It’s Snowing this Summer at Audrey’s!

What better way to celebrate the Skirball’s presentation of The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats than with window display of a snowy day? After growing up watching Bugs Bunny fool Elmer Fudd into thinking it was winter in July, Audrey’s staff member Michelle Bourdon and I wanted to go all out on that theme. We researched various winter holiday store window display designs, and then we designed our own. It took the combined talents of the rest of Audrey’s staff to make our wintry window happen!

Team Audrey’s in action! Prior to the window installation, Audrey’s staff met for two workshops to build the display elements, including falling cotton ball strands of snow, cut paper snowflakes, and foamboard buildings. Here store director Pam Balton and I consider the layout of windows for the Keats-inspired cityscapes.

Team Audrey’s in action! Prior to the window installation, Audrey’s staff met for two workshops to build the display elements, including falling cotton ball strands of snow, cut paper snowflakes, and foamboard buildings. Here store director Pam Balton and I consider the layout of windows for the Keats-inspired cityscapes.

Audrey’s staff member Michelle Bourdon works on trimming the needle at the top of the foamboard Empire State Building—no easy feat!

Audrey’s staff member Michelle Bourdon works on trimming the needle at the top of the foamboard Empire State Building—no easy feat!

Michelle plays with an initial layout before we actually install all the pieces into the store window. Audrey’s staff cut out each and every snowflake—a job that required lots of scissors and X-acto knives!

Michelle plays with an initial layout before we actually install all the pieces into the store window. Audrey’s staff cut out each and every snowflake—a job that required lots of scissors and X-acto knives!

We used both colored paper and printed fabrics to mirror Keats’s use of collage and amate paper in his artwork. As a special touch, we added in Amy and Roberto (with his white mouse puppet) from Keats’s book Dreams (the original is pictured here in the above right image). We also included Peter (from The Snowy Day) stomping his footprints into the snow.

We used both colored paper and printed fabrics to mirror Keats’s use of collage and amate paper in his art. As a special touch, we added in Amy and Roberto (with his white mouse puppet) from Keats’s book Dreams (a detail of the original is pictured here in the above right image; copyright Ezra Jack Keats Foundation). We also included Peter (from The Snowy Day) stomping his footprints into the snow.

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A Teacher Becomes Part of the Family

Getting to know the animals at Noah’s Ark at the Skirball, including this adolescent mountain gorilla. Photo by Kristin Welch Zurek.

Getting to know the animals at Noah’s Ark at the Skirball, including this adolescent mountain gorilla. Photo courtesy of Kristin Welch Zurek, pictured here.

I lived in Los Angeles for fourteen years before I discovered the Skirball Cultural Center. I don’t know what took me so long, but I’m so happy I finally found my way to this gem of a museum.

As an LAUSD kindergarten teacher, I am always searching for ways to integrate more art into my curriculum. Last summer I saw a listing for the teacher professional development program Teaching Through Storytelling at the Skirball and took a gamble. It has paid off in ways I never could’ve predicted.

The day began with a story, told by one of the Skirball educators, that illustrated many of the theatrical, musical, and physical techniques we would learn over the course of the next three days. Photo by Bebe Jacobs.

Storytime at the Skirball. Photo by Bebe Jacobs.

When I arrived at the Skirball last July, I felt like a new student as I waited on the amphitheater steps for the workshop to begin. The day began with a story, told by one of the Skirball educators, that illustrated many of the theatrical, musical, and physical techniques we would learn over the course of the next three days. How could I predict that I would find Noah’s Ark to be so exquisite, or that I would be thoroughly enchanted by the storytellers who work there? Wow. How could I predict how helpful this professional development program would be? In my eighteen years of teaching, this is in the top three learning experiences this student has had.

By lunch, I felt like a very welcome houseguest. I ate quickly so that I could visit the exhibition Gary Baseman: The Door Is Always Open. I went back to the exhibition three more times during my three-day visit, and each time I read more about Gary’s life and discovered new details in the art and objects on display.

Gary’s dining table in last summer's exhibition, Gary Baseman: The Door Is Always Open. Photo by Kristin Welch Zurek.

Gary’s dining table in last summer’s exhibition, Gary Baseman: The Door Is Always Open. Photo by Kristin Welch Zurek.

By the end of the first day I felt like family. I was immediately welcomed into this community, like a newfound relative you meet and bond with effortlessly. We were given passes to come back to Noah’s Ark with our real family, and I couldn’t wait to share this experience with my kids.

Over the course of the three-day workshop we explored many different modes of storytelling that used music, movement, Continue reading

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Mini-Muse

The color of Peter’s bright red-orange snowsuit is what stands out in this illustration from the groundbreaking book The Snowy Day (1962). This and dozens of other original artworks by Keats can be seen in the exhibition The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats, now on view at the Skirball. Ezra Jack Keats, “After breakfast he put on his snowsuit and ran outside.” Final illustration for The Snowy Day, 1962. Collage and paint on board. Ezra Jack Keats Papers, de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection, McCain Library and Archives, The University of Southern Mississippi. Copyright Ezra Jack Keats Foundation.

The color of Peter’s bright red-orange snowsuit is what stands out in this illustration from the groundbreaking book The Snowy Day (1962). This and dozens of other original artworks by Keats can be seen in the exhibition The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats, now on view at the Skirball. Ezra Jack Keats, “After breakfast he put on his snowsuit and ran outside.” Final illustration for The Snowy Day, 1962. Collage and paint on board. Ezra Jack Keats Papers, de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection, McCain Library and Archives, The University of Southern Mississippi. Copyright Ezra Jack Keats Foundation.

Up in the gallery just a moment ago I overheard a teacher instructing his group of first graders: “Remember to use your ‘library voices’ in the museum.” I smiled and thought, “Good luck with that,” and then took a moment to reflect on how much has changed for museums in the last decade or so and how much my own approach has changed when it comes to developing exhibitions for the public—the whole public, kids and all.

Museums used to be sanctuaries of art and artifact where you would expect typical visitor behavior to include thoughtful reflection and quiet awe. Here the height of the art from the floor and the level of scholarship exhibited in the text might both be well above the heads of most children. The, shall we say, exuberance of children used to be wholly inconsistent with the notion of providing profound encounters with art, not to mention the “do not touch” policy necessary in most art installations. Increasingly, though, museums are adapting to the needs of children and the special ways they learn and view the world, and they are offering kids opportunities to experience art, history, and culture in ways that are meaningful to them. As it happens, I work for such an institution.

Above left: Artwork from The Snowy Day (1962) is hung at both a child’s and parent’s eye-level on walls painted with iridescent green, pink, purple, blue, and yellow snowflakes. Visitors can also make tracks in the special “snow” feature seen here in the foreground. Above right: The second gallery of the exhibition is a haven of participatory activities, such as story writing and collage making.

Above left: Artwork from The Snowy Day (1962) is hung at both a child’s and parent’s eye-level on walls painted with iridescent green, pink, purple, blue, and yellow snowflakes. Visitors can also make tracks in the special “snow” feature seen here in the foreground. Above right: The second gallery of the exhibition is a haven of participatory activities, such as story writing and collage making.

In my role as a curator, I still adhere to the notion that quiet contemplation is a form of “visitor engagement,” but as a mom, I am grateful for museums that not only tolerate my toddler Liam’s high energy and propensity for distraction, but actually respect his ability to perceive, appreciate, and learn from art. It is a challenge to develop content for a target audience who may be just starting to develop their language skills, who will last maybe thirty minutes in a gallery, and who might very well have other media competing for their attention while they’re in the museum space. These are challenges that I faced most recently while organizing the Skirball’s presentation of The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats. For this project, I found inspiration in my three-year-old mini-muse, Liam, and in the beautiful art and stories featured in the exhibition itself.

In Goggles! (1969), Peter, his dog Willie, and his friend Archie outwit a gang of bullies in order to keep the discarded motorcycle goggles they have found. Here Archie triumphantly tries on the goggles exclaiming, “Things look real fine now.” Ezra Jack Keats, “Archie laughed and said, ‘We sure fooled ’em, didn’t we?’“ Final illustration for Goggles!, 1969. Paint and collage on board.  Ezra Jack Keats Papers, de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection, McCain Library and Archives, The University of Southern Mississippi.  Copyright Ezra Jack Keats Foundation.

In Goggles! (1969), Peter, his dog Willie, and his friend Archie outwit a gang of bullies in order to keep the discarded motorcycle goggles they have found. Here Archie triumphantly tries on the goggles exclaiming, “Things look real fine now.” Ezra Jack Keats, “Archie laughed and said, ‘We sure fooled ’em, didn’t we?’“ Final illustration for Goggles!, 1969. Paint and collage on board. Ezra Jack Keats Papers, de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection, McCain Library and Archives, The University of Southern Mississippi. Copyright Ezra Jack Keats Foundation.

 

Liam modeling a pair of yellow “goggles” while visiting momma at work. These goggles are available for visitors to try on in the exhibition to encourage closer looking and to help see things from the character’s perspective.

Liam modeling a pair of yellow “goggles” while visiting momma at work. These goggles are available for visitors to try on in the exhibition to encourage closer looking and to help see things from the character’s perspective.

Children live in a highly visual world. Liam’s eyes perceive so much more than mine do—he can easily point to the tiniest speck of an airplane in the sky long before I am remotely aware of its existence. Continue reading

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President’s Greeting: May/Jun 2014

2009.8.8_Rhythm Child Amphitheater_Mitch Maher (154)As a child in school, I loved field trips. Is there a child who doesn’t? The chance to escape the confines of the classroom and meet the wide and wondrous world was always a thrill. In the State of Israel, where I grew up, field trips were unforgettable adventures. Not only were we exploring a glorious landscape, we were seeing the sites of history inscribed there. One of my favorite sites was the famous Roman amphitheater in Caesarea. It was built two thousand years ago, and it is miraculously well-preserved. I was so impressed by its design: grand and spacious yet circular and intimate, and not a bad seat in the house. Music, dance, and drama performances are held there to this day. You sit not only side by side but face to face. Even better, everyone in the audience can see each other.

Enjoying the Skirball's Ziegler Amphitheater with one of my wonderful grandchildren.

Enjoying the Skirball’s amphitheater with one of my wonderful grandchildren.

The amphitheater is both a cultural space and a communal space. That is the ideal that inspires us at the Skirball—to be a place where both culture and community are celebrated.

As the school year comes to a close Continue reading

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18 Selfies of the Skirball at 18 (Well, If It Could Take a Selfie)

Happy birthday, Skirball! Today you turn eighteen. If you were like other Angelenos your age, you might be spending these days preparing for prom… or waiting for college acceptance letters… or applying for that job you weren’t eligible for until now. Hopefully you’d live up to your mission and register to vote and not dodge jury duty. You’re not quite old enough for a cocktail, but we’ll toast you nonetheless.

It’s been a good year for you, Skirball. At last, your fifteen-acre campus was completed, and in grand style at that. The Jewish Journal took note of the special occasion in a cover story on your founder, Uri D. Herscher, and he and architect Moshe Safdie reflected upon the journey of your building on film. Of this particular birthday, Uri also reminds us, “Eighteen in Jewish life is special cause for celebration, for in Hebrew the number spells life—and the Skirball’s life is thriving like never before.”

Now, as an eighteen-year-old, you would certainly spend a ton of your time taking selfies and posting them online—if only you could. But since you can’t, a few of us on staff took some for you. Here are eighteen gorgeous—and some unexpected—views of you, all taken in the last week or so. Thanks for being home to us and to so many of our visitors. Happy eighteenth!

A graceful curve toward the new Herscher Hall and Guerin Pavilion. Photo by Madeline Tuthill.

A graceful curve toward the new Herscher Hall and Guerin Pavilion. Photo by Madeline Tuthill.

On concrete and Tadoussac stone, the early morning sun signals a new day. Photo by Mia Cariño.

On concrete and Tadoussac stone, the early morning sun signals a new day. Photo by Mia Cariño.

Cypress trees bring a distinctively California Mediterranean vibe to the campus. Photo by Patrice Mineshima.

Cypress trees bring a distinctively California Mediterranean vibe to the campus. Photo by Patrice Mineshima.

A rectangle of light, at the foot of the staircase behind the Taper Courtyard. Photo by Kim Kandel.

A rectangle of light, at the foot of the staircase behind the Taper Courtyard. Photo by Kim Kandel.

Shadows on the second floor colonnade in the Taper Courtyard. Photo by Daniel Soto.

Shadows on the second floor colonnade in the Taper Courtyard. Photo by Daniel Soto.

Paver stones beckon visitors to this contemplative spot off the Taper Courtyard mezzanine. Have you stepped inside? Photo by Candice Crawford.

Paver stones beckon visitors to this contemplative spot off the Taper Courtyard mezzanine. Have you stepped inside? Photo by Candice Crawford.

The dig site on a sunny day, ready for budding archaeologists. Photo by Jen Maxcy.

The dig site on a sunny day, ready for budding archaeologists. Photo by Jen Maxcy.

Lounging on the hidden bench on the terrace. Photo by Sara Kahlenberg.

Lounging on the hidden bench on the terrace. Photo by Sara Kahlenberg.

Find out where you fit in <i>Visions and Values: Jewish Life from Antiquity to America</i>. Photo by Sue Boorujy-Larson.

Find out where you fit in Visions and Values: Jewish Life from Antiquity to America. Photo by Sue Boorujy-Larson.

Discovering one of the secret hiding places aboard Noah's Ark. Photo by Lisa Delgin.

Discovering one of the secret hiding places aboard Noah's Ark. Photo by Lisa Delgin.

Aviator butterflies in Noah's Ark at the Skirball. Photo by Jennifer Caballero.

Aviator butterflies in Noah's Ark at the Skirball. Photo by Jennifer Caballero.

Deer grazing near the rainbow mist arbor. Photo by Jen Maxcy.

Deer grazing near the rainbow mist arbor. Photo by Jen Maxcy.

A giant cricket pays a visit. Photo by Sara Marino.

A giant cricket pays a visit. Photo by Sara Marino.

The changing light on the Kopple Terrace. Photo by Tom Schirtz.

The changing light on the Kopple Terrace. Photo by Tom Schirtz.

A rainbow (or two) always trumps the selfie. Turning the camera to look out across the canyon. Photo by Jen Maxcy.

A rainbow (or two) always trumps the selfie. Turning the camera to look out across the canyon. Photo by Jen Maxcy.

Tere O'Connor Dance performs in the Getty Gallery. Photo by Daniel Soto.

Tere O'Connor Dance performs in the Getty Gallery. Photo by Daniel Soto.

Sunset at the Skirball. Photo by Candice Crawford.

Sunset at the Skirball. Photo by Candice Crawford.

All roads lead to Skirball. Photo by Ernie Mondaca.

All roads lead to Skirball. Photo by Ernie Mondaca.

A graceful curve toward the new Herscher Hall and Guerin Pavilion. Photo by Madeline Tuthill.On concrete and Tadoussac stone, the early morning sun signals a new day. Photo by Mia Cariño.Cypress trees bring a distinctively California Mediterranean vibe to the campus. Photo by Patrice Mineshima.A rectangle of light, at the foot of the staircase behind the Taper Courtyard. Photo by Kim Kandel.Shadows on the second floor colonnade in the Taper Courtyard. Photo by Daniel Soto.Paver stones beckon visitors to this contemplative spot off the Taper Courtyard mezzanine. Have you stepped inside? Photo by Candice Crawford.The dig site on a sunny day, ready for budding archaeologists. Photo by Jen Maxcy.Lounging on the hidden bench on the terrace. Photo by Sara Kahlenberg.Find out where you fit in Visions and Values: Jewish Life from Antiquity to America. Photo by Sue Boorujy-Larson.Discovering one of the secret hiding places aboard Noah's Ark. Photo by Lisa Delgin.Aviator butterflies in Noah's Ark at the Skirball. Photo by Jennifer Caballero.Deer grazing near the rainbow mist arbor. Photo by Jen Maxcy.A giant cricket pays a visit. Photo by Sara Marino.The changing light on the Kopple Terrace. Photo by Tom Schirtz.A rainbow (or two) always trumps the selfie. Turning the camera to look out across the canyon. Photo by Jen Maxcy.Tere O'Connor Dance performs in the Getty Gallery. Photo by Daniel Soto.Sunset at the Skirball. Photo by Candice Crawford.All roads lead to Skirball. Photo by Ernie Mondaca.

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My Top Ten Puppet Festival Moments 2014

This past Sunday was my first time attending the Skirball’s annual Puppet Festival, and as soon as I reached the parking lot, it was obvious that everyone in attendance was filled with excitement and anticipation. Moms, dads, friends, and relatives were actively engaged in conversation while their children—many dressed in colorful costumes—were skipping with joy at the thought of seeing the myriad of puppets. Throughout the day, I observed many memorable moments; fortunately, talented photographer Peter Turman was there to capture some of them with his camera. The Puppet Festival was a full day of celebrating families, friends, and puppets! Click through the slideshow below to catch a glimpse of the day as seen through my favorite ten of Peter’s photographs.

1. My day at the Puppet Festival began in the craft room, where toilet paper and paper towel rolls were miraculously transformed into marionettes. The crafting materials afforded adults and children alike with a wide array of puppet possibilities, from a simple snake to a more complex elephant or giraffe. Most of the children designed their own imaginary creatures. The little girl in this photograph used buttons for eyes and an assortment of yarn for colorful hair. It is obvious from her mother’s expression that she is proud of her daughter’s original creation.

1. My day at the Puppet Festival began in the craft room, where toilet paper and paper towel rolls were miraculously transformed into marionettes. The crafting materials afforded adults and children alike with a wide array of puppet possibilities, from a simple snake to a more complex elephant or giraffe. Most of the children designed their own imaginary creatures. The little girl in this photograph used buttons for eyes and an assortment of yarn for colorful hair. It is obvious from her mother’s expression that she is proud of her daughter’s original creation.

2.	These puppets based on Stravinsky's ballet <i>The Firebird</i> were stunning. Their expressive, watercolored faces and colorful, billowing fabric bodies made their larger-than-life presence a true showstopper. I loved seeing the <i>Firebird</i> puppets interact with the children. Kids who were not intimidated by their giant stature would approach the puppets and then run away, giggling as if playing a game of tag.

2. These puppets based on Stravinsky's ballet The Firebird were stunning. Their expressive, watercolored faces and colorful, billowing fabric bodies made their larger-than-life presence a true showstopper. I loved seeing the Firebird puppets interact with the children. Kids who were not intimidated by their giant stature would approach the puppets and then run away, giggling as if playing a game of tag.

3.	Puppet Festival is for families! The event creates lifelong memories of spending time with little ones, listening to music, attending puppet shows, exploring Noah’s Ark, and catching up on the latest exhibitions at the Skirball. I particularly enjoyed watching the children munching on snacks as their faces lit up with awe. I haven’t seen so much kiddy food since grade school. Mini mac and cheese and granola bars for everyone!

3. Puppet Festival is for families! The event creates lifelong memories of spending time with little ones, listening to music, attending puppet shows, exploring Noah’s Ark, and catching up on the latest exhibitions at the Skirball. I particularly enjoyed watching the children munching on snacks as their faces lit up with awe. I haven’t seen so much kiddy food since grade school. Mini mac and cheese and granola bars for everyone!

4.	The expressions on the faces of the children in this photograph are absolutely priceless! There is something about puppets that keeps little ones completely engaged.

4. The expressions on the faces of the children in this photograph are absolutely priceless! There is something about puppets that keeps little ones completely engaged.

5.	The giant bird puppet created by Leslie K. Gray is always a real hit. Although it takes three people to guide the immense creature, the puppet appears to be almost weightless.

5. The giant bird puppet created by Leslie K. Gray is always a real hit. Although it takes three people to guide the immense creature, the puppet appears to be almost weightless.

6.	There’s something on your shoulder! At first I thought it was a parrot, but soon came to realize the object getting all the attention was a small puppet critter. The puppeteer laughed as visitors tried to interact with this strange yet absolutely adorable furry creation. All of the puppeteers at the event were enthusiastic about showing off their puppet friends.

6. There’s something on your shoulder! At first I thought it was a parrot, but soon came to realize the object getting all the attention was a small puppet critter. The puppeteer laughed as visitors tried to interact with this strange yet absolutely adorable furry creation. All of the puppeteers at the event were enthusiastic about showing off their puppet friends.

7.	This puppeteer on stilts, also known as Captain Tall Tale, navigated the Skirball grounds with ease. While his head seemed to reach the clouds, every now and then he would lean over to greet a much smaller visitor.

7. This puppeteer on stilts, also known as Captain Tall Tale, navigated the Skirball grounds with ease. While his head seemed to reach the clouds, every now and then he would lean over to greet a much smaller visitor.

8.	This drummer announced the entrance of the gigantic natural-elements puppets that gathered above the Taper Courtyard. Once they were in place, the puppets swayed to the beat of the drums as the audience joined in with the dance.

8. This drummer announced the entrance of the gigantic natural-elements puppets that gathered above the Taper Courtyard. Once they were in place, the puppets swayed to the beat of the drums as the audience joined in with the dance.

9.	In between shows, Captain Tall Tale and his friends brought out a jump rope. They were immediately swarmed by children who wanted to join in on the fun. This photograph captures a boy who appears to be part kangaroo!

9. In between shows, Captain Tall Tale and his friends brought out a jump rope. They were immediately swarmed by children who wanted to join in on the fun. This photograph captures a boy who appears to be part kangaroo!

10.	As the event neared an end, I looked around the crowd and it was obvious that the joy I had observed throughout the day had not diminished. Parents were still chatting, puppeteers continued to entertain, and children were happily playing. Suddenly, this small <i>Firebird</i> puppet whizzed over the children’s heads after the completion of its final performance. The children chased the puppet, reaching for the sky as if nothing could hold them down. The third annual Skirball Puppet Festival was indeed a day filled with laughter, excitement, and love.

10. As the event neared an end, I looked around the crowd and it was obvious that the joy I had observed throughout the day had not diminished. Parents were still chatting, puppeteers continued to entertain, and children were happily playing. Suddenly, this small Firebird puppet whizzed over the children’s heads after the completion of its final performance. The children chased the puppet, reaching for the sky as if nothing could hold them down. The third annual Skirball Puppet Festival was indeed a day filled with laughter, excitement, and love.

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1. My day at the Puppet Festival began in the craft room, where toilet paper and paper towel rolls were miraculously transformed into marionettes. The crafting materials afforded adults and children alike with a wide array of puppet possibilities, from a simple snake to a more complex elephant or giraffe. Most of the children designed their own imaginary creatures. The little girl in this photograph used buttons for eyes and an assortment of yarn for colorful hair. It is obvious from her mother’s expression that she is proud of her daughter’s original creation.2.	These puppets based on Stravinsky's ballet The Firebird were stunning. Their expressive, watercolored faces and colorful, billowing fabric bodies made their larger-than-life presence a true showstopper. I loved seeing the Firebird puppets interact with the children. Kids who were not intimidated by their giant stature would approach the puppets and then run away, giggling as if playing a game of tag.3.	Puppet Festival is for families! The event creates lifelong memories of spending time with little ones, listening to music, attending puppet shows, exploring Noah’s Ark, and catching up on the latest exhibitions at the Skirball. I particularly enjoyed watching the children munching on snacks as their faces lit up with awe. I haven’t seen so much kiddy food since grade school. Mini mac and cheese and granola bars for everyone!4.	The expressions on the faces of the children in this photograph are absolutely priceless! There is something about puppets that keeps little ones completely engaged.5.	The giant bird puppet created by Leslie K. Gray is always a real hit. Although it takes three people to guide the immense creature, the puppet appears to be almost weightless.6.	There’s something on your shoulder! At first I thought it was a parrot, but soon came to realize the object getting all the attention was a small puppet critter. The puppeteer laughed as visitors tried to interact with this strange yet absolutely adorable furry creation. All of the puppeteers at the event were enthusiastic about showing off their puppet friends.7.	This puppeteer on stilts, also known as Captain Tall Tale, navigated the Skirball grounds with ease. While his head seemed to reach the clouds, every now and then he would lean over to greet a much smaller visitor.8.	This drummer announced the entrance of the gigantic natural-elements puppets that gathered above the Taper Courtyard. Once they were in place, the puppets swayed to the beat of the drums as the audience joined in with the dance.9.	In between shows, Captain Tall Tale and his friends brought out a jump rope. They were immediately swarmed by children who wanted to join in on the fun. This photograph captures a boy who appears to be part kangaroo!.

All photos by Peter Turman

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Ezra Jack Keats’s Bestie

In celebration of the opening of The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats this week, the head of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, Laura Pope, shared the following note and essay from her father with us. Their words speak for themselves and help express the true joy the Skirball feels in presenting this wonderful exhibition.

In celebration of the opening of The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats this week, Deborah Pope, head of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, shared the following essay by her father, Martin Pope, with us. Martin and Deborah’s heartfelt words help express the true joy the Skirball feels in presenting this wonderful exhibition.

Because my father and Ezra Jack Keats were best friends, I grew up thinking Ezra was my uncle. He had not yet written The Snowy Day when I was of an age to read picture books and so when he did, I couldn’t really grasp the magnitude of his accomplishment. Nor could I, as a child, understand the fact that my father, Martin Pope, was a world-renowned scientist. For me, these two men were present as playfellows, co-conspirators, and cheerleaders.

The essay below was written by my father  for the opening of The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats at The Jewish Museum in New York City, now at the Skirball. I would like to add a few words to his. The experience of poverty and prejudice might have hardened my father’s and Ezra’s hearts; instead, it made each of them, in his own way, determined to work against the perpetuation of such injustice. Their deep affection for and belief in one another fed their resolve to escape from deprived childhoods and realize their dreams, one in science and one in art. Integral to their plans was marking their path—the path of books, friendship, and imagination—to help coming generations of children find their way to better lives. Even now, at the age of 95, I think you will hear in my father’s words the depth of his continuing dedication to their shared childhood dreams.

Ezra Jack Keats (left) and my father, Martin Pope (right). Different men, kindred souls.

Ezra Jack Keats (left) and my father, Martin Pope (right). Different paths, same road.

My story with Ezra began eighty-one years ago, in the East New York section of Brooklyn, so often pictured in his books. We met in summer school; he was fourteen and I was twelve. Ezra had failed algebra because he wasn’t interested in math, I failed because I corrected my teacher. Our bond as friends was cemented that summer. Continue reading

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Marionettes: An Interview with René Zendejas

renes_marionettes The third annual Puppet Festival is this Sunday, April 13. From hand to shadow, marionette to pageant-size, all your favorites will be there! The Skirball is especially happy to welcome back puppeteer, storyteller, and puppet maker René Zendejas. René returns to wow families with a special animal puppet revue and performance, showcasing some of his best handmade animal puppets. I sat down with René as he was preparing for his appearance to ask him about his long career in the world of puppetry.

How did you get started in puppetry?
I started when I was in junior high school. My mother took me to see as many puppet shows as possible that were playing in L.A.

Which puppeteer captured your imagination when you were young?
I had already started in show business when I was five years old, so this wasn’t something totally new for me. One of the puppeteering teams that caught my eye was Walton and O’Rourke—the most fantastic puppeteers that I have ever seen. From then on, I was smitten. They’re long gone by now. They had the most beautiful marionettes and their manipulation was unsurpassable—except by me, of course.

How do you make your puppets?
First, the clay is sculpted using water-based or grease clay. Second, a plaster mold is made of the clay sculpture. Then you pour your final material into the mold, either plastic or latex. Then comes the finishing of the figure by sanding. Lastly, you animate it—if there is to be any animation in the eyes and the mouth—and paint it. Meanwhile, the body must be constructed and costumed. Continue reading

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Talking Ladino with Guy Mendilow

A sneak preview of Tales from the Forgotten Kingdom, to be performed by the Guy Mendilow Ensemble at the Skirball on March 27:

Guy Mendilow is not only an incredible musician, he is also quite a scholar of Sephardic culture. He and his ensemble’s concerts not only present the music of Sephardic tradition in a contemporary style, they also share the stories and culture of the Jews of both pre- and post-diasporic Spain. Their concerts become not just an opportunity to enjoy, but also to learn. I invite you to share in my conversation with Guy and then join us at the Skirball for what is certain to be a great evening.

So what is Ladino? How is it an “endangered” language?
First off, let’s quickly tackle the question of names. The term “Ladino” is arguable. Although it has become the most common name for the language, the spoken language itself is more correctly called Spaniolit, Yehuditze, Judeo, Judaismo, Hekatia (in Northern Africa), Saphardi, or, as was the case for older generations, simply Spanish. Today, the various dialects are often grouped under “Judeo-Spanish,” an umbrella term used mainly in academic study.

What the language is is a great story. The final expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 and from Portugal in 1497 marked the start of large-scale migrations in which the Jews eventually settled in communities spanning the vast Ottoman Empire, from Northern Africa and the Mediterranean to the Balkans, and beyond. In each adopted home, the language, food, customs, stories, songs, and musicality that the Jews brought with them mingled with local variants—and cultural and linguistic offshoots eventually evolved. To some extent, each Jewish community adopted words and expressions from the local languages, including Greek, Slavic languages, Arabic, Turkish, and Hebrew. The language of Ladino is a beautiful illustration of these broader patterns. Another reason that the language is fascinating is that it keeps alive some of the grammar, words, and even pronunciation from the 1500s. It’s like a time capsule.

Judeo-Spanish is still spoken by pockets of Jews, today primarily in Israel. But the culture has succumbed to many of the same forces of modernity and assimilation to which other cultures have also succumbed. Children stopped learning the language, focusing instead on the dominant languages of the new home, like Hebrew or English. When grandparents passed away, the language went with them.

This is the case of Judeo-Spanish today, though thankfully there are a handful of universities—like Tufts, the University of Washington in Seattle, and the University of Pennsylvania—that are teaching the language.

 

Why do you think preserving Ladino through song is important?
Songs—and other arts—can tell us much about a culture. They are a glimpse into a constellation of values and perspectives, occasions, life cycles, and celebrations. Songs are also an opportunity to hear the language, especially when there are fewer and fewer opportunities to do so, for most of us at any rate. Continue reading

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EL AL Poster Competition–We Have a Winner!

Chis Kim A., shown here with his poster alongside Liora Avrahami from EL AL Airlines, designer Arnold Schwartzman, and Skirball curator Doris Berger. Photos by Shoshana Maimon.

We have a winner! When we opened the exhibition To the Point: Posters by Dan Reisinger last month, not only were we excited to have the unique and inspired designs of Dan Reisinger on view in our Ruby Gallery, but thanks to his many years of collaboration with EL AL Israel Airlines and the support of the Consulate General of Israel, we were able to offer the opportunity for anyone to share their designs with us and enter a contest to win airfare to Israel via EL AL! We are happy to announce that Chris Kim A. (click here to read how he got the “A” from Andy Warhol!) has won the contest, and excited to share the winning poster as well as the designs of seven other finalists below.
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