Planning the Exodus

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 Café Dance Steps. Photo by Ed Dimsdale

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

Hanukkah Family Festival through a Photographer’s Lens

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 visitor displays a menorah he made out of plastic tubes, colorful tape, and stickers.

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.

BeBe found this young girl patiently waiting as her brother worked on an art project of his own. 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” in the menorah.

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”.

According to BeBe, this young visitor was very proud of the Hanukkah pin she crafted. Her glee shines through in this photo!

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!

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Students “Re-Create” the United States

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

Step Right Up for Family Fun

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.

A Night Out at Sunset Concerts

These two found a nice spot to dance behind the stage. Photo by Mitch Maher.

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!

Find a nice grassy patch to picnic with friends. Photo by John Elder.

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

New Lilies, Just in Time for Summer (and Weddings)

Star of Siam and Innocence water lilies in the Taper Courtyard reflecting pool. They’ll be around all summer long!

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

We All Scream for… Salad!

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

Seared Ahi Tuna Salad

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My Top 10 Puppet Festival Moments

I was among the many excited visitors and staff who were at the Puppet Festival on Sunday, April 1. It was a joyous day. During the daylong program, I worked with a terrific photographer, Peter Turman, to capture the day in pictures, meeting many Puppet Festival attendees along the way and catching countless special moments. Here are just ten memorable moments caught on camera that give a sense of what the Puppet Festival was all about: an array of puppets throughout the day and fun for the whole family.

My Haimishe Menschen (In Other Words, My Warm, Caring People)

the Shriers

Joan and Joel Schrier

It’s National Volunteer Week, an annual celebration established in 1974 “to inspire, recognize, and encourage people to engage in their communities.” Year after year, it earns no less than a Presidential Proclamation.

The Skirball has more than 300 active volunteers and docents, who together contribute in excess of 30,000 hours a year. I get to work most directly with the volunteers who staff the lobby, welcoming guests, selling Skirball Memberships, and offering information. I’ve gotten to know many of them personally. They regularly ask about the status of my love life (don’t ask!), how my apartment search is going, which race I’m running next, and the latest on my bagpiping lessons. I’m even learning some Yiddish phrases, which are great fun to weave into conversations. My fave is “aroys gevorfen de gelt,” which loosely translates to “throwing the money out the window.” I also like “it vet gornisht helfen,” which means “it won’t help one bit!” Continue reading

People, Let Me Tell You ‘Bout My Best Friends

A little storytelling and impromptu drumming with Noah’s Ark fans Griffin and Zoe.

A little storytelling and impromptu drumming with Noah’s Ark fans Griffin and Zoe.

I have the best job. Ever. My job title is something like Retail Sales Associate at Audrey’s Museum Store, which means I sell toys and books to people visiting Noah’s Ark at the Skirball. But really I like to call myself the Toddler Whisperer because I spend my days interacting with very young children. My measure of a good day isn’t how many sales I’ve had, but rather, how many of my “regulars” have come to visit. I have a whole pocketful of friends:

Jasper, my animal expert, knows everything there is to know about the wild kingdom. At four years old, he can identify a Xenops or a vole as readily as a pig and a cow (the latter two being alike because, as Jasper informed me recently, “they are both farm animals”). On one of his visits, he brought his most special animal book to share with me. I was expecting a small board book or a thin paperback. Out of his backpack came a heavy animal encyclopedia that must have taken quite a bit of effort for him to lug around. I was so happy that he wanted to share it with me. Together we sat and looked through it.

You can always tell when Aidan and his younger brother Connor are approaching the store. You hear the calls of “Shaaarrrooonnn! It’s my friend!” as Aidan enters the store and gives me a hug. Aidan likes to sit at our little “touch table,” where kids can feel free to play with select store goodies, and try out the toys. He often comes up with creative names for them. Continue reading