As a Teaching Artist for the Massillon Museum, I was invited to participate in the exhibition “Conversations with Our Collection”. For the exhibit, artists who are on staff with the museum were asked to create artworks inspired by items in the museum’s collection. I chose the “Immel Circus” as my inspiration.
According to the museum’s website, the “Immel Circus” is a “100-square foot miniature circus [that] contains 2,620 pieces: thirty-six elephants, 186 horses, 102 assorted animals, ninety-one wagons, seven tents, and 2,207 people. Most of the pieces were hand-carved by Dr. Robert Immel using tools from his dental practice. Some were handcrafted by friends and retired circus performers.”
The Lilliputian sized model remains on permanent display on the second floor of the museum.
The Immel Circus celebrates the exuberant pageantry and constant motion involved in a circus. It also celebrates the culture of those who bring the circus about in the greatest of detail. I chose to highlight what might seem to be an insignificant detail in the overall largeness of it all – a balloon seller in the grandstand.
As a child, my father took my brother and sister and me to the circus many times. I remember being enthralled with how there were so many things going on at the same time, and how everything seemed so magical. My perspective came from a seat in the grandstand, and my view was framed by the vendors in the stands who cried out to us to sell their wares.
As much as I enjoyed the theatrical qualities of the circus as a child, I have been saddened to learn as an adult that the animals in circuses were often mistreated. I am glad that our respect for the quality of life for animals is evolving and that circuses are changing in our modern world. My hope is that future generations of children can enjoy the pageantry and magic of the circus without harm to exotic animals.
You can see the “Conversations with Our Collection” exhibit at Cyrus Custom Framing & Art Gallery, 2645 Cleveland Ave NW in Canton, Ohio from August 12 – September 23, 2016.
Have you heard about the “Oh My, Mia Meow!” Children’s Picture Book Project?
I have done a lot of special projects through the years, and all have been important in some way. This project, however, rises to a whole new level of importance for me.
The more I get into it, the more I realize that this book can have significant impact on the lives of children, and there is nothing more important than making a difference to a child.
The book itself is simple. An ordinary cat faces everyday obstacles and seeks to find a way to overcome them. In the process, she discovers her power through creativity and ingenuity, and she becomes a very extraordinary cat. She explores new environments and meets a variety of animal friends along the way. It is an adventure that is revealed through colorful illustrations that intrigue and enamor children, and thus, inspire their imaginations.
Simple books for children can have a lot of power. Life lessons that are revealed through endearing stories and imaginative illustrations help children develop perspectives to shape their understanding of the world. Tapping into children’s imaginations allows us to broaden their understanding so they can create their own worldview.
So, what is so important about this book project?
The stories and artwork of Mia Meow grew out of my work with preschool children. Their enthusiasm for the character, the artwork, and the story is what inspired me to create the book.
The Mia Meow story teaches children that they can overcome obstacles with creative thinking and imaginative resourcefulness.
Our culture tends to emphasize idealized stereotypes of power and mastery. Typical childhood “superheroes” have unrealistic strength and mythical weapons to demonstrate power, and they give children an unrealistic vision of how they should engage with their world. The story of Mia Meow lays a more realistic foundation for a child’s belief in his or her own creative abilities as a source of personal power.
The story encourages arts integration as an important learning process for young children. The arts are key to childhood learning and healthy emotional development, yet so many schools struggle to maintain arts programming due to funding cuts. Mia Meow offers a creative and fun approach to learning which is supported by research in its effectiveness.
The book engenders a love and empathy for animals, encouraging children to be considerate and respectful of all creatures.
The book project and crowdfunding program, which will be launched soon, has a goal of raising funds for creating and publishing the book, but beyond that, there is also a goal of donating books to programs that serve children. My hope is that the crowdfunding campaign, once launched, will raise enough funds to donate books to:
Preschool classrooms of schools involved in the Artful Living Program, where the Mia Meow story and art were inspired.
Libraries in Stark County, OH and surrounding areas.
Other school and youth programs designated by contributors. Although my own focus will be local programs, my hope is that contributors will consider donating books to programs worldwide.
I will be launching an Indiegogo campaign soon for the “Oh My, Mia Meow!” Children’s Picture Book Project. I am using this online program to allow others to be a part of the project to gain seed funding for publishing the book and also to encourage donation of books to worthy programs. I hope that you will consider helping me with the campaign by contributing and/or sharing it with others to get the word out. Thanks so much for your interest in the project!
I once was a regular at Canton First Fridays. In fact, I was one of the first art vendors at the very first First Friday back in 2007. I worked out of several different studios in the Canton Arts District over the years, and then I took a break.
It’s been a couple of years, and I think I am ready to come off of my hiatus. My presence will be less obvious, perhaps, than it has been in the past, but I am making a comeback.
In exchange for keeping their office open throughout the week and helping out with various tasks, ArtsinStark has given me a small space in their arts district office to create and share some of my artwork. It won’t be a big space, but enough to be a part of things again. I am looking forward to getting back into the Canton art scene!
This coming First Friday I will have an outdoor booth on Court Ave. Stop by and visit if you plan on being downtown! I will have all of my new Mia Meow paintings on display, as well as other artworks. The weather is supposed to be spectacular – I hope I see you there!
After First Friday, stop in and see me at the Canton Arts District office at 308 4th St. NW during the week. I look forward to seeing you there as well!