Photo by Bebe Jacobs
Photo by Bebe Jacobs
When I began my job as a curator at the Skirball in summer 2012 I was asked to rethink the exhibition program in the Ruby Gallery, which is not only an exhibition space, but also the most communicative and communal space at the Skirball. I thought that we should find ways to work with these parameters and not against them. When I began to reflect on my own experiences at the Skirball, I remembered that I immediately felt welcome and, to my surprise, I found out that the notion of welcoming is an important part of the Skirball’s mission statement. So it seemed like a perfect first idea—to create a large piece about welcoming as seen through the eyes of insiders and outsiders. By “insiders,” I mean everyone who works here (staff, docents, volunteers) and by “outsiders,” I mean artists that weren’t familiar with the Skirball. I had already worked with Antje Schiffers and Thomas Sprenger a few times before in Germany and knew they would be a perfect fit for such an open yet specific idea. So I contacted them and asked if they could imagine developing a project about the idea of welcoming that includes all the people who work here. They were excited about the idea. Antje and Thomas spent two weeks in residency at the Skirball, interviewing the “insiders,” and then they returned home to process everything they’d learned. The final result is a smile, they said, a mural consisting of wall painting, text, and paintings on wood, now up in the Ruby Gallery through September 1. The exhibition has been up for a few months now, so I felt it was time to catch up with Antje and Thomas, and reflect on the fascinating process that led to this wonderful mural.
Let’s start by talking a bit about the process, about how this project gained shape.
Thinking about the Ruby Gallery, our first impulse was to work with its functions, not to insist on it being just an exhibition space. We knew very quickly that we wanted a big mural. And it was clear that we would include the voices of all the insiders—all the people who work here—in that mural.
We talked to people from the security department and administration as well as to Museum curators, docents, and volunteers. For that purpose we opened a ‘welcoming office,’ which most of the time was a physical office in the Museum department. But it also was a traveling office; we met the kitchen staff in the kitchen, Continue reading
I took this photo of our graphic designer, Simon Ford, as he jotted notes in front of the Rainbow Arbor, where a “Red Sea” scene will be.
Following up on my last SkirBlog post, I wanted to share more about the design of Exodus Steps, but time, time, time! We’ve been working away at it late, late, late. The story’s so big, and the Skirball campus is so full of possibilities, we’ve gotten carried away with ourselves. This is going to have to be fast.
Since agreeing with the Skirball we were going to make Exodus Steps, we have (cutting out all the tedious administrative/visa waiver stuff that no one wants to hear about, least of all me):
- Re-read the book and identified all the must-have, could-have, and don’t-need scenes.
- Written a draft script.
- Decided who needs to say how little to make the story function and have some degree of character/humanity. (Remember, we’re cutting all the text into vinyl speech bubbles, so no one is allowed to soliloquise.)
- Thought about what objects the audience needs to see/interact with to tell the story and make the thing look attractive. (As in most movies, we’d like the story to be told by sight and action rather than words.)
Footsteps in the courtyard, ready to be followed.
- Designed most of the props, including feet. As this is the eighteenth edition of the Steps Series we have a fairly extensive archive of designs from previous shows so cow, sheep, dog, and horse footprints don’t need designing. Simon Ford, our graphic designer, has created a new line of footwear for Exodus Steps as we aspire to show gradations of social class/wealth in ancient Egypt through the footprints—which admittedly is a little ambitious (the Sherlock Holmes stories were amongst our inspirations for the series). Continue reading
Years ago I was thinking about “teach-yourself-to-dance” floor mats and how it was unfair that dance had these but theatre didn’t. I imagined that with some ingenuity we could right this wrong. All we needed was an organization to allow us to plaster their building with adhesive vinyl.
In 2008 mac birmingham, our local arts centre, was looking to commission a piece to mark its closure for rebuilding. We pitched the vinyl idea to them, and given that much of the building was due to be demolished anyway, they figured we couldn’t do too much harm.
Stan’s Cafe Dance Steps. Photo by Ed Dimsdale.
Making Dance Steps was tricky, as we didn’t know how “teach-yourself-theatre installations” worked. We’d never met one before. We had to make up the rules ourselves. We had to learn the art of applying vinyl stickers, which in some cases is more complicated than it sounds (though in other cases my three-year-old daughter was happy to help and couldn’t believe sticking stickers was my JOB!). Continue reading
Come rain, come shine, the Skirball’s annual Hanukkah family festival always draws a crowd of diverse generations, backgrounds, and smiles. Photographer and first-time festival attendee BeBe Jacobs was impressed with this year’s Hanukkah festival, Americana Hanukkah, which took inspiration from our campus-wide “Democracy Matters” initiative to celebrate the Jewish holiday. “No matter what activity [people] were doing,” she told me, as we looked over the images she shot that day, “the fact that families were spending time together made all the difference.”
For both of us, the Hanukkah festival not only brought families together but also brought out creativity that visitors did not realize they had. There was plenty to do all day, like watch Marcus Shelby and his quintet perform beautiful freedom songs… or hear Story Pirates act out original Hanukkah tales on stage… or join a tour focusing on the Skirball’s collection of Hanukkah lamps (the last couple of these Lights of Hanukkah Family Tours take place today and tomorrow, so be sure to swing by this weekend). But it was at the hands-on art workshops where people got a chance to create something themselves.
Here, BeBe shares ten of her favorite photos from that fun-filled day with reflections on the people and moments that made them so special.
BeBe was amazed at how each visitor could create beautiful art pieces out of plain materials. Here, a young visitor displays a menorah he made out of plastic tubes, colorful tape, and stickers.
This young girl patiently waited as her brother finished his art project. In a moment of silliness, Bebe placed a tiny menorah on the glue stick in front of the girl. Immediately she looked down and started to blow out the “candles”.
This young visitor was very proud of the Hanukkah pin she crafted. The glee that shines through in this photo makes it an easy favorite!
Creativity. Interpretation. Argument. Collaboration. These were just some of the skills utilized by our nation’s founders as they haggled, debated, and compromised their way to the formation of the American republic. The exhibition Creating the United States explores the work of the founders and their struggle to create a nation according to the principles of a free society and a populace with the power to govern itself. Working together, setting aside differences, and considering the future played key roles in establishing the country we now know.
Exploring similar processes is at the heart of the work of students at Granada Hills Charter High School who are participating in the Skirball’s 2012 In-School Residency, “Re-Creating the United States.” Working with Otis School of Art and Design faculty members Patty Kovic and Michele Jaquis, directors of the award-winning NEIGHBORGAPBRIDGE interdisciplinary design course, the students are thinking about how to communicate the relevancy of these skills and ideas to Skirball visitors. Continue reading
I can’t believe it’s Labor Day Weekend! There hasn’t been a dull moment here in Family Programs all summer long. What has been so wonderful is to see families come in for one of our Family Amphitheater Performances, check out the Family Art Studio, pop over to our archaeological dig site, and play games as part of our Game On! program….all in one afternoon. One day, there was a family from Miami who had never been to the Skirball. When they arrived at the art studio, their eldest daughter (there were three kids total, and I’m guessing the eldest was around eleven) was feeling a bit grumpy. She just didn’t want to be there (there was even some tears). But by the time they left, the whole family was all smiles. The mom let me know how grateful she was that they had visited such a wonderful and special place. That’s music to my ears!
Just one more weekend to enjoy summer family fun at the Skirball. To get you excited about coming over, check out some highlights that I (along with a few from photographer friends) captured from the past few weeks.
These two found a nice spot to dance behind the stage. Photo by Mitch Maher.
Look at these happy people. Smiling, dancing, grooving… enjoying music under the stars. That could be you. Bring a date, or meet someone here—either way, Sunset Concerts at the Skirball is a great night out. The 2012 season kicks off this Thursday night, when Samba Mapangala & Orchestra Virunga take the stage.
And have we mentioned that the concerts are free? And that our galleries (except Noah’s Ark at the Skirball) are also free and open until 10:00 p.m.?
If you like to plan ahead, here are tips on how to attend Sunset Concerts like a pro and how to do it on your budget, from cheapest options to best ways to splurge. Feel free to mix and match!
Picnic with friends. Photo by John Elder.
THE SUPER SAVER NIGHT WITH FRIENDS
Round up your buddies and get on the bus!
Transportation: Plan your trip with metro.net and go to and from the Skirball for $1.50 each way. Plus no parking fees. Metro Rapic 761 drops off right in front of our main entrance. Just remember to bring your Metro passes. You’ll have to show them to get your tickets into the venue.
Food: Bring a delicious dinner with you from home! You may bring in food, but outside alcoholic beverages are not permitted. For some good ideas on how to jazz up your menu, this oldie but goodie from Mark Bittman is our go-to guide. There is a grassy area on the balcony above the stage that is perfect for picnicking.
Drinks: Cash bar available on site, or bring nonalcoholic drinks from home.
Concert tickets: Admission to the concert is free! Continue reading
Star of Siam and Innocence water lilies in the Taper Courtyard reflecting pool. They’ll be around all summer long!
A new project: transforming the reflecting pool in our Taper Courtyard into a lily pond! Sounds simple, but in the end this little assignment became one of the most fascinating and challenging projects I’ve worked on to date as a project manager here at the Skirball.
Water lilies are very delicate flowers that spring up and bloom on the surface of water between leaves that float, better known as lily pads. Water lilies come in numerous varieties and colors. My first step was to find out who in the field could give me expert advise and offer me an education on these gorgeous blossoms. Randy McDonald of McDonald’s Aquatic Nurseries, that’s who!
Next we selected blooms with colors that coordinated with the aesthetics of our Taper Courtyard, including the jacaranda trees. We knew we wanted different lilies for different times of year to ensure blooms year round. Our final choice: 144 pots of Star of Siam and Innocence for the spring/summer, and 125 pots of Hawthorne lilies, the only blooming winter lily, for fall/winter. At the end of each season, we return the lilies to the vendor who re-plants and safeguards them for future use. I thought, Great, decision made. Now all we have to do is put them in the water and be captivated by their beauty. Or so I thought! Continue reading
Did you know that May is National Salad Month? Today’s the last day. I’ve been enjoying the delicious selection of salads at Zeidler’s Café all month, and the good thing is that they’re available all year round. My personal favorite is the seared ahi tuna with citrus and greens, topped with a champagne vinaigrette. The fresh citrus gives it that summery vibe, the bean sprouts give it an extra nutritional boost, and the array of colors makes it pleasing to the eye before it even hits your palate. It sounds like I’m selling it hard, but hey, I’m a salad lover who also happens to be a marketing director! See you at Zeidler’s.
Seared Ahi Tuna Salad