6.02.2014

Ezra Jack Keats at the Skirball

Just when you thought winter was over, A Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats makes its final stop and descends upon one of the the least snowy spots in the country, Los Angeles. After a national tour, this exhibit will now be on view at the Skirball Cultural Center through early September 2014. Despite the title, there is nothing cold about this exhibit. It is as warm and cozy as the family room pictured above.

I went to see the exhibit in April just after it opened. I thought it was wonderful. There was a basket full of cheerful yellow glasses at the entrance to the exhibit, inspired by one of Keats' books, Peter's Goggles. Guests were invited to don a pair as they walked through the space. I loved seeing parents and grandparents rocking them. 

The exhibit is designed to make guests feel like they are inside one of Keats' books. It features original copies of his work, notes, photos, final paintings and collages. As an early childhood educator, I'm a big fan of A Snowy Day and of Keats. But the book doesn't really do his work justice. His paintings and collages, flattened in books, come to life in this exhibit. And I noticed the depth in his collages for the first time. There are screens peppered throughout the exhibit running animated versions of Keats' books and sharing biographical information. There is information about his artistic process and how his work was inspired by his life - the obstacles he faced, his environment, and his experiences. After the exhibit, guests were invited to step into a reading room/interactive space to play and create and read. The space is a special touch. (Kuddos to the curator!) It represents the best of what museums have to offer -- an opportunity to engage and reflect. I would highly recommend it.

Several years ago, I taught in a combined K-1 classroom. I was inspired by The Snowy Day to create the snowy scene in sunny California pictured above. Now, I realize that for many of you winter is a still dirty word. I don't blame you. It feels like it just ended. So I know you can't bear to think about anything winter-related. Fortunately it will be many, many months before you can use this project, but thought I would share it anyway. If you'd like, you can file it away under "fun projects to do with preschool through first or second grade students in, like, January."

Here's what we did: First, we sat down and read the book. This led to a discussion about our favorite (and least favorite) bits about winter. Prior to this, I made several copies of a snow suit template* using a lightweight cardboard. After our discussion, the students retreated to their desks and traced the template onto red construction paper with a pencil. Then they cut out the snow suit. Next, the students traced a second circular template onto white construction paper. They used this circle to create a self-portrait with crayons. Then they cut out the circle and pasted it onto the snow suit. Finally, the children wrote about their favorite parts about winter. When it was all said and done, I took a bit of artistic liberty and stapled scraps of red yarn to the top of each snow suit. This is an optional step, of course. In the book, Peter's suit doesn't have a tassel. 

Here are two of my favorite "Peters":

*If you'd like a copy of the snow suit template, just email me. I'd be happy to send you one.

This weekend, June 7 and 8, is a B of A Museums on Us weekend. If you have a B of A card, you can use it to receive free admission to the Skirball Cultural Center to see The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats. For more information on this nationwide promotion and a list of participating museums, head here.