Like most kids, my nine-year old daughter Olivia is attracted to anything sassy and sweet. Though there were numerous images of apples, pomegranites, bananas and much more healthier fare on display at the Westport Arts Center, it made sense that she would be drawn to artist Tammy Winser's whimsical cake sculpture, called Erlene.
“That's cool," my young art critic commented.
While attending WACky Family Day, a special arts program for children and their aretakers, Olivia had the opportunity to walk around and explore all of the professional artwork in the gallery's current “Foodies” exhibit. As importantly, she had the chance to play and create her own.
In conjunction with each of its major shows, WAC opens its doors and welcomes young people to work with mixed media on theme-based projects. For example, Olivia joined youngsters seated at three tables in the center of the gallery and made Potato Creatures. One girl dressed her potato in a tutu. Olivia chose to link three potatoes together on a shishkabob skewer and then wrap each one in leopard-print duct tape. She also used beaded little blocks onto tooth picks and inserted those into the potatoes for further ornamentation.
“We had a great day,” said Danielle Ogden, WAC's Director of Arts Education. “WACky Family Day was a huge success. We had some new families come out, which is always great. We also love seeing all of our 'regulars.' This time we had a lot of different age groups attend. It's nice to see older kids participating.”
Another food-related project that kids enthusiastically bit into was the Build Your-Own-Burger Collage. In between brown construction paper, representing a hamburger and bun, children pasted magazine pictures of candies and cookies as well as 'Hello, Kitty' memorabilia and other images of their favorite things to make their fantasy burger. “I put a purple flower, enchilada and snowman on mine just because these are things I like,” Olivia explained.
Stew Leonard's grocery store donated empty milk and egg cartons that were
repurposed and re-used for WACky Family Day's third project –The Haunted Farm. “Since this event took place only a month before Halloween, we wanted to throw a little bit of the holiday spirit into our fall WACky Family Day," Danielle noted.
Weston mom Cheryl Smith assisted her two daughters, Abby, 3, and Lilah, 5, decorate their barns. Their family has attended other WACky Family Days. “It's such an easy way for them to explore art and have fun,” Cheryl said. “And, Melissa from 'Melissa and Doug' makes it such a great event.”
Westport natives Melissa and Doug Bernstein, owners of the renowned, Wilton-based toy company, are lead sponsors for WACky Family Day. At each program, they generously provide creative giveaways for every participant. The company also hosts a fun, dress-up and dramatic play area in the gallery to keep toddlers --and some of the older children--busy.
Melissa said she and Doug support the arts in Westport because they recognize the importance creativity has on a child's self-esteem. “We want to have a home for creativity, a place where children can go and be validated,” Melissa said. “So much of kids' self-esteem comes from doing sports but for children who are not involved in sports, we wanted to make sure there was a place they could go where they, too, could feel special.”
Without a doubt, kids receive positive feedback at WACky Family Day and all of the art programs that take place at the gallery year-round. In fact, one of WAC's art instructors pointed out during the event on Sunday that there are several openings in the Toddler Art class this semester. “I don't think people know it exists,” she said. “Kids who are three and four years old can do all of this fun stuff, too. We have some great supplies they can use to explore mixed media and have a wonderful time creating.”
For more information about WAC's program and Foodies exhibit, go to
www.westportartscenter.org and call 203-222-7070.