’t narrowed down in advance, so it’s anyone’s guess as to which books are the strongest contenders.

During my undergrad studies, I worked in the children’s section of the university library, and one particular year my supervisor was on the Caldecott committee. I remember every week felt like Christmas as boxes and boxes of books arrived for her to review. Among other things, the committee members consider the artist’s technique, the way the story is visually interpreted, and the excellence of the work in light of the audience—children! Considering there are thousands of books published for children each year, I can’t even begin to imagine reading all the books, much less the pressure of choosing just ONE.

If I had to cast my vote for favorite picture book of 2014 though, these are my top contenders:

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Telephone by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jen Corace
It’s time for Peter the pigeon to come home for dinner, but as the message gets passed down the line of birds sitting on the telephone wires, it turns into something else entirely different. I love the use of line in Corace’s pictures. The telephone wires stretch across the pages in unending straight lines, providing a visual contrast to the tangled, garbled message being passed along. Each bird has so much character and is painted so that readers can see how the bird’s own interests and activities play into the confusion. For instance, when the message gets to the blue jay with his electric guitar, it’s not too surprising that he interprets it as “Rock stars are admired.” Luckily a wise old owl saves the day, and this visual game of telephone has a happy ending.

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Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
I’ll admit right up front that in my eyes, Jon Klassen can do no wrong. He already has stacks of awards, but why not win another?! Sam and Dave decide to dig a hole, and they aren’t going to stop until they find something spectacular. Unfortunately, every time they get close to something wonderful, they change direction and miss the treasure with no idea how close they were. Readers are in on the irony, and even their dog seems to sense their near misses. Something spectacular finally does happen, but even Sam and Dave don’t realize just how spectacular it is. I really love this one because Klassen gives children insider information through his illustrations, and the story wouldn’t be nearly as fun if readers didn’t get to be in on the joke. And man, does he know how to convey humor, exasperation and surprise with just the eyes of his characters!

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The Adventures of Beekle the Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat
This is a story of being brave, following your dreams, and trusting yourself to do hard things. Beekle lives on the island where imaginary friends are created, and he waits and waits for his child to imagine him. But when his turn never comes, Beekle takes matters into his own hands and sets off on a journey to the real world to find his friend. The contrast between the imaginary island and the real world is stark—one is colorful, whimsical, and bright. The other is drab, dreary, and lonely. But when Beekle and his friend finally find each other, the world explodes in kaleidoscope color. I love the message that a little imagination can transform your world, and that it just takes finding your person or your passion or your favorite artwork at the DMA to pull you out of a bout of the un-imaginary blues!

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Hooray for Hat by Brian Won
Elephant woke up grumpy, and seems pretty determined to stay that way. Until . . . a present arrives on his doorstep! Inside the box is a marvelous hat, and Elephant can’t wait to show Zebra. But Zebra is feeling grumpy too. Until . . . Elephant shares a hat and cheers Zebra right up. The power of sharing and caring is passed along as the friends visit Turtle, Owl, Lion, and Giraffe and realize that although they shout “hooray for hat!,” it’s their friends that really make the difference. My favorite illustrations show the animals marching along, hats perched on their heads, and good cheer jumping off the page. Won manages to perfectly capture the transformation of terrible tantrum to sunshine-y good mood, and the pictures will resonate with young children and parents alike. I can’t wait to use this one with my toddler crowd!

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Gaston by Kelly Dipucchio, illustrated by Christian Robinson
Gaston doesn’t quite look like his perfectly polished poodle sisters. And when he tries to yip (not yap) and walk with grace (not race), he doesn’t quite pull it off. When the Poodle family runs into the Bulldog family at the park one day, it seems quite obvious that there’s been a mistake. Is Gaston in the wrong family? Mrs. Poodle and Mrs. Bulldog have their puppies switch places. Now the families look right, but they don’t feel right. Where does Gaston belong? This is a perfectly charming story about being true to yourself. Robinson’s paintings are drawn with a childlike exuberance—the picture plane is flat with washes of color and the stylized puppies seem to jump off the page. And the message that you need to look deeper to really understand someone is just as true for looking at art.

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The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Hadley Hooper
Matisse is one of my favorite artists, and Hooper’s interpretation of both the story and Matisse’s style is phenomenal. The story imagines Matisse as a child and how his early life influenced the artist he became—from the rugs his mother hung in the house to the birds he saw out his window. Hooper hand cut the basic shapes for the pictures out of foam, inked them and made prints, which were then scanned into Photoshop. The lines, colors and patterns scream “Matisse” and the texture created by the printmaking gives the illustrations an added warmth and depth. This would be a great book to tuck in your bag and bring to the Museum for a visit with our Matisse!

I used lists from Calling Caldecott and Huffington Post to help me narrow down which books were my favorites of the year. A few not pictured here (because they weren’t available at my library) that I would add are Marla Frazee’s The Farmer and The Clown and The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet. I heard Marla speak in November and when she “read” the book to us (The Farmer and The Clown is a wordless book), I choked up and got all teary. The story is so tender and the illustrations are gorgeous. Sweet’s collages for The Right Word mix imagery from Roget’s first edition of his thesaurus, vintage papers, and watercolors to create intricate layered pictures that you’ll want to pour over.

Have I picked a winner? We won’t know until Monday, February 2, at 8 am when the ALA makes its announcement. So stay tuned!

Leah Hanson
Manager of Early Learning Programs

Calling all Happy Campers!

Are you dreaming of lazy days at the swimming pool, sunburned noses, family vacation, and popsicles? We are! Summer is officially 95 days away, but we won’t be spending it at the neighborhood pool. For those of us who coordinate Family Programs at the DMA, summer means one thing—Summer Art Camp! And this year’s line-up of camps has something for every creative kid. Whether you are a junior shutterbug, fashionista, sculptor, painter, designer, musician, actor, or inventor, there’s a summer camp for you.

I have been teaching summer camps at the DMA for five years now, and I’m 95 percent serious when l tell my friends that I would gladly be a full-time summer camp teacher. I love spending an entire week with a group of kids, exploring the Museum’s galleries, getting messy in the studio, and having fun. Summer camp gives both teachers and campers permission to be a little goofy, experiment with materials in crazy ways, and give our creativity a good work-out. Camp is all about F-U-N (but we usually manage to learn something along the way too).

Some of my favorite summer camp memories so far include:

Here’s a sneak peek of just a few of the things you can do at Summer Art Camp this year:

This year’s camps will be held each week June 9-27 and July 7-August 15. Morning camps are 9:00 a.m.-noon and afternoon camps are 1:00-4:00 p.m. Tickets are on sale now!

For aspiring art and museum educators, Summer Art Camps also offer the opportunity for a summer internship at the DMA. Summer camp interns get hands-on experience as they assist summer camp teachers by facilitating gallery activities, art-making projects, games, and sensory explorations. With each camp, interns step into the role of art cheerleaders, skit-planning co-conspirators, the ultimate problem solvers, and mentors to the children. What better way to spend a summer? Applications are now being accepted. Find out how to apply here.

Spend some time with us this summer at the DMA, and you’re sure to be a happy camper!

Leah Hanson
Manager of Early Learning Programs

The Art of Storytelling

If you stop by the DMA on a First Tuesday or Late Night, chances are you have encountered our resident storyteller Ann Marie Newman. She was a born storyteller, creating alternate worlds and narrating stories as a child. She has been a professional storyteller for nineteen years and has been at the DMA for six.

Anne Marie dispels the myth that storytellers only read stories to children; rather, she says they “carry on oral traditions of what it is to be human.” She believes storytelling unites people from all cultures. She performs stories as if they are a memory, allowing her to connect with the audience as they journey through the story together. She not only engages her audience through participation but also by incorporating the senses into her performance, which helps audience members imagine they are experiencing the same sensations as the characters.

Artworks from the DMA’s permanent collection and special exhibitions inspire the stories Anne Marie performs at the the Museum. For her, there is a very natural connection between stories and art. When preparing for a performance, she prefers to view the art first with little contextual information. This allows for her own interpretation and creative response to the art. She describes her mind working like a spider’s web, connecting stories and folktales to the art she views.

She says creativity is her greatest gift, because it allows her to visualize and verbalize her stories. She suggests that people “don’t give up being a kid–experience life in magical ways.”

Join Ann Marie Newman and her cast of characters inspired by our special exhibition The Body Beautiful in Ancient Greece: Masterworks from the British Museum during our Late Night on May 17th at 7:30 p.m.

Holly York
McDermott Intern for Family Experiences

You Will Not Want to See This

The Story pirates logoIn 2003, the Story Pirates started as a twelve-person group who wanted to bring quality education to under-resourced public schools. Today, the organization puts a unique spin on children’s literature by putting words into action. That is, the Pirates act out stories onstage, bringing life to educational ideas such as plotline and story development. When they are not cutting it up on the stage, the pirates lead programs for teachers across the US. The group also works with low-income schools to establish acting and writing programs.

The Pirates encourage originality by having students submit their creative writing with the possibility of being chosen as the main stage event. They use puppets, song, dance, and sketch comedy to illustrate these kid-created stories. Every once in a while, they take random suggestions from the audience or pull an unsuspecting viewer onstage.  The Pirates have become so popular that they have even appeared on NBC Nightly News.

And guess what?  The Story Pirates are coming to the DMA!  They will be performing Pseudonymous Bosch’s Write This Book: A Do-It-Yourself Mystery on Sunday, April 28 at 3:00 pm in Horchow Auditorium.  Bosch’s newest mystery is the culmination of his five part Secret Series, a group of thoroughly entertaining, read-if-you-dare stories.  Write This Book:  A Do-It-Yourself Mystery encourages readers to write their own ending with interactive puzzles, games, and choose-your-own-adventure scenarios.  The elusive Mr. Bosch will sign books following the event.  (Disclaimer:  The author denies responsibility for any terrible tales, woebegone worries, or deadly endeavors that may result from reading his books.)

For FREE tickets, call 214-922-1818 or order online. But don’t wait! We expect this marvelously mysterious program to sell out quickly!

Emily Brown
McDermott Intern for Adult Programming

Teaching for Creativity: Scribble Characters

Consider testing out this entertaining creativity exercise with your students or even with friends. (It’s THAT fun.) When Summer Seminar instructor, Magdalenda Grohman facilitated this exercise with this year’s participants, they had a blast with it.

  1. Every person should have a piece of paper and a writing utensil.
  2. Close your eyes. Keeping your pen or pencil on the paper, scribble for about forty-five seconds. Think about the mood you are in, and try to reflect that mood through your scribbles.
  3. Once everyone is finished drawing, open your eyes, and gather together all the scribbles. Shuffle the scribbles.
  4. Choose one scribble. As a group, think about and describe the scribble. What adjectives come to mind?
  5. Imagine that this scribble is a person. Who is it? What is his/her name? How old is he/she? What does he/she do for a living and/or for fun? What is his/her relationship with his family? What interesting events have occurred in his/her life? What is his/her biggest wish and/or greatest fear?
  6. Jot down the most important aspects of this person, and continue personifying the rest of the scribbles as a group.
  7. Once you have a set of scribble-characters, then randomly distribute one to each participant. Ask one participant to create a sentence to begin a narrative. The scribble-character in his/her hand must be involved in the narrative.
  8. The next person adds another sentence and another character to the narrative, until you have a funny, collaborative story that incorporates all of the scribble-characters.

Here are some of our scribble characters:

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In what ways are you encouraging open-minded, creative attitudes and training transformative thinking in your classroom?

Andrea V. Severin
Coordinator for Teaching Programs

Art is for Families

Do you remember family visits to museums as a kid?  Picking favorite artworks together, seeing something completely perplexing/absolutely beautiful, or learning (maybe the hard way) that you can’t touch the art?

My colleague, C3 Gallery Specialist Jessica Nelson, is dedicating her master’s thesis research capturing such experiences.  Last week, Jessica forwarded me a link to her more-than-excellent blog Art is for Families.  The blog documents her Art Education master’s thesis project, for which Jessica is embarking on a series of wonder-full museum adventures with her six-year-old daughter, Julia.  Jessica’s research focuses on family learning in museums: specifically, how museum-produced self-guided materials help families have meaningful experiences with artworks.  She is also interested in inter-generational collaborative research and art-making as a vehicle for storytelling.

Together, Jessica and Julia will visit six museums in the metroplex, making use of available self-guided materials, and documenting their journeys in a variety of media. The two are equal collaborators: Julia and Jessica make art together, collect stories, take separate photos of their experiences, and throughout, have a dialogue about their process.

So far, Julia and Jessica have visited the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and the Amon Carter Museum of American Art—taking advantage of the Modern’s self-guided sketchbook, Ten Pages and the Carter’s Postcard Tour.  Below are just a few of many pictures of their visits and resulting projects:

Julia twirled through my office last week, just in time for me to take the adorable mother-daughter photo above for this post.  Julia, we cannot wait to see more of your art and read (and read and read) more of your stories about museums.  Jessica, what an amazing project!  We look forward to learning from your research.

To have a self-guided family adventure at the DMA, ask for one of our four bite-sized Self-Guided tours at the Visitor Services desk, or print them at home.  And for more family-focused art-making and art-exploring ideas, visit We Art Family! The DMA Family Blog.

Amy Copeland
Coordinator of Go van Gogh Outreach


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