The Art of Summer
As a young parent I had a vision for my kids’ summer vacation. I mentally packed their suitcases and labeled their clothes. I imagined the tears as I waved the camp bus bon voyage. Since I never got to experience summer camp, I knew my kids would love the idea – a week in nature making inspired art and singing by the campfire… Turns out this was my dream – not theirs. Now as a parent of teenagers, I’m reminded on a daily basis, that my ideas are not theirs.
Reluctantly I crossed summer camp off the list and since I’m a planner, I started planning. Looking back now both my teenagers and I recall with fondness the unplanned days. One hot day our front porch became not just a lemonade stand but also an art gallery. The kids put price tags on pictures they had drawn. They sold more art than lemonade. The lemonade gallery was their idea, not mine.
One rainy day we went to the Scrap Box in Ann Arbor where I learned for just $5, the kids could fill a big brown bag with stuff – recycled stuff that later with tape, scissors and glue, turned into really cool “things.” If we’d had Pinterest then, I no doubt would have been searching “art to make with recycled do-dads.” My kids didn’t need my ideas at all.
Some of the best summer days were spent close to home. An impromptu drive lead us to what is today one of our favorite places. The MSU 4H Children’s Garden is a magical place of discovery. I don’t want to spoil the surprises awaiting you, but take your camera to capture your kids on Monet’s bridge and pack a picnic lunch. You’ll want to stay all day.
Another day outing took us in the opposite direction to the University of Michigan North Campus. I had heard of Maya Lin’s Wave Field and was intrigued. What I didn’t know until we got there is that the Wave Field is an experience. It’s beautiful. It’s a joy to behold. More than art to see, you can sit on it, sit in it and roll around it too.
On this visit, I learned that the Maya Lin Wave Field is one of the many works or installations of public art at UM. I’ve been working in arts management for 24 years, and I still find that the best way to explain public art is through the eyes of children. When you come across a work of public art, ask your child to be the tour guide. They can tell you what they see and why. Their description will probably make you look differently and maybe even appreciate it more.
There is nothing more enjoyable than stumbling upon the unexpected and on the UM North Campus that might be two big heads sitting on chairs or a colorful mosaic path. You’ll discover a nice place to rest is by the Reflecting Pool and Fred’s Fountain.
This summer, I hope you’ll “plan” to have unstructured days and that you’ll discover art in unexpected places. When you next come to Jackson School of the Arts, I hope you’ll share your summer art-ventures too.
Kim’s Resource Guide to Unstructured Summer Fun
MSU 4H Children’s Garden
UM North Campus Public Art Guide