On Wednesday, April 4, we said goodbye to our winter artist-in-residence, Jennifer Ghormley. Throughout her residency, guests were delighted to learn the art of printmaking, and kept coming back for more.
“Only three weeks into my residency, I began noticing familiar faces during my open studio hours. I did not expect that!”
Printmaking during open studio hours
Her interactions with Museum guests helped conceptualize her final piece, a hanging installation that incorporates star and moon prints folded into bird-like shapes.
“The printed imagery on the shapes is inspired by the idea that children of all ages should dream big and reach far,” said Jennifer.
More than 200 pieces are suspended from the ceiling in our foyer, designed to gently sway with the air currents, and greet those arriving with a burst of imagination.
Jennifer’s final piece, Reach for the Moon, the Stars and Beyond
Photos just don’t do this piece justice. Check out the video to see how it flutters in the wind.
Jennifer Ghormley is a mixed media artist who works in printmaking and hanging installations, inspired by nature. But it almost didn’t turn out that way.
Jennifer studied commercial photography straight out of high school and spent four years behind the lens of a camera before searching for a new experience. She enrolled in Metropolitan State College right here in Denver and, when all the photography classes were full, she signed up for printmaking.
“As soon as I walked into the printshop, I felt at home,” Jennifer reminisced, “It reminded me of my dad’s garage, filled with all the smells and tools of the trade.”
This happy accident turned into a new path, and ultimately led her to the Children’s Museum’s Artist-in-Residence Program. Excited at the prospect of educating an entirely new audience about printmaking, she applied for residency.
Since January, Jennifer’s open studio hours have been filled with kiddos (and their jubilant grown-ups!) who have discovered the joys of printmaking through scratch-foam relief. Not sure what that means? Check out this demo.
Jennifer has open studio hours on Fridays and Saturdays throughout March. Join her to make your own prints! Get the full list here.
Museum’s own all-star team acts as permanent artists-in-residence
The Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus’ in-house Exhibits Design Team combines technical ingenuity with mind blowing creativity. The result? Exhibits that are dynamic, educational and truly one-of-a-kind.
For nearly a decade, we have been dreaming, designing, building and testing out exhibit ideas that are state-of-the-art, original and fresh, leading our field with progressive experiences for young children and families.
Chris Van Dyken, Director of Exhibits, started at the Museum 7 years ago as an intern. His first project was tackling the science of air play in an early rendition of rockets. Not surprisingly, his favorite exhibit is: Energy, home of rockets; “I love working on different iterations of exhibits with the goal of making them better every time.”
The Museum’s process of prototyping exhibits makes Chris’ dream come true. We have a great idea, but we need to make sure it works. So, we give it a whirl. . . and then another and another. Exhibits that have gone through extensive prototyping include Water, Bubbles, Energy and Altitude, just to name a few. In short, our design team needs to not only be innovative, but flexible and tenacious.
“There’s a nice balance between different forms of design that allows us to bring our own talents and skills to the table,” said Lisa Bult, Exhibit Designer.
Nick Ferro, Exhibit Design and Operations Manager, agrees, “We all have different strengths, and we get to work together to tackle problems creatively. I’m always confident that when I stand with the team, the answer is there.”
In addition to designing, evaluating and updating exhibits to make sure our guests have a top of the line experience, our team works to create beauty and provocation with art, lacing it into everything we do. Check out these photos to see what we mean.
Designed by Marc Hudson, this second rendition of the wind turbine in Energy showcases how air can move matter, and allows guests create vibrant, color-changing art with air.
Artist-in-residence George Perez imparts his unique world view on Museum guests
On Wednesday, January 10, we said goodbye to artist-in-residence George Perez, an artist who challenges us all to explore the feelings of home and nostalgia in our lives.
As a photographer, George has always been interested in taking ordinary household items and making them extraordinary. So throughout his residency, George encouraged Museum guests to look at the things around them in a different way. Sometimes, this meant picking a piece of furniture that reminded them of home and drawing it…blindfolded.
In another case, it meant asking guests to peer through an obscura, a light box that simulates how a camera works, to see their world flipped upside down and backwards.
“George is all about perception, and he inspired a new curiosity in children out of something so simple,” said Salim Khoury, Art Programs Coordinator.
And it’s these “simple” abstract drawings and experiences that served as inspiration for Ripe Lemons, a modular sculpture of a couch that George designed just for the Museum.
But, as always, we are reminded that this artist-in-residence program is a two-way street. George shared, “My biggest take away from my residency is that you can really do anything and it can be a piece of artwork. Working at the Museum, you learn nothing is right or wrong. And that’s the key.”
At artist-in-residence Betony Coons’ closing reception, the crowd stood around the interactive theater she created in collaboration with Museum guests, while Art Programs Coordinator, Salim Khoury, offered remarks.
“Betony, your art is like a storybook come to life.” And looking at the piece, Paper Moon, it’s easy to see what he means.
From afar, the stage is elegant and resplendent with detail, the shades of black and white punctuated with flashes of gold leaf and finite pops of color. But look closer and you will be delighted by the whimsical treasures hidden throughout. A tiny raccoon perched along the right side, curiously peeking out; “That’s me,” she says laughing, “Because I’m a Coons.” There are little drawings, messages and quotes from Museum guests, collected throughout her residency and incorporated with care. She points to each one and shares the story about the child (or grown-up!) who contributed the memento.
But perhaps the most remarkable elements are actual newspaper articles from the Loveland Reporter-Herald covering the moon landing in 1969. They were found in the attic of Betony’s home, forgotten by the former owner, and are now memorialized on the moon that serves as the focal point of Betony’s stage.
To pull off the three-dimensional, 16′ x 8′ piece, it took a true collaboration between Betony and the Museum’s exhibits team. “Betony gave me a drawing and we took it from there. We used our CNC router to build the stars and moon for her, then she painted them. Working together, all the way through, it was really just a beautiful project,” said Chris Van Dyken, Director of Exhibits.
Betony’s has been another Children’s Museum residency filled with that wonderful give and take, where local artists share their wisdom with Museum guests, who in turn offer their expertise in the awe of childhood.
During her final open studio hours, Betony and kids sprawled on the ground to “build a house” together. There is the usual; a front door, dining room table, a bed and plenty of pets. But there is also a teleport for time travel and, at the insistence of one child, it is both day and night – at the same time.
“It’s so fun to see kids who are not concrete in the way they think. As an artist, it can give you a lot of freedom and creativity to let things go in unexpected and surprisingly fun ways. Things you wouldn’t do as an adult because you just think, This is how it is.”
And with her final piece, Betony made sure to hit that point home. Paper Moon inspires the desire to create, be whimsical, to jump on the moon (it’s ok, we promise) and burst into song, no matter your age. So go on, make-believe with us.
Say, it’s only a paper moon Sailing over a cardboard sea But it wouldn’t be make-believe If you believed in me Yes, it’s only a canvas sky Hanging over a muslin tree But it wouldn’t be make-believe If you believed in me…
From It’s Only a Paper Moon by Yip Harburg and Billy Rose
Zip lines from the second floor to the front door, an elaborate, hand-painted theater in the living room, tree houses dotting the apple orchard landscape… No, this isn’t The Lost Boys lair. It was the childhood home of artist-in-residence, Betony Coons.
“My own upbringing was very whimsical.” You can say that again.
So it isn’t surprising she was intrigued by the opportunity to take up residency at the Children’s Museum; “My art is very kid-inspired. I have four children of my own, and we are always creating together.”
Art appears to be innate to every part of her life. She and her husband, musician Tim Coons, create together under the name Giants and Pilgrims. Their collaboration focuses on combining their art forms. On a recent tour, Betony painted live on-stage while Tim performed.
“We give each other a lot of feedback. It’s like having a brutally honest mirror.”
Betony and her husband, Tim
Completed on-stage painting
As an artist, Betony is drawn to mixed-media; “I’ve always liked to dabble, to play with a lot of different stuff. Mixed-media collage allows me to do a tiny bit of everything. It’s my way of pulling in all these bits and pieces of all the little stuff I like to do.”
During her open studio hours, guests can expect to be surprised with something new every time. For Betony, a favorite moment so far was the day before the solar eclipse crossed the U.S. On a whim, she decided to switch up her plan and instead have the kids create celestial works using paints and gold leaf. One family, originally from France, had traveled from Michigan to view the total eclipse in Wyoming, but stopped on the way for a day trip in Denver. The father shared their story with Betony, and was overjoyed to have such a perfect memento to commemorate their trip.
“Connecting with this family from the other side of the world, it just felt really special and purposeful.”
Betony during open studio hours
Betony has open studio hours now through October. Visit our website for more details.
On July 19, we said goodbye to our spring/summer artist-in-residence, Armando Silva. Beloved for his musical action painting performances, Armando had a knack for reaching even the quietest child and encouraging all to look at art, and themselves, in a whole new way.
And while our guests learned so much from Armando, it appears he gained just as much from his time with them. At his closing reception, Armando read a poem inspired by his residency at the Children’s Museum, all about discovering his inner child.
I contain the mastery of my inner child en mi corazón.
Each day, I am more and more my mother’s treasure and my dad’s pride.
I have siblings I play with and a bike I love to ride.
I’ve worn my favorite shirt four days in a row,
and picked the scab on my knee twice this week.
I see the world but don’t acknowledge it.
I mean, that tree grows so that I can climb it right?
I climb to climb and don’t worry about coming down.
I’m here to play, I’m here to draw and I’m here to paint.
OH! OH! OH!
And that hill over there, I’m going to roll down it as fast as I can!
I’ll turn that towel into a cape and save the dog from being inside all day!
I’m now 30 years of age and I am excited to say…
I contain the mastery of my inner child and that child wants to play.