Thursday, 27 October 2011

How To Be Creative

I'm not sure about you, but every so often I fall into the habit of doing things the same old way. With no new ideas on what to present or how to present it. It's at times like this when I try to sit down and be creative. Unfortunately, when I most try and force myself to be creative is when I am least likely to be creative.

So I went out and picked up a few things.

I bought the Walls Notebook. This notebook is exactly what it sounds like. Each page has a photograph of a different wall. It's for those who would like to have the creative outlet of graffiti but recognize both the illegality of the act and the damage it does to a building. This notebook is for creative expression of ideas, pictures and concepts in safe, indoor, legal fashion. I'm not sure what it says about me but even though I've had the book for several weeks, I have yet to write or draw anything in it. It's such a beautiful book, I just don't want to mess it up. But I will. Soon. I promise.

I also bought the book 344 Questions: The Creative Person's Do-It-Yourself Guide to Insight, Survival, and Artistic Fulfillment. This book takes you through various questions and scenarios (on a guess, I'd say there's 344 of them) that are supposed to help you unlock your potential and figure out what you're searching for. As you might expect, I haven't started that yet either.

But I did get a big burst of creativity from two different areas. One was a conference I attended in Victoria earlier this month. The second was from a class Anine Vonkeman and I taught last weekend.

Anine and I were once again asked by the Alberta Museums Association to teach the class on Public Programming and Marketing. There is nothing like spending two days with other creative, expressive museum people to stimulate ideas and help you see new ways of doing things. What made this even more amazing is that we were at the Leighton Centre in the foothills south west of Calgary. The view and setting were fabulous. Both during and after the class I jotted down a lot of new ideas for ways to revamp some of my programs and new ideas I want to try out.

Now I just have to wait for November and a bit of quiet time (now that Flashlight Cemetery Tour and request for hospital tours are winding down). I can't wait...

Friday, 7 October 2011

The Best Reward!

A little boy came into the room and looked at the floor. His eyes got as big as dinner plates as he looked at the brightly painted canvas. I asked him "Do you know what this is?" and he answered with a nod, "Snakes and Ladders." After a pause he then said, "but where is the thing?" I thought for a moment and asked him if he meant the dice. "Yeah!" was his answer. I went to get the die and when he saw it, if it was possible, his eyes got bigger and his mouth opened in a wordless "Wow!" The die I handed him was a 16" foam cube that was almost more than he could hold in his out stretched arms.
Photo above: Volunteer Kelti Boissonneault and game designer Wendy Aitkens

Fawkes and his Dad Roger played the game undisturbed for the next half an hour. The delight we saw in Fawkes' eyes and the pleasure his Dad had playing with his son was the best reward we could ever ask for. By we, I mean the 12 people who had completed the game after some 117 hours of drawing, taping and painting.

Photo to left: Fawkes and Dad

The people who helped create the snakes, ladders, colourful squares and 100 numbers included three students from the University, two artists from the Lethbridge Artists Club, three family members of one of the artists, and 3 Galt staff and a spouse of one of the staff memebers.

We started with a blank piece of raw canvas measuring 18' by 18'. A pencil grid was layed out and then snakes and ladders were sketched onto the canvas. Exterior flat paint diluted 20% with distilled water (to help the paint soak into the canvas) was used to paint all the features. The only place to work on this size of canvas was the floor and there were many sore backs and knees before it was completed. We found the most challenging part of the job was getting the numbers on the squares accurately - don't look too close at those numbers - as several of us made some minor goofs.

Photo above: Volunteers painting snakes

The snakes on the game are artistic representation of local snakes including Red Sided, Plains and Wandering Garter snakes, a Bull and Rattle Snake.

The giant Snakes and Ladders game was created to add to the fun and laughter surrounding the Galt Museum & Archives new special exhibit Toys & Games ~ engage, entertain and educate. It will be available in the Viewing Gallery whenever that space is available so come and challenge friends and family to a game. Throw the huge di and count off the squares, find the ladders and avoid the snakes.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Gravestone Preservation Workshop -- Things I Learned on the Road

This semester I am taking on on-line university class on Historic Conservation and Preservation of Historic Sites and Monuments. For the course I had to watch a video on the restoration of the Ta Reach statue at Angkor Wat. The techniques, material and ethical questions that the restorers faced were ones I could relate to because I had just recently been introduced to these through a Gravestone Preservation Workshop in Butte, Montana.

This was the reason for my September road trip -- to attend this course. I am so glad I did. Many of our historic cemeteries, monuments and headstones are in need of work. But it has to be done in a way suitable for historic structures and respecting the authenticity and heritage of these places.

The course was six hours long and I can't believe everything we learned in that short time. The instructor was given carte blance by the cemetery owner to work on any headstones he saw fit. The first one he chose was a marble piece that, while standing, was actually in six pieces.

By the end of the day our group had the base lifted out of the soil and balanced and all of the pieces rejoined (this picture shows the end result). As you can see we also started the process of filling missing gaps in the stone with mortar.

Look carefully at the base of this next headstone. When we started working on this monument, the base was buried up to the top of the stone along the front side. Because the monument was leaning, gravity was enough for the top of the cross to break off (you can see the line). The monument was leveled (with copious amounts of gravel and sand placed under it) and the cross re-attached.

Following the course, I had some time to walk and drive around some of the historic cemeteries in Butte. There are some incredible monuments here.

As you can see, this section in split in half. The people on the left have white table headstones. The persons on the right have large black granite headstones. Why the division? Nuns are buried on the left; priests on the right.

I was struck not only by the beauty of this one but by the sculpture of the dog at the bottom. This person wished to ensure his family pet was always with him.

There are many different ways that family areas are denoted in a cemetery. Sometimes they are fenced. Sometimes they have monogrammed stones to show the area. Or you could create a monumental wall such as this one, adorned with two angels, to mark the family's area.

Or maybe something subtle like this to delineate your family's section of the cemetery?

The course gave me a new respect for the work being done to care for our historic monuments (buildings, statues, headstones and all). Thank you to everyone out there doing this work and doing it well.