By Miriam Pickens
April is a beautiful month in the Copper Country. Birds return, crocuses bloom, and stories of Easter and rebirth are everywhere. My thoughts go to the people of Ukraine; the devastation and the resilience of a people with an indomitable spirit; trying to preserve their very identity, culture, and independence. I think about pysanky eggs, a Ukrainian Easter Egg tradition, using dyes and wax resin to create spectacular designs on eggshells. The intricate designs are symbols of the resurrection and a promise of eternal life. The famous legend tells of a young woman coming home from the market. Carrying a jug of water and a basket of fresh eggs, she met a traveler. Seeing that he was tired, she offered him a drink of water and noticed the stigmata, or wounds on his hands. They didn’t talk, and each went on their way, but when the young woman reached home, she discovered that her eggs had been turned into beautiful pysanky. The stranger was, of course, the resurrected Christ.
The Calumet Art Center (CAC) is working out the details of a humanitarian project to help the Ukrainian people. A few weeks ago, I made a suggestion to Kristy Walden, Board Chair, about conducting a class to make the pysanky eggs and sell them for donations. She replied:
“We jumped on the idea and have contacted an instructor/humanitarian who teaches the process. We will be offering classes in May. Our goal is to have the entire Art Community of the Keweenaw join in efforts to make and sell the beautiful eggs, all proceeds going to the fund to support the Ukrainian refugees that come into the United States. We have contacted Vice President Kamala Harris’s office to find out which fund they are putting together for this support. Our higher goal is to have the entire Art Community of the Upper Peninsula participate. To get involved with this project please call the Calumet Art Center at 906-934-2228, and watch our Facebook page, or the website. We will get as much information out as the events and process unfolds.”
This is a beautiful project, usually started around Lent. I have wonderful memories of simple egg dyeing with my children, and so many other cool crafts to do during Easter Break. The warm spring days always get me thinking about summer projects. If you are looking for some cool art experiences to do with your children, check out the Smart Art Bites program, started last year as a collaboration between the Portage Lake District Library in Houghton and the Rosza Center at Michigan Tech.
Class Acts is a program that the Rosza Center initiated with grant assistance from the Michigan Council of Arts and Cultural Affairs, to bring art experiences to young people with performances and educational activities. The Smart Art Bites program offers entertaining videos which bring art activities such as cartooning, dancing, or drumming right into your home. Each is less than 10 minutes long, with instruction and lively encouragement. These aren’t “glued to the screen” lessons; instead, they get kids up, moving, and creating. One lesson was by dancer/musician Cecilia Ortega who taught a simple dance step to music from her native Veracruz, Mexico. The lesson was recorded at her home in Florida. It was fun and seemed appropriate for small children, but even an old kid like me enjoyed it. I can imagine using it as an activity if I was babysitting. Once we learned the dance step, it would be fun to take it outside and play with it on a walk. Another neat feature of these videos is that at the end, for a deeper dive, Michael Stanitis of the Portage Lake District Library (PLDL) shows a selection of children’s books related to dance and Indigenous culture. So far there are ten videos, more are in the works for next year.
The Storytime for Pre-schoolers program is up and running at the PLDL, for children 2-5 years old, on Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. Since COVID-19 came, the arts and crafts portion of this has been a “take home and make” operation, but with the loosening of the restrictions, children are once again invited to listen to a story and do an art project in the community room. This summer, the PLDL will once again be offering the Summer Reading Program. Registration will be sometime in June.