winter wonderland

IMG_3449Getting ready for a Winter Wonderland installation in the ArtBreak studio at school. Students have been snipping paper snowflakes and painting.  IMG_3453


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painting the dragon

New CurtainWe started ArtBreak at The Plains Elementary yesterday! The studio is all spiffy this year with a new curtain made by first grade teacher Mrs. Hoisington. (By the way she will have lots of her fantastic upcycled embellished furniture for sale this weekend at the Athens Antique Mall Flea Market on Columbus Road.)

In our first ArtBreak sessions we usually draw or paint this dragon to get familiar with things and so I can see what part of the expressive therapies continuum children gravitate to: something resistive and easily controlled like markers or media that is fluid and expressive like finger paint?

blackboardA first grader, pointing at the blackboard, asked me “what’s that?”  – we are all about SmartBoards now. A chalkboard has its uses though. The children wanted to know the age of the dragon who belongs to my son, now nearly 25. So if my son was eight years old when he got the dragon, how old is the dragon now? The children fell silent for a moment, calculating, then the answer:  17!


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art and science meet at Burning Man

IMG_0002Ten years ago this weekend I went with my brother to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert to help with his art installation, The Jupiter Fone, at Burning Man. He had made a radio telescope and set it to receive the signal of the planet Jupiter as it passed by a certain time each day, and you could listen. You could also send your own signal – words or whatever – to Jupiter in case anyone is listening there. My brother is a telescope scientist in the aerospace industry, so the thing really worked.  Since it was an art installation, though, some who examined it thought it was a faux telescope and were delighted when they learned what it did.

IMG_0001It was an extreme event – hot, cold, dust storms, little sleep. You brought whatever you  needed, including food and water, nothing provided except porta-potties, ice, Black Rock Rangers (police, in skirts), coffee,  a medical tent, and extremely well-done organization. Everything else –  including a bicycle repair shop, post office (no stamps though), a radio station,  a newspaper, and a fantastical and immense array of art installations on the playa –  was organized by Burners at the event.

00005Burning Man by Jim UrquhartOn Saturday night the enormous wooden “Man” was set afire.

Aerial photo of Burning Man by Jim Urquhart. Others by Rick Kendrick.

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when art is criminalized

Israel-Hernandez-Llach-600x600-300x300Graffiti (described as the un-commissioned word or image in public space by Alison Young in “Criminal Image, The Affective Judgment of Graffiti” in the journal Crime Media Culture ) is illegal in many places. Graffiti artists, championed by galleries and their work celebrated at prestigious museums like the Tate Modern, must bear the risk of their art working as they do with the ever present possibility of arrest.

On Tuesday 17 year old Miami Beach graffiti artist Israel Hernandez-Llach was tasered by police and died. The young man was an award-winning artist, his work exhibited at galleries and museums in the Miami area, and he was a gifted art student at Miami Beach High School. He had been spray-painting a boarded-up McDonalds.

We need some major public discussion about our culture that tolerates abandoned corporate storefronts and punishes – with his life – a graffiti artist who uses them as a canvas.

photograph from

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IKEA dollhouseWhoa! Dollhouses are in the news these days. Designer dollhouses, dollhouse expositions, and now IKEA is into the business (left; I love the flowered wallpaper).

Dollhouses have been a mainstay for play therapists for years; an article by play therapist Janet Courtney describes how her quest for the perfect dollhouse led her to create her own.

Titania's palaceAnd here is a new book about Titania’s Palace, an elaborate dollhouse begun in 1907 by cabinetmaker James Hicks & Sons, commissioned by Sir Neville Wilkinson when his three year old daughter Guendolen announced she had seen a fairy running under the roots of a tree and fretted that they had to live underground.

Why not encourage children to make their own dollhouses? Here are two from our Summer ArtBreak program. Notice the details: clock on the wall, a braided rug, stairs. The children making these took them back and forth between home and ArtBreak to continue working on them. Moms reported they were played with for days in a row.


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sewing: surprisingly relaxing

Sewing is one of the few media we use in ArtBreak that works across the span of the Expressive Therapies Continuum.  Designing, taking measurements and cutting out fabric are all second and third level activities that require cognitive and creative skills. The rhythm of hand stitching is a first level (kinesthetic) activity that both boys and girls are usually surprised to find very relaxing – and sociable when done in a group.


9ecc96949c26b5aa0bda0a107a16d279.jpgWe use basic stitching tips from the Alabama Stitch Book and Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, available on the Alabama Chanin website here. For instance, we use needles double threaded with button craft thread and let our seams show because we are proud of our stitching.


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Captain Underpants

Figure Captain UnderpantsAs children enter kindergarten years their drawings begin to move into art educator Viktor Lowenfeld’s schematic developmental stage, characterized by among other things figures.

This summer children in both ArtBreak locations made art featuring cartoon figures (Captain Underpants and BMO  from Adventure Time), figures depicting a friendship (Sammy and Doris) and this stalwart red and blue figure under a blue sky.

Figures BMO and friendsFigures Sammy and DorisFigure Red and Blue

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