2003-08-01 / Columnists

From The Artists Studio

Rockaway Artists AllianceThe American Museum of Natural History and the Brooklyn Children
by Susan Hartenstein
From The Artists Studio Rockaway Artists Alliance by Susan Hartenstein The American Museum of Natural History and the Brooklyn Children’s Museum Come to Rockaway

Rockaway Artists Alliance
The American Museum of Natural History and the Brooklyn Children’s Museum Come to Rockaway

The Movable Museum: Structures and Cultures, is a program of the American Museum of Natural History designed to bring unique focused museum experiences beyond the museum’s walls. On July 24, thanks to arrangements made by Camp art instructor Sophia Skeans with the Movable Museum’s Director Elise Alexander, the campers and staff of RAA’s Camp kidsmART enjoyed a visit to a world-renowned institution – without leaving Rockaway. Housed in a 37-foot long converted recreation vehicle, the exhibit presents an in-depth look at the cultures of three groups of nomadic people:

• The Gabra of Kenya (Africa)

• The Mongols of Mongolia (Asia)

• The Blackfeet of Montana (North

America).

Drawing on her own research and material provided by the Museum, the day before the visit Skeans discussed the cultures with the campers. Through questions, answers and diagrams, Skeans stimulated the children to explore what being nomadic means. For example, the exhibit includes small-scale recreations of the types of homes of the three groups. Skeans had encouraged the children to think about what characteristics would be necessary for the homes of people on the move. They were able to reason that the structures would have to be made of materials and built in such a way that they could easily and quickly be taken down and transported. A teepee, for example. From the exhibit the campers learned that the homes, possessions and tools of these people, while practical in intent, are today infused with history and meaning. Each object tells a part of the story of the people who made it. The campers were engaged in a process of understanding and relating to cultures different from their own. Thus, the exhibition offered an introduction to the studies of anthropology, geography, environment and natural resources. It also gave them an overview of social organization based on the structures of family and community.

Thanks to further efforts by Ms. Skeans, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum brought part of their reptile exhibit to Camp kidsmART on Monday, July 28. Fantasia, a 17-foot anaconda snake, and Merlin, a Madagascar boa, were the special guests. Have no fear – they were in the experienced hands of the museum’s Live Animal Curator, Warren Taylor. Taylor taught the children an appreciation for the beauty of these animals and stressed the importance of respect for all living creatures. As can be seen in the accompanying photograph, this was, literally, an enlightening hands-on experience for the camp participants. Fantasia and Merlin were the perfect snake "charmers" for the entire camp population of 223.

Mark your calendar: Tuesday, August 19 from 6 to 8 PM at sTudio 6 Gallery, Fort Tilden. Queens Council on the Arts will hold an application seminar for their Queens Community Arts fund regrants program. These funds support creative community partnerships among Queens-based individual artists and support not-for-profit arts organizations that have been established for at least one year in the borough of Queens. This particular seminar will discuss only individual artist support grant applications. All applicants, returning and new, must attend a mandatory application seminar. The deadline for applications to be postmarked or hand delivered to the QCA office is 5 PM on Wednesday, October 1, 2003.

"Local Motion" continues weekends at RoCA (Rockaway Center for the Arts), Fort Tilden. More in the next column about the terrific reception last week. Don’t forget that this is the last weekend you can see our own Rockaway Theatre Company’s production of "Fiddler on the Roof." I hear it’s great. I plan on attending.

See you at RoCA.


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