An 'Eye for Excellence' at Free First Sundays at the Clark

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Photo Gallery | Word Up Family Day at The Clark Art Institute

WILLIAMSTOWN — Lila Geery placed the circular pattern on the folded sheet of white paper and traced it.

Now comes the tricky part; making the right cut around the circle so it unfolds into a mini accordion-style book that she will color.

"This is for my [older] sister — a Valentine present," Lila said.

The 7-year-old from Hadley's attempt at book art came during the Clark Art Institute's "Word Up Family Day," Sunday's theme for the museum's monthly Free First Sundays held from November through May. The afternoon of interactive and entertaining activities — free of charge — were tied to the latest exhibit.

"An Eye for Excellence: Twenty Years of Collecting" includes several books, as well as paintings, the museum has received since the mid-90s. Overall, the Clark Art Institute Library has amassed 4,825 volumes from artists since 1976.

"We have one of the best art history libraries in North America," saod Ronna Tulgan Ostheimer The Clark's head of education.

Scholars from all over the world come to The Clark to see the rare books at the library, currently under renvoation and closed to the public.

The books are conceptual, works of art in their own right, according to Hanna Leatherman, coordinator of community and family programs.

"Curators and librarians have chosen to display the books deemed important and may have never been seen before," she said.

One such artistic tome is Tennessee Rice Dixon's "Scrutiny in the Great Round" printed on a continuous strip of paper, folded accordion-style, with each end attached to separate boards.

In addition to youngsters creating their own artist books, they could make bookmarks, keepsake boxes and do paper marbling, with the help of parents and museum volunteers.

"Today is a chance for parents and kids to do art together," said volunteer Fran Flaherty.

In addition, young and old alike were entertained by members of the Williams College men's lacrosse team with outdoor storytelling and professional musician Harris MacDonald. The 24-year-old Williamstown native, now living in Brooklyn, N.Y., performed music influenced by The Beatles and other classic popular artists.

"All my material is original such as hip-hop, rhythm and blues, pop with the point of the performance to tell my life story through the music," he said.

True classics that drew curious looks from children and flashbacks from most adults were the two electric and one manual typewriter perched on tables. Many using the hunt-and-peck method, tried typing sentences the old fashioned way, "B.C. — before computers."

Eight-year-old Mateo Pizzano from Poughkeepsie, N.Y. found the ancient writing machines limiting.

"You can't push back space," he said.

Sharon Turner from Vermont worked on one of the first word processors made in 1984, immediately ditching her typewriter for good.

"I would never go back to one again," she said.

Contact Dick Lindsay at 413 496-6233.


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