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.
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.
After carefully covering the floor and overhead projector, removing his glasses, trading his pristine Nikes for paint-splattered Converse and blasting the jams, Artmando was ready to show kiddos and their grown-ups that painting does not have to be stationary act.
Want to learn some ninja painting skills? Come to Artmando’s open studio hours, now through July!
Salim Khoury started with the Museum as a Clay Technician in October 2015. Recently, he took on the role of Art Studio Coordinator and has strived to expand the experiences available to Museum guests. In addition to adding new clay programming, he has been working hard to bring wonder and joy to all through pop-up dance parties (James Brown, anyone?), “stained” glass windows and every child’s favorite, coloring on walls.
Check out this video to meet Salim and hear more about the variety of ways you can play with clay at the Children’s Museum!