The DPPC is excited to welcome Keri King to Burnside Park as our resident Art-in-the-Parkist. Each week after Storytime, Keri will read a story based on this years’s theme, and lead an art project. This year’s theme is HER-STORIES, the books of Virginia Lee Burton. We sat down with Keri to learn a little more about her work and what she has planned for the summer.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what type of work you do as an artist.
I’m a cross-disciplinary artist and educator, based in Providence, Rhode Island. For the past few years, I’ve been creating public art installations and designing theatrical sets. More often than not, I am making work in collaboration with public-serving organizations (such as Providence Public Library or the Wilbury Theatre Group). Just last week, I finished installing a temporary mural in Olneyville as part of an exciting Art, Culture + Tourism project to bring public art to the Woonasquatucket River Bike Path! For this I blended research into the history of the river with fantastical imagery and launched a bi-lingual companion website where people can read fun facts and stories about the Woonasquatucket.
At the heart of my practice, I am passionate about fostering community and strengthening one’s sense of place through immersive storytelling. I love exploring new materials, playing with new modes of communication, and inviting audiences into the process of telling a story.
What types of projects do you have planned for Art in the Park this summer?
A wide variety! We kicked off the program constructing mini zen gardens and have gone on to do printmaking and paper sculptures. Before we are through, we will build trains and even snow globes. My hope is that returning kiddos will experience a breadth of art materials and techniques that are fun, super tactile, and out-of-the-ordinary. We also have a little house prop inspired, of course, by Virginia Lee Burton’s book, The Little House and it is evolving throughout the program with the help of participating families to paint, landscape, and wallpaper it!
What inspires you about the books of Virginia Lee Burton?
The first thing I notice when I pick up one of Virginia Burton’s books is that there’s a real love of drawing in her artwork. Her illustrations are meticulous and detailed, but her use of materials is so fresh, you almost couldn’t be faulted for thinking it’s effortless. Similarly, her stories are deceptively simple, very straight forward but packed with nuance and emotional layers. I really admire those qualities in her work!
Also, it can’t be understated that this woman made her mark as an author, illustrator, designer and educator in the 1940s. To do this, in addition to her formidable artistic prowess, Virginia Burton had to have been a woman of grace, rigor, and passion — and I am very inspired by that!
Why is public art important to you as an artist?
I often remind myself that the people who encounter my murals most frequently are going to be the people who live/ work nearest a mural site and, by installing public art, I am changing the way they will experience their daily movements. On a basic level, public art is important, as a force that brings fresh life through color, shape, texture to a neighborhood. At its best, I believe public art has the power to impact a community; spark a new sense of curiosity about one’s surroundings, or stir a new conversation with a neighbor; to strengthen a sense of place and pride, and present a new way of thinking about and interacting with an otherwise familiar place.
What is extra special about working with children in Burnside Park?
First of all, I think it’s so important to the general health of a city that free public creative programming exists. With Art in the Park, Jen and her incredible team have made something truly special from scratch: a space that is welcoming, with entertainment that is rich, playful and thoughtful.
Children are naturally so hungry for these experiences and, without a program like this, art camps/ activities are often too expensive for parents to afford or not visible enough to find. The children at Burnside Park show up curious, eager, and ready to explore new materials and ideas. As a teacher, you simply cannot ask for better than that!
Kidoinfo Storytime + Art in the Park runs every Thursday from July 11 through August 22 from 10:30 – 12:30. For the full schedule of storytellers and art projects visit our Facebook event.