“Twist & Turn” bridges gap between art, nature

Elise Barnett / Washburn Review

The “Twist & Turn” art education program intends to bridge the gap between nature and art with the help of a $10,000 grant.

Created in the fall of 2009, a towering art project by Patrick Dougherty “Topiary with a Twist” brings nature, architecture and art to the front lawn of the Mulvane Art Museum and became the inspiration for a special program that is bound to impact the Topeka community in the best ways possible.

Over the months following the construction of the art piece the structures, composed of tree saplings and branches, became a habitat for indigenous wildlife. For many, it was a family of cardinals the inspired the way art can cross into a whole world of knowledge.

“It was beautiful to see the way kids respected the birds,” said Kandis Barker, the Mulvane Art Museum’s Curator of Education. Visitors and those on tours of the exhibit were told to be calm and observe the birds in their natural habitat and all spring the nest and its inhabitants lived and grew undisturbed.

The $10,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts’ Art Education Invitational Grants Initiative will go towards “school based, Outreach and In-House art classes that link art-making with sound, science and movement,” as stated in a press release by Cindi Morrison, the Mulvane Art Museum’s director.

The school-based portion of the “Twist & Turn” program will take place in fourth grade class rooms around the city.

“Students will learn about the basics of art in three sections,” said Barker. “They will focus on birds and bird nests.”

Through drawing, painting, and creating a class mobile the students will explore the many things art has to offer and relate them back to birds, nature and life. The in-school project will tie into the Great Backyard Bird Count, a four-day event where people all over the nation count the species of birds in their backyard in order to create an image of bird populations for that given time as noted on the Bird Source website.

The in-house portion of the program offers classes and workshops for children and adults. Under the overall theme of birds and bird habitats participants will create and explore a number of things.

“Bird whistles, bird houses, bird feeders” are just a few of the projects possible for these classes and workshops as Barker noted. The classes and workshops will be offered in addition to the variety of classes previously offered at the Museum.

The outreach section of the program will start with previously established partnerships within the community and spread the art and nature theme to wide variety of citizens.

“We are hoping to take this theme out into our intergenerational art program that we have in partnership with Brewster Place Retirement Community,” said Barker. “And also our art and wellness program that we have in partnership with St. Francis Health and Wellness Center.”

“Twist & Turn” will also impact the Mulvane ArtLab where a new station will be created. Facets of and inspiration from this project and exhibition will also be used to create a new activity station in the Museum’s ArtLab, an interactive art educational facility, stated the Sept. 10 press release.

Overall, the instillation of this project intends to urge children, families and adults to see the connections between art and nature and inspire them to continue on in further explorations of art and hopefully increase their appreciation of the nature and life that surrounds the Topeka community.