I’ve been working with Milwaukee Environmental Science Academy to create a new book this year. Over 200 kids along with the entire staff are working with me to write and illustrate a picture book based on their school’s character traits. The staff started the project in early January, collaging and designing the cover for our book. The school’s mascot is the yellow jacket, which is why we chose to feature them on our cover. In the next two months, the students will work with me to illustrate the interior page spreads, as well as write the story. Each page spread will feature text created around one of the school’s character traits, combined with the image of a tree and a Wisconsin animal. The big idea in the book is that just like a tree needs water, air, and nutrient rich soil to grow, we need character traits like integrity, grit, stewardship, respect, leadership, and craftsmanship to grow into strong and beautiful additions to the earth. While these illustrations will serve as the page spreads in the book, we will also have them enlarged and printed on 4′ x 6′ vinyl to be used to decorate the school. The project is made possible through funding from Arts@Large.
I just installed the 9′ x 33′ tree mural for the Milwaukee Environmental School, which includes almost 500 metal engraved leaves. Each leaf was created by a student as either a self portrait or a designed word that featured one of their schools six character traits: Respect, Grit, Craftsmanship, Leadership, Integrity, and Stewardship. Even the parents joined in and created a leaf for the tree. The art residency took place during three months in the Spring. Over 200 K4-7th grade students worked with me on this mural. The project was funded by Arts@Large and a grant from Toyota Family Learning.
Last spring I was lucky enough to have a joint exhibition with the legendary artist and author Faith Ringgold at the Arts@Large gallery featuring artwork from my newest picture book Shimmerling, which was created in collaboration with two Milwaukee schools. Meeting Faith and exhibiting artwork right alongside her in Stories Shared was certainly a highlight in my career. I’ve been an admirer of Faith’s work ever since undergrad (even before my picture book career), so this exhibit was an extraordinary experience for me.
I just got word that some of the interviews Faith did while she was here will be airing on Milwaukee Public Television this Thursday (January 15) at 6:30pm. I also received a link to an interview that Faith did with Black Nouveau, which I’ve also inserted below. My artwork is in the background during some of the interview. I love what Faith says during the interview about peace only being achieved when women from all over the world and of all races are in positions of power, both politically and in religious organizations.
A magical creature is born from a feather that’s been sowed into the soil. As it grows, it discovers that it has characteristics of both a bird and a tree. The mighty oaks, only tall enough to see the creature’s trunk, believe it’s a tree and that it should stay grounded. The birds above, only able to see the creature’s mass of sparkling feathers, believe it’s a bird and urge it to take flight. The creature struggles between the two worlds until it sees itself as it really is—a new kind of being, a Shimmerling.
‘The Making of Shimmerling’ is a behind the scenes look at how, with funding from Arts@Large, I collaborated with students in two Milwaukee Public Schools—West Side Academy and Bethune Academy to create the illustrations for my newest book the Shimmerling. The main character is a wearable sculpture adorned with over 300 metal engraved feathers created by the children.
Over the past two weeks I’ve been working with students from four different schools and sharing the story of my newest book Shimmerling. We did a little bit of meditation, danced to Pharrell William’s song ‘Happy’, sang some pretty rocking Shimmerling songs, and made beautiful engraved leaves that the students took home with them. I love doing presentations and workshops in the gallery surrounded by all the artwork from the exhibition. Thanks to Arts@Large for making it happen 🙂
Back when I was an undergrad student at the Maryland Institute, College of Art I came across the work of Faith Ringgold and I fell in love with the imagery, as well as the strength and conviction of her art. Fifteen years later, I’m lucky enough to have my own artwork alongside her Story Quilts at the Gallery@Large exhibition Stories Shared, which will be on display through July 3, 2014.
In addition to having my work next to Faith’s inspirational artwork, I also had the change to meet and have dinner with her. This was all possible because of the vision and hard work Kim Abler and Teri Sullivan at Arts@Large. Here are some photos from the events.
Pam Miller led some great Family Yoga workshops in the gallery based on my book Squircle. Adults and children explored the practice of Yoga, breath awareness, poses and movement, games, art and relaxation all while being surrounded by the beautiful artwork of Faith Ringgold and the artwork for Shimmerling, which was created in collaboration with two Milwaukee schools.
The next event will be an Adult Poetry Workshop taking place on Wednesday, May 21st, 5:00-7:00pm
Poetry is a tool to build relationships, encourage counter-narratives to common beliefs and experience the shared realities of our stories. Ryan Hurley, a four time National Slam Poetry member will lead a writing workshop that will encourage participants to share their stories and engage in the stories of others.