Between Xtreme Ninja Martial Arts, International Fencing Club, and rune readings (just to name a few), there was something for everybody at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s Cosmic Cycles Block Party last Thursday.
This was the museum’s final Neighborhood Night of the summer, bringing nearly 1,400 visitors to the museum to enjoy the activities.
Inside the Education Studio, there were plants, leaves, and flowers aplenty. People gathered to create prints using block-printing ink, under the direction of artist Silvia Lopez Chavez.
Guests could choose from an array of different leaves, plants, and flowers to make their prints with. Once block-printing ink was rolled onto a jelly plate made of a rubbery material, the plants were placed atop the wet ink. Then a piece of paper was placed on top and guests pressed down on it with their hands. Chavez said that a Japanese bamboo spoon is typically used for the pressing, but using hands is “like print making without a press.”
“What is cool about it is it’s so simple, it’s such a simple process and it has an immediate finished product,” Chavez said. “You don’t need to know how to draw, you don’t need to know how to paint, you don’t need to know how to do anything. You just like compose your picture and then voila! You’re done.”
Chavez said that she encourages people to just have fun with the process and explore their different options with arranging the foliage.
The activities circled around the museum’s latest exhibit, “Life, Death & Revelry,” in which the Farnese Sarcophagus was moved into Hostetter Gallery, the first time it was been moved in over 100 years. Chavez said her print-making goes hand in hand with the exhibit’s mention of “cycles of life” because the plant material has its own life cycle. Part of the activity was also a print exchange—people were asked to create two prints: one they would keep for themselves and one that they would give away.
“That’s part of the connection that we’re trying to encourage for tonight,” Chavez said. “We’re having this cosmic cycle so it’s like the cosmic connections with the print making exchange.”
Frank Sanchez and his classmate Talya Auger worked hard on their prints. Auger said he was trying to stick to a floral theme to match his floral shirt—“summery and pretty” is how he described his work. He said that he was throwing different flowers onto his ink and “hoping that it’s going to look okay.”
“I really think that for me coming here I was like I really want to do some arts and crafts so I’m glad to kind of just get it right out of the way and hope that there may be some more somewhere else,” he said.
He was in luck, because David Baird from Metalwerx led a stone-carving session in Jordan Garden. Baird crafted his first piece of jewelry in eighth grade, and said that he enjoys making all different kinds.
As with the print-making, the stone carving was tied to the sarcophagus exhibit as well, but guests were carving marble instead of soapstone. “I think marble is a lot nicer,” Baird said.
Baird said that the stone carving activity takes around a half hour, maybe a little bit more. He said that depending on the tools you have available, you can make the process faster or slower. He said that with his machines, he can carve stone much faster.
“The big advantage is there’s basically no investment in it if you do it by machine,” he said. “When you’re doing it by hand, you make choices slower.”
Warren Mason of Allston and his girlfriend Kirsty Paterson, who was visiting from Scotland, made it a point to make stone-carving their first stop.
Mason said he’d never carved stone before, but Paterson, who went to Edinburgh College of Art, said she has carved plaster before and said that stone-carving was the activity she was most excited about.
“We love the Gardner Museum,” Mason said. “I’ve come here before with [Paterson]; we love it every time we come here. Very peaceful, nice place to wander around.”
Neither had been to a Neighborhood Night at the museum before, but Mason called it a “good, free date night.”
“It was a pleasure to see so many members of our local community engaged in activities and performances both inside the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum as well as along Evans Way Park last Thursday for our Cosmic Cycle Block Party,” said the museum’s Interim Curator of Education Michelle Grohe. “A truly unique and fun event, the Block Party and our Neighborhood Night free summer evenings are an incredible program series that encourage visitors to engage with the Gardner Museum in personal ways.”