GARDENS AS EDUCATORS:
FROM PRESCHOOL TO GRAD SCHOOL
Weekend Family Art Projects At Wave Hill
What do Mark Twain, Theodore Roosevelt, William Henry Appleton and Arturo Toscanini have in common? Each of them lived at Wave Hill House. And, whether you’re sipping tea and writing, walking through the woodland, or sitting on an Adirondack lawn chair thinking about the government, it’s easy to imagine the Bronx estate is yours.
“There’s an intimacy about Wave Hill; people feel like it’s their discovery, a secret they know about,” says Noah Baen, who leads the weekend Family Art Projects. “It’s small, very focused and really put together so that it’s like the public’s estate garden. We’re not here in the same way the New York Botanical Gardens is. They’re a research facility about ten times our size; they will acquire a tree to complete a collection. Here, you never feel like you’re in a huge crowd, and while it is certainly an educational facility, things are planted because they look or feel good together. People come here to have quiet and a more personal experience.”
The weekend Family Art Project is just such an experience. “I don’t know of any program quite like this one,” says Mr. Baen. “We start out with an introduction to the project, which involves reading a story,” says Mr. Baen, “then we go out for a nature experience. The rest of the time is art-making.”
There are not any project directors quite like this one. Mr. Baen’s work is in the Museum of Modern Art collection and the Smith College Museum of Art and the 59th Street subway concourse. He received the Mayor’s Very Special Arts Award and the Hero Award for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children as a result of his art work with children.
For the “Shaping the Land,” project, Mr. Baen, along with assistant leader, Martha Barrero, who is fluent in Spanish, led the children around the grounds to consider, “geological forces that shaped the landscape like ice, wind, water; and manmade forces: roads, lawns, retaining walls alter the landscape.” With pinecones, twigs, seed pods, etc. they returned to the Kerlin Learning Center art studio and created a landscape.
“At the end of February, we’ll do Creature Comforts of Home,” said Mr. Baen. We’ll look around, see who’s living here, see places where they can make a home. Then we’ll make an animal - real or imaginary - out of clay and a house for it.”
High school interns assist. They’re also learning, “about art in nature education, how projects are structured, and how to communicate with children and adults (children must be accompanied by an adult),” says Mr. Baen. Teachers in groups of five or less may observe. Wave Hill offers a full complement of school partnerships and staff development programs.
April showers bring the signature Family Art Project—daffodil hats, officially titled, Daffy about Daffodils. Mr. Baen’s been doing this project nearly 20 years. “The kids will go into the gardens and sketch all the varieties of daffodils, white, yellow, pink, orange, which should be in full bloom. They make hats out of construction paper, mostly in daffodil colors, with the trumpet and six-petal ring. After we make the hats, we parade around the grounds to celebrate the spring blossoming and imaginatively becoming a part of nature. I like to go across the café’s outdoor terrace where the people are sitting with tea and lunches. If it rains, we parade around the house; we give the people in the indoor café a show.”
Adult visitors may enjoy workshops, lectures, concerts or arrange for conferences or weddings. Consider wearing a daffodil hat.
For more information visit wavehill.org or www.nycgovparks.org/parks/Wave%20Hill.#