Author Archives: Amanda

Art in the Park

Check out this fairy house on 

This month during the Arturo’s Art and Me class, families focused on nature and were able to enjoy the newly opened Klyde Warren Park that is right across the street from the DMA. Danielle led children and their grown-ups on an imaginary journey into the world of fairy houses. Fairy houses have become quite popular in the past couple of years – many speciality garden and landscape stores now sell teeny-tiny plants and accessories just for fairy houses. Fairy houses, or fairy gardens, are small installations made completely from natural materials created with the idea that fairies and woodland creatures to visit, rest, and even inhabit.


During the Arturo’s Art and Me classes, the children explored two landscape paintings and imagined all of the different types of creatures that could be lurking in the woods in these works of art. Danielle read Fairy House by Tracy Kane and taught the children all about respect nature.


Using images of unicorns, skunks, trolls, squirrels, gnomes, fairies, and rabbits, the children had a discussion about which ones were real and which might be imaginary. Not all of the kids were convinced that unicorns were imaginary, but they were all glad that trolls were! Families used Model Magic to create their own creature – it could be anything, real or imaginary. There were several fairies, a couple of gnomes, many snakes, and even a puppy.


After making our creatures, we determined that these new friends needed a place to call home and traveled over to the Park to find a suitible spot. At the Park, each family received a bag filled with twigs, leaves, pinecones, seashells, acorn tops, raffia, and rocks to construct a nature home for their creature. Families spread out in the Park to build their fairy houses.

ImageSome built their houses in the children’s area of the Park (including one fairy house built inside of a concrete tunnel!), others found a place for their house at the base of a tree trunk or in a bush, while a few families spead out on the lawn to build their constructions out in the open. When families were finished with their creation, they packed up their nature supplies so that they could reinstall their fairy house (or snake house, dog house, or bunny house) at home!


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Growing Up Blind

Our guest blogger today is artist Leslie Ligon. Leslie creates jewelry using Brailled letters for At First Sight, her jewlery line that won the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt People’s Choice Award in 2010. Last year for Art Beyond Sight Month Leslie brought her son, Ethan, who is blind, and he showed families how to translate words into Braille using a Braille machine. Children used a Brailled word of their name or favorite hobby and incorporated it into art to wear – either a pin or a hair barrette. In honor of Art Beyond Sight Month, we invited Leslie to be our guest blogger for the day. Leslie, thank you for sharing your story!

Leslie’s family portrait taken in July by Michael Clements at the University of North Texas.

When our oldest son, Ethan, was born, my husband (a visual artist) and I were thrilled to be parents; we loved learning about all of the things our new baby would be doing in his first year, and tracking his advances. Our traditional expectations came to a sudden stop when we took our two month old baby for a scheduled exam. We were laughing one minute about how much weight he’d gained in a month, and reeling the next, when the pediatrician told us, “Brace yourselves; I don’t think Ethan can see.”

At some point around six to eight weeks, Ethan’s retinas had detached for no known reason – probably just a fluke – and because babies in their first few months don’t see any better than an extremely near-sighted person (and they can’t exactly tell you things look funny), we didn’t know there was anything wrong. After a surgical attempt to reattach his retinas failed, I got to work finding resources to turn to. Several months later, we began going through the emotional stages people normally go through when there’s a loss of any kind: denial, depression, anger – finally acceptance. Then, something unexpected happened: my husband’s visual arts profession and my background dancing and teaching ballet, came front and center for our baby who was totally blind.

My comfort moving through space led me to push Ethan first to roll like a modern dancer, then crawl, and finally walk without any preconceived ideas. (In fact, when he was about two years old, he would fairly frequently bang his head into table tops and chairs and after he did, he would stop, get his bearings, and then shake his head. We used to believe he probably thought that’s what everyone went through when they went walking!) In the early days of his life, we would sing, dance and play to lots of musical theater shows – he really did know the entire book for Gypsy when he was only 22 months old! He loved the word play, rhymes, rhythm, and story involved in musical theater, and I firmly believe that propelled his language skills. We also did different things with fabrics and paint. A friend made a Quilt of Many Fabrics for Ethan to explore, and I tied noise-making toys to strings, attaching them to an innertube he could sit in before he could sit completely independently. When he pulled on one of the strings, he would hear a toy, and then have to reel it in to get it.

My husband and I both have always enjoyed going to fabric stores and buying different fabrics, so we’d take Ethan and let him run his hands over the different textures. When I took Ethan shopping, he’d be in his stroller, and I’d walk him directly under and through some of the women’s dresses hanging on racks, talking the whole time about whether it was velvet (snuggly) or chiffon (light and floating) or taffeta (lightweight, but crinkly), and whether it was long or short. Those experiences were explored further when we began watching Project Runway. I’d sit next to him (I still often do even though he’s a teenager) and I’d describe things designers were making, but the real challenge came as the models went down the runway. As quickly as possible, I’d describe pieces as the models walked, drawing on his body in front or back to help him understand the cut of a piece.  I often talk about how a model or two walks, as well, because he knows from living with a former dancer, people move differently – and not everyone is graceful about it!

Ethan certainly had opportunities painting and coloring, and has done that similarly to how John Bramblitt teaches his workshops, using sand and other textures mixed into paints for a better idea of where on a page he’s painting. And we do try giving him plenty of opportunities to talk about art and classic works. Ethan gets them in his own way, but I believe it’s imposing and presumptuous to believe he’ll ‘see’ things the traditional way. Rather, we try leading him to art and design, talking a lot about how they affect peoples’ lives and change the lives, minds and moods of sighted people, and that he can just know about art and design, and keep that relationship in mind as he goes through life.

We joke a lot about blindness, and more often than not, fly in the face of what many people think is one of the worst disabilities to have …

Come to the edge.
But we’re afraid.
Come to the edge.
But we’ll fall.
So they came and he pushed …
And they flew.

~Christopher Logue

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Accessible Art

Happy October! October means another fun month of Art Beyond Sight programs at the DMA! This month many of our programs focus on exploring works of art using senses other than vision. Art Beyond Sight Awareness Month is celebrating 10 years of partnerships among over 250 cultural institutions all over the world. Art Beyond Sight Month is sponsored by Art Education for the Blind and focuses on the idea that everyone must have access to the world’s visual arts in order to fully participate in his or her community. At the DMA, we hope to not only make our programs welcoming to visitors with disabilities, but to raise awareness of making art accessible to people with vision impairment.

Families sketching in the galleries with artist John Bramblitt.

It will be tough to top the fun Art Beyond Sight programming that we had last year, but we will certainly try! In 2011, we focused many aspects of our programming on the sense of taste. For Meaningful Moments and our homeschool program, we welcomed artist John Bramblitt for our programs and program participants learned about how John paints without vision before describing works of art to him in the galleries. In the studio, John talked about how being blind affects his sense of taste and shared some of his ‘taste’ paintings with us. We invited participants to use their sense of touch to explore objects in a tactile box and then sketch the object based on feeling. Next, participants closed their eyes and ate a Jelly Belly jelly bean without knowing the flavor while focusing on the color they imagined they were tasting.

John talking about his process of painting.

Tasty art!

In our Arturo’s Art and Me program, our youngest visitors used their sense of touch to explore objects in tactile boxes before making a drawing that they turned into colorful prints. We invited jewelry artist Leslie Ligon to lead a family workshop and learned all about Braille. Families used Braillers to write their names and turned the Braille text into a pin or hair clip.

Tactile boxes in the studio

Ethan and Leslie Ligon teaching families all about Braille.

This year, John Bramblitt will join us for First Tuesday to meet visitors, sketch with families, and share his artwork. During First Tuesday, families can try their hand at sensory sketching, sculpt with scented play dough, listen to musical stories, and go on a ‘Follow Your Nose’ family tour. For Arturo’s Art and Me, homeschool, and Meaningful Moments programs, we will explore art based on smell and participants will have the chance to use scratch and sniff stickers, car air fresheners, and fresh herbs. John will also join us for a fun afternoon of sightless painting in the studio on October 20. For a full schedule of our Art Beyond Sight programming, check out our Access page.

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Finally – it is beginning to feel like September outside! The weather was so beautiful this weekend that I spent heaps of extra time outside enjoying it. This is the time of year booming with many family friendly outdoor festivals and things to do, not to mention the opening of Klyde Warren Park next month! The Park is next door to the Museum and will have an abundance of things to do – a Children’s Garden, Reading and Games Courtyard, and even a dog park, to name a few. The Park will have partnerships with many DFW organizations, including the Dallas Museum of Art. It is so fun to think about making art outside in a beautiful natural setting.

With a few short months of weather that isn’t sweltering hot, before it gets too chilly – why not bring art-making outdoors?

Here are some ideas to get you and your family started!


  • Sidewalk chalk! Drawing characters, creating words, hopscotch, tic tac toe…the possibilities are endless! Check out Domestic Charm for a great DIY liquid sidewalk chalk recipe.


  • Nature Scavenger Hunt – Enlist kids to sketch what they find in nature on their hunt, or check out I Am Momma Hear Me Roar for a  cute way to recycle egg cartoons for various nature collections. Counting Coconuts has some very fun ideas about what one might need on a ‘searching for nature’ excursion.


  • Make a Gnome Home or a Fairy Garden – think of all of the magical creature who inhabit our gardens and parks! Why not make your own? A garden is always much happier and better taken care of with the help of some friendly gnomes or friendly fairies. Find a sweet story about pine cone gnomes along with a tutorial on how to make your own on We Bloom Here. If fairies are more your thing, Momfluential has an extremely comprehensive list of all things fairy garden, including what you can collect from (mostly) nature to make your own.


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Summer fun with WFAA!

We are so excited for our free WFAA Family First Day at the Museum this Saturday, July 28. The Museum will also have a special preview of The Legacy of the Plumed Serpent in Ancient Mexico – for free! We will have a wide variety of activities for families to enjoy on Saturday, including the chance to meet WFAA’s Shelly Slater and WFAA meteorologist Steve McCauley.

Arturo meeting some new friends at a recent Family Celebration.

Families can meet Arturo, our family mascot, play games with our friends from Radio Disney, and  enjoy the Medical City Community Art room to watch a puppet show about learning the signs of a stroke before making a one-of-a-kind puppet. In the Studio, families can use a variety of materials to create their own jewelry based on work seen in The Legacy of the Plumed Serpent in Ancient Mexico exhibition and can sketch from objects in the exhibition with artists during Sketching in the Galleries for Kids.

Visitors enjoy sketching in the galleries.

After searching for stories in the exhibition, join staff from the Dallas Theater Center and members of the cast from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat to teach families how stories are translated into a musical. Be the star of your own story in the galleries! Music educators will be in the Ancient American galleries teaching families all about songwriting and Latin rhythms inspired by the DMA’s head of the rain god Tlaloc.

Ann Marie at a recent event weaving stories about works of art for families to enjoy.

Families won’t want to miss a unique performance by award-winning storyteller, Ann Marie Newman! Ann Marie is sure to bring works from Ancient Mexico to life during her StoryART performance, this time with help from WFAA’s Shelly Slater. Don’t forget to stop by the Ancient Art of the Americas gallery to see WFAA meteorologist Steve McCauley as he talks about storms, cloud seeding, how to measure rainfall, and more – all in relation to the rain god Tlaloc. Families will also want to watch an unforgettable performance from the Ollimpaxqui Ballet Company, as they thrill and delight with songs, dances, and cultural traditions of Mexico.

A young visitor creating in the Studio with a little help from Arturo.

The Museum will have programming for even the youngest visitors! Children between the ages of two to four can stop by Arturo’s Nest to make a rainstick. Children of all ages will enjoy Yoginos: Yoga for Youth by the Crow Collection of Asian Art in our Level 3 galleries, and end your day at the Museum by relaxing and watching the family film, the Pot that Juan Built. It will be a fun day – hope to see you here!

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Rock, paper, scissors…Paper wins!

If you have visited the DMA lately, you have probably encountered the friendly face of Cathy Davis-Famous at the Visitor Services Desk. The Museum is so lucky to have someone like Cathy – someone who is ready to help families find their way through the galleries, suggest exhibitions to see, and provide a warm greeting to incoming visitors. Most people probably don’t know that not only is Cathy a welcoming face of the Museum, but she is also an artist. I had the privilege of sitting down and talking with Cathy to learn a little bit about her and her artwork.

What is your favorite thing about your job here at the DMA?
I love the interaction with visitors! I really enjoy people and am glad that I was promoted from Gallery Attendant to Visitor Services. I love talking to people and being surrounded by art.

What inspires you as an artist?
Vibrant and patterned papers, fashion, fabrics, and beautiful paintings.


I just started creating this one because I wanted something to hang. The colors on the box attracted me, and then I noticed how many logos one box actually had – 10 logos on one cereal box! Adding the woman’s face gave it a whole new look.


What types of art do you enjoy making most?
I like creating with paper…pretty much anything that deals with paper inspires me. I read a quote once…”Rock is dead, paper and scissors live on!” I don’t remember who said it, but I like it! I love making paper dolls. I started wishing that I had studied fashion and just began creating paper dolls.


I call this one Marie Antoinette. I love this era and wanted to create something with that style of dress, hair, etc. This one is still in the works. I plan to add birds, a bird’s nest, and ribbons – the sky is the limit!


What materials do you prefer to use?
I can use anything – from paper to recycled materials. I’m drawn to colors, patterns, designs on paper…I started asking coworkers to save papers for me – anything that they were planning to recycle, they would show me first. I collected so many great things – samples of paper, catalogs, brochures from other museums, and brochures from our Museum. I often frequent paint shops and Home Depot asking for discounted books of wallpaper; I have collected some beautiful wallpapers over the years!

The brochure from the Domains of Wonder exhibition offered so much for my design. I made dolls from the other side of the brochure as well.

What has been your favorite exhibition at the Museum?
Definitely The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk. Gaultier takes the prize! Everything he created was so over the top. I had never see anything like it. All of the textures, fabrics, beadwork and the way that he combined everything was out of this world.

At this point, I made any brochure that hit the desk into a paper doll. This one was from the Sketching in the Galleries program.

Do you have a favorite work of art here at the Museum?
I could think on this question forever…it is so difficult to answer! I am drawn to little girls and girly things – so I would have to say…Dorothy by John Singer Sargent. I am the mother of two boys and have two grandsons. I am still waiting on a grandaughter – I need someone I can pass on my doll collection to!

This one is from a Late Night brochure. I got a little more creative with the design of this doll’s fashion. I wanted to create more with the text of the brochure…that is how she ended up with a swoop hairstyle!

What advice would you give to young, aspiring artists?
Hold on to your dreams and ideas – don’t let them go! Continue to create art – – no matter what. Create, create, create!

Thanks, Cathy!
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A Mother’s Day Masterpiece

Mary Cassatt, “Sleepy Baby,” c. 1910, pastel on paper, Dallas Museum of Art, Munger Fund, 1952.38.M

This Sunday is Mother’s Day and many people will do something special to celebrate their mom. Some may buy flowers, other will send a card, families will go to brunch to celebrate mom, and some overachieving children may even honor their mom with a nice piece of jewelry. Maybe you are even thinking of bringing your family to the DMA to relax and look at works of art to celebrate Mother’s Day. While searching the galleries, see how many works of art you can find that remind you of your mom!

Many moms I know appreciate a handmade gift from their children – sometimes, a gift made just for mom by hand is even more special than sending flowers that will be gone in a week or yet another bottle of perfume. Here are some of my favorite ideas that I have found to give you inspiration for making that special token of love for mom – whether you are a grown-up child making something to let your mom know how much you still appreciate her, a mom helping kids to make something for a beloved grandmother, or a family working together with mom on a project that will forever remind you of a special Mother’s Day.

Martha Stewart tells how to surprise mom with a balloon bouquet that spells out ‘mom’ – so much more fun than flowers!

The gardening section of the HGTV website has step-by-step instructions (with photos!) for creating these fun outdoor windchimes – and no drilling required! This would be a fun activity to complete as a family; kids can be in charge of painting and crafting the flowers, while grown-ups can oversee the measuring of the string, cutting, and assembling. Not only would this garden chime make fun sounds to enjoy, it would brighten up the yard while creating a fun Mother’s Day memory.

PaintCutPaste gives us the inspiration for making customized tote bags for someone special on Mother’s Day. Moms love to see the small handprints of their children! What a fun idea to turn those little hands into a flower – you could even challenge yourself to make an entire garden of flower hands. This is a gift that mom could use often and would surely provoke many compliments!

Who wouldn’t love a garden of poppies on a canvas to hang on the wall? A writer for Multiples and More provides step-by-step instructions for working with children to make this colorful canvas. Picking out decorative paper, cutting circles, and painting – what a fun way to spend an Mother’s Day afternoon with your children?

Happy Mother’s Day!
Posted by: Amanda

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