Clark greets families with American cheer
WILLIAMSTOWN -- On the walls of the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, in the exhibit "Winslow Homer: Making Art, Making History," waves crash.
Spray dashes on the rocks in Homer's "Summer Squall."
Wind blows the apron of "Fisher Girl with Net." Women wait anxiously in "Perils of the Sea."
In galleries filled with paintings, watercolors, prints and drawings, "Playing a Fish" holds the stillness of a lake in the morning, and "Undertow" hums with the urgency of drowning swimmers.
The more you look, the more you see, and the more you see, the more you think and wonder, said Clark head of education Ronna Tulgan Ostheimer, who has organized a packed Americana Family Day on Sunday to celebrate the summer-long exhibit on Homer -- the artist Sterling Clark called one of the three greatest of all time.
The museum will open this summer's Homer and Innes shows free and encourage all comers to take a close look at an images they created. Now look closer... Revel in the details of 19th-century daily life in more than 100 intricate wood engravings. Study the faces in the crowd at Lincoln's inauguration.
"Our goal is to engage our community with our collections and with our special exhibitions," Tulgan said, "and to make the Clark accessible and fun for a family that might not typically think about visiting an art museum."
Clark Family Days, which can attract more than 5,000 visitors, offer a feast for the senses. Relish a pie-eating contest, play croquet on the lawn, then visit baby farmyard animals. Build a cabin with oversized Lincoln Logs, and move giant chess pieces on a checkered board. Cast a fishing line, pose with period props in a photo booth, and take a hay ride around the lily pond.
Travel back in time to a 19th-century courtroom and school house, as President Lincoln himself and mysterious silver bathing belles roam the expansive grounds. Enjoy art-making and create nautical tote bags, sailors' valentines, sea in a jar and vintage optical illusions.
"Almost every activity has its seed in one of the images in the show," Ostheimer explained. And with July 4th just a week away "there will be a lot of red, white and blue," she promised.
Live entertainment throughout the day will include sea chanteys by Forebitter, a singing group formed in historic Mystic Seaport; folk tale legends of land and sea from storyteller Tim Van Egmond; and close harmonies from the barbershop quartet, Shave and a Haircut.
Leading the entertainment lineup are special guests Sarah Lee Guthrie, daughter and granddaughter of American icons Woody and Arlo Guthrie, and her husband, Johnny Irion, who will perform a program of sing-along favorites, songs from their award-winning Smithsonian Folkways children's album "Go Waggaloo," and selections from their upcoming release "Wassaic Way," produced by Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and Patrick Sansone.
"Because it's a Family Day, we've really figured out how to make a show that includes the youngest of the young and the eldest of the old," Guthrie said. "So we'll mix it up, just have some fun."
"The way that we go about music is learned from very ancient melodies that have been passed down," she explained.
Melodies come from the Appalachian Hills and New Orleans, influenced by blues and jazz, "all of these things that have been carried down for generations," she said.
Whenever they return from an overseas tour, "I always feel a little more ‘Americana,'" she said, "because these are roots that run very deep."
"I'm very interested in going back and learning," she explained, "at the same time as moving forward and making new music."
Their daughters, Olivia and Sophia, will also join in.
"They steal the show," Guthrie said, laughing.
Ostheimer hopes families will make time to visit the galleries and learn from the art on the walls. Homer was an illustrator for Harper's Weekly, she said, and many of his images are of Americans enjoying their leisure time -- a new development for the masses in the mid-19th century.
An engraving of "Snap the Whip" shows a line of boys engaged in an energetic game; but to the side, Ostheimer points out, are "two little girls who are clearly left out of the activity."
"When you look carefully, things are not as simple as they might first seem," she said. "That's one of the big messages in his artwork."
If you go ...
What: Americana Family Day
Where: Clark Art Institute, 225 South St., Williamstown
When: Sunday,11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Admission: Free gallery
admission, entertainment and activities American and
international food court
Information: (413) 458-2303, www.clarkart.edu