Tag Archives: art

Pretty as a Picture!

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The area we have been sailing this past week is as pretty as a picture.

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The views are stunning…

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Well-deserving of a portrait.

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So, on Wednesday afternoon we pulled out the brushes, paints and easels we packed, in preparation for our planned painting party.

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We usually plan a craft or two when we vacation together and as we were planning this houseboat vacation Lana suggested we bring supplies for everyone to paint a memory of this houseboat experience. So, we each gathered the plethora of supplies we have acquired as a result of our kids’ membership in mural club, and planned an afternoon painting party on Norris Lake.

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Tyler, still chasing down fish, opted not to participate,

But everyone else gathered on the top deck to paint.

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The scenery inspired creativity.

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Some opted to paint the views from the upper deck of the houseboat,

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While others chose to paint a particular favorite memory from this vacation.

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It was fun to watch everyone work and see their personal artistic styles unfold on the canvas before them.

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Here are some of the finished works of art:

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What a perfect way to memorialize a wonderful week with friends!

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Hanging on for Dear Life!

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And then in the midst of it all, life keeps rolling on…

A never-slowing train, speeding down the track.

As we hold on tightly, trying to enjoy the scenic vistas as they fly past.

Rusty now makes child #4 in the “gainfully employed club” at Patchwork Farm. He has joined Braden as an ice cream scooper at Handel’s and is loving the experience. The increased cash flow, coupled by the free sweet treats, has made this a dream job for our gentle giant.

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With 4 children employed, and Ozzie currently residing at a residential facility, we have found ourselves left with only Tyler home a lot of the time. It is so weird to look around and have only one child lounging in the living room, instead of six. The experience has given us an sneak peek into life in the future when Tyler will be the last child at home. I think he is feeling a bit lost in it all, but I keep telling him we just need to hang in there for a few more years and once we can kick everyone out we will be able to have some awesome adventures with the extra disposable income that will result from a decreased family food budget! 😉

Ozzie has been transferred from the acute facility where he was being stabilized to the long-term facility where he will be for the next 6-12 months for more intensive, in-patient trauma therapy. We feel incredibly blessed to be able to get him admitted to the same RTF where he was so successful prior. Located in Erie, Harborcreek Youth Services provided an amazing blend of physical, emotional and spiritual care that allowed Ozzie to safely face the traumas of his past that are so destructive to his current relationships and result in poor choices and dangerous behaviors.

The sheer quantity and variety of therapeutic work that can be offered in a week-long period (family therapy, trauma therapy, EMDR therapy, group sessions, anger management, art therapy, animal therapy, trauma releasing yoga and music therapy) gives Ozzie a highly submersible experience that yields amazing results for him.

We hate that he has to be sent away to get the help he needs, but we are so grateful for the loving care he receives from amazing staff who act as interim parents in our absence, supporting Ozzie as he focuses on his own healing journey.

Gracie just finished out another semester of school and one of the art electives she chose to take this past semester was a pottery class. Beginning with basic pinch pots and working up to creating pieces on the wheel, Grace had the opportunity to design, create, paint and fire a variety of pottery pieces. This week she brought home her finished creations. Some of her finished pieces include:

A large flower vase that she made as a gift for her Momma:

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A model of our school bus turned RV:

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A wall vase to hang on the wall of her room and fill with fresh flowers:

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And a set of mugs that she creatively designed with a pocket to hold the used tea bag when making a cup of tea:

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This is just a sampling of the completed projects she brought home. She loved the class and we loved being the benefactors of her talent and generosity!

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With the conclusion of May comes many end of the year/graduation celebrations for Miss Molly. The first acknowledgement that this was really happening and that our little girls were all grown up occurred at our end of the year co-op picnic. We joined with other co-op families to celebrate another successful year of teaching our children at home. As part of our picnic, Miss Lana brought a celebratory cake for our four graduating seniors.

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I still can’t wrap my brain around the fact that four women stand before me where four little girls with mismatched socks once stood.

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Four sweet girls! Caleigh’s curlers are in preparation for that night’s performance of “Little Women” at Mohawk High School.

On the heels of one graduation celebration came another. On Sunday we celebrated Molly’s graduation from seminary, a scripture study course offered to the high school students of our church. For the last four years she has chosen to add an additional 60 minutes of work to her weekday schedule to study the teachings of Christ and apply those teachings to her life as a disciple of Christ. We are so glad she chose to participate, as we have seen first hand the great growth that happens when our children are actively pursuing a relationship with Jesus Christ through daily prayer and scripture study.

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As part of the graduation ceremony, we heard from a few of the graduating seniors and then enjoyed a beautiful musical number as Hailey and Heather sang “Be Still my Soul” while Molly interpreted the song through American Sign Language.

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Following the ceremony there was a reception in the cultural hall where guests could enjoy desserts while strolling around, reading the graduation posters, and signing their well wishes to all the graduating seniors.

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So proud of you, Miss Molly!

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Another celebration of Molly’s upcoming graduation from high school came in the form of a senior trip. Molly and Tatum were invited by Irvin and his family to stay at their home in Gettysburg for two days.

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After years of friendship, Irvin wanted to have the girls come and visit his home town and meet his parents. The family set up their pottery studio/store as a B & B for the girls, spoiling them rotten with homemade meals, story telling, chocolates on their pillows, site seeing around Gettysburg and even gifted them with one of their handcrafted mugs as a parting gift of hospitality.

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On Friday, the girls joined Irvin for a trip to Knoebels, the amusement park that was chosen as the site for this year’s senior day. There they met up with other 21st Century seniors and teachers for a day of riding rides and having fun…

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Ending the day with ice cream.

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It was a fun adventure for Molly and Tatum to share before they get pulled into the vortex of college life…

And it was all made possible thanks to the kindness and hospitality of the Young family.

It is an exciting time for Miss Molly and we couldn’t be happier for our walking ray of sunshine!

Pancakes and Painting Party

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As part of our co-op’s bi-weekly gatherings, Miss Corrina planned a second, amazing activity for our group.

Our co-op has evolved so much over the last decade as the needs in our group changed with the passing of time. As our children grew out of the early elementary years and into middle school, and then high school, our vision for the co-op evolved as well. We no longer needed the holiday parties and structured classes that were so important when they were little. Last year it was decided we had outgrown the co-op’s original function and now our needs were more social. Last May we retired a part of our life that was such a keystone of our week for so long. Unwilling to walk away from the co-op family that had become such an integral part of our life, we opted to adjust our vision for the group.   Rather than meeting every Wednesday for lessons, we decided to meet every other Friday for a learning/social activity. Each mom signed up for a month. This gave everyone a break for the other 7 months of the school year, while also allowing each mom to get creative and plan two activities built around her family’s interests/and or desires.

It has been a lot of fun seeing the wide variety of activities and field trips planned throughout the year, each one so different than the one before, and each fun and engaging in their own unique way.

Miss Corrina was our March mom. Her first planned outing was a historical tour of Darlington. For her second planned activity she went in a completely different direction with a hands-on art activity.

It was held at our old co-op building and the activity was a painting class taught by Corrina’s sister-in-law who teaches these “ladies’ night out” painting classes professionally.

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When we arrived, the lunchroom was set up with easels, canvases, paint and paint brushes allowing us all to participate as we were guided through the step by step process of painting this sample painting:

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Our group was comprised of elementary students up to grandmothers and everyone had a blast putting on their artist hat and getting creative.

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We were led through the steps in a way that lifted the intimidation of trying to create such a complicated piece of art,

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And everyone had a blast painting while visiting with friends.

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The process took 90 minutes and the end results were as varied as the artists themselves.

It was so much fun seeing everyone’s finished products.

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Our activity concluded with a pancake lunch and play time with friends in the gym before it was time to head back home to get the last of our school assignments done for the week.

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A “Phipp’in” Good Time!

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Last week we headed south to Pittsburgh for a field trip to Phipps Conservatory. We hadn’t visited Phipps for probably a decade so it was fun to have an excuse to go back. Beautiful anytime a year, Phipps is especially stunning during the month of December when the halls are decked for Christmas.

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“A green oasis in the middle of Pittsburgh’s vibrant Oakland neighborhood, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens has provided a world-class garden experience to its visitors since 1893. Explore the beauty and wonders of nature at Phipps, encompassing 15 acres including a 14-room glasshouse and 23 distinct gardens. Experience industry-leading sustainable architecture and green practices, stunning seasonal flower shows, exclusive commissioned exhibits, renowned orchid and bonsai collections and more. This historic landmark is just a few miles from downtown Pittsburgh in Schenley Park.”

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We arrived, checked in, and were given our schedule for the day. The first hour was to be spent exploring the green houses with a self-guided tour. The second hour was scheduled to be more formal with a presentation on the Flora of Cuba and corresponding activities.

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We began our self-guided tour in the atrium where beautiful Christmas trees lined the stone courtyard.

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Turning left we worked our way through the various rooms, enjoying the Christmas themes that blanked each area.

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The décor was stunning and the magic occurring within the glass of the greenhouse shone all the more brightly framed by the falling snow outside.

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Everyone had a favorite room.

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Following in the footsteps of his Grandpa Rich, Rusty loved the cactus room:

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Grace fell in love with this beautiful room paved in stone that is frequently rented out for weddings:

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Molly had a hard time choosing a favorite, enthralled by the natural beauty found in each themed greenhouse:

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As for Tyler…

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Well, let’s just say this outing was NOT his idea of a good time. As we moved from room to room he would slump with fatigue and whine, “We already saw these plants.”

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Poor kid just couldn’t work up any enthusiasm for room after room of foliage.

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Thank goodness for the pockets of child-friendly fun scattered among the acres of plants that allowed Tyler to fortify himself for all the walking and flower gazing that accompanied a field trip to Phipps Conservatory.

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The miniature railroad display and play grocery store were among his favorites.

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While he played “grocery store,” I enjoyed strolling through the room checking out all the Christmas sculptures created from flowers.

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For the second half of the field trip we joined other students and their families in one of the auditoriums for a presentation highlighting one of Phipps’s newest displays: “Tropical Forests of Cuba.”

We enjoyed a slide show introducing us to the habitats of Cuba, particularly the flora and fauna found in its tropical forests.

After an educational slide show we were taken to the Cuba room where the kids were set loose with scavenger hunt sheets and given 15 minutes to find the information missing from their sheets. The answers they found were then used to compete in a Cuba Jeopardy game.

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The kids paired off in groups of two, with Grace and Rusty competing against Molly and Tyler.

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This activity was more up Tyler’s alley and he loved the competitive nature of racing through the rain forest display in search of answers.

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After time expired, we walked back to the auditorium for the Jeopardy game where the kids had a chance to use their newly acquired knowledge of Cuba’s tropical forests to compete against the other students for bragging rights.

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The greatest take-away from the activity was probably the awesome conversation Molly enjoyed with the presenter following the game. Waiting until the crowds had left, Molly approached the young lady who had been our teacher and asked about her educational background and the life experiences that led her to this career. After speaking with Molly about different environmental science programs and possible directions that can be pursued, Molly left wanting to look further into environmental education as a possible narrowed focus to her environmental science degree, thus marrying her passion for nature with her love for people.

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We ended our day with a picnic lunch.

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It was a lovely day spent in an even lovelier place!

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The Transforming Power of Heat

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 It has been a rare treat to have an entire week to connect and make memories with just one of my five children. The last time Grace and I had this much uninterrupted bonding was 18 years ago in the days leading up to Molly’s birth. It has been a rare gift, one that I will probably never have again, so we are making the most of it and are filling our memory banks with a bundle of special experiences.

Our next adventure was to Kolor-N-Kiln, a paint your own pottery studio at Robinson Mall, that I discovered when we were there for the Sign-A-Thon in May. I was thrilled to stumble across this creative gem after losing our favorite “paint your own pottery” shop in Cranberry. When the older kids were young we frequented that studio often, enjoying the experience of creating permanent and treasured works of art with Grace, Molly and Rusty. We were all disappointed when it went out of business, so when I discovered Kolor-N-Kiln I knew it must be one of our girls’ week activities.

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Grace and I arrived at the mall early.

We were greeted by a sweet gal who walked us through the creative process…

Step 1: Choose your pottery piece. There were dozens of options including mugs, plates, piggy banks, cookie jars, etc.

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Grace decided on a vase with the thought being that it could be used and enjoyed in her room now but then also be used for decades to come in her future homes.

I decided on a butter dish, having recently lost mine to an enthusiastic and energetic “dish washer.”

Once we had picked our pieces and paid for them it was time for the next step.

Step 2: Wipe down the pottery with wet sponges, removing all dust.

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Step 3: Pick out you paint colors. This was by far the most challenging step as the choices were abundant and the colors were all beautiful. Grace and I both finally settled on  Jungle Gems; paints that contained metallic flecks that burst into spots of color in the heat of the kiln, creating a mosaic look.

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Step 4: Begin painting.

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The interesting thing about the paint Grace and  I both chose is that what you paint on your piece looks nothing like what the finished product will be. Gracie’s chalky and grainy green paint will transform into a marbled jade in the heat of the kiln. My dark grey paint will become a mosaic masterpiece of creams, browns and robin egg blue when exposed to the intense temperatures of the kiln. As a result there is a certain level of faith needed as you continue painting what seems a mess, trusting that the mess before you will transform into something beautiful when exposed to heat.

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I couldn’t help but take note of how much the process resembles our own mortal journey. Here we stand, unfinished and raw works of art. Messy and grainy, certainly not “mantle worthy.” But if we trust the potter and submit to His vision, despite the fact that the process seems messy and grainy, His process will transform us. He will take that mess and create a masterpiece.

But to do so heat is always needed.

It is within the intense fire of the kiln that we, the clay, are strengthened.

It is within the intensity of the kiln that the mess transforms into something beautiful.

That sort of transformation never takes place in the cool, comfortable seasons of our life…

Only in the seasons of fiery testing.

As Grace and I finished our projects and stepped away from the finished mess,

Surrendering our finished works to the master of the kiln,

Trusting that the added heat might turn our mess beautiful,

It was a powerful and poignant reminder of the greater purpose of each of our “kiln seasons” of life. They are hard seasons to live through, and we are grateful when the furnace cools, but no season of life is:

More transforming,

More affecting,

More essential,

Than the “kiln seasons” of mortality…

When we humbly submit and surrender our mess to Him and let Him transform the broken into the beautiful.

The finished projects:

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The Art of Hearing

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What does sound look like?

If you were to turn the sound of dogs barking

Or raindrops falling

Into a visual work of art, what form would it take on the canvas?

It is an interesting question…

One I had never given thought to until last Friday,

But these ponderings have consumed my thoughts ever since, sparking within me a desire to put color to canvas and create.

Friday night, following an enjoyable day at the Erie Art Museum, Grace and I kept the prevailing theme of the day going with an evening at a local art show. Gracie heard about this particular artist from her ASL teacher. She came home eager to share news of this show with Molly and I, along with an invitation to join her.

The story behind this artist was as compelling as the artwork itself. Here is her story as told through an article published by The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

“The darkness in these paintings represents the quiet.

Bright colors portray loud sounds.

The dots show sound being transferred … sometimes broken up … between the inconsistent noises.

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Artist Andrea Echavarria, who is deaf, has a cochlear implant, an electronic medical device that replaces the function of the inner ear and provides sound signals to the brain. It’s allowed her to explore another world when it comes to her paintings.

Recurring shapes in her art signify the cochlear implant, which allows her to hear things after spending most of her life in silence.

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She’s now hearing loud sirens, dogs barking and the calm of her mother’s voice, which has inspired her ideas for artwork to help her express what she hears.

She’s created a collection of these expressions ­— “The Art of Hearing: Works by Andrea Echavarria” — for a show from 6 to 9 p.m. April 13 at 448 Studios, in Etna. The 30 pieces will be for sale.

“I want to let people know that deaf people can do many things,” Echavarria says via Eileen Noble, a certified American Sign Language interpreter from Harmarville. “I can express myself through my art. It really feels awesome inside. It’s my passion.”

Echavarria says she couldn’t do it without the assistance of artist Tom Mosser, whose work has been featured at sports venues across the U.S. He was her first art teacher. Mosser describes himself as part mentor, eccentric uncle figure, goofy friend, buddy, part life coach, speech coach, big brother and fellow artist. He often writes inspiring messages to her on the studio walls and works daily on learning sign language.

“Any time I’m bumming out over a sore knee, or a sore elbow or something, I only have to look across the studio floor and I see what hurdles she overcomes daily,” Mosser says. “I’ve had a giant metal ruler for years. Every so often it will fall on the floor with a huge crash. Before the implant, Andrea would never move. Now, when it happens, she kind of jumps. And that makes me smile. I’m a much better artist and person for having been around her and her family.”

“Tom has been a blessing to her,” says Andrea Echavarria’s mother, Laurel. “She would never have expanded who she is as an artist without him. He pushes her in a kind and loving way. He tells her not to be afraid to make a mistake.”

Echavarria, 29, who works in oils, watercolors and acrylics, attended the Western PA School for the Deaf in Edgewood and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and says she always knew she wanted to be an artist.

“I like being really creative and I have been using sounds I hear in my paintings,” she says. “I am a deaf person and I am proud of that. Hearing sounds is also an awesome thing.”

The transition to the implant in 2009 at age 21 wasn’t easy. It was overwhelming at times and she needed to turn the volume down on the implant.

“When I got the implant, I was wondering what I would be able to hear,” she says. “I was hoping to hear something. I didn’t know what to expect, after not hearing for so long. I began to hear sounds. I didn’t know what they were yet, but they were my dog barking, cars swooshing by on the street, my family’s voices, people talking, the telephone ringing.

“It’s hard to explain. It’s different than what you hear. Sometimes I get a headache if there’s a lot of noise. I wasn’t used to all the loud noises. I was used to a very quiet life before. I’m more confident around people now because I can speak a little now. And I just feel more connected to the world around me through sound. Technology has been a great thing for me to communicate and for my art. ”      -JoAnne Klimovich Harrop of the Tribune-Review

After driving home from Erie, Molly prepared for work, disappointed that she would be unable to join us. It was unfortunate that Molly couldn’t tag along, as I know she would have enjoyed the event, but these unfortunate circumstances allowed Grace and I to get in some fun one-on-one time.

The studio was located in Etna. Tucked behind a large warehouse, we found 448 Studios.

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Within its walls we found inspiration in the form of paintings by Andrea Echavarria.

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We wandered wall to wall soaking up the sight of sound as interpreted by this talented artist. The artwork was moving…affecting…powerful.

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And we found ourselves drawn into the artwork.

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While enjoying the art, Gracie ran into fellow classmates and teachers from her American Sign Language classes, and it was fun to step into Gracie’s world and watch her communicate so naturally and joyfully with others in ASL.

Our conversation on the drive home revolved around the things we had seen at the show. Inspired by the art of another, we both left feeling the desire to create.

I suppose that is one of the hallmarks of a true artist…

They make you look at the world in a new way,

They affect you on a personal level,

They pull from within a raw, emotional reaction,

and they touch the artist that exists within each of us, leaving us with a need to go out into the world and create our own art.

 

 

Erie Art Museum

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Last Friday we had our second field trip of the year to Erie with 21st Century Cyber Charter School. Like the field trip to the Erie Zoo in February, we planned to pick up Ozzie and take him with us. We also had Tatum joining us for the day.

Our day began bright and early with everyone rolling out of bed at 5:30 am. The field trip was scheduled to begin at 9:30 am but we had a 2 hour drive ahead of us and a family therapy session scheduled with Ozzie for 8:00 am, which meant an early morning! I figured if we were already making the trek up north we ought to fit in a family session at his RTF while we were in the area. He is scheduled to be discharged this weekend (more on that in an upcoming post) so we wanted to fit in one more family session with the other kids before he came home.

We arrived at the Erie Art museum right on time, following a successful family therapy session with Ozzie and the rest of the kiddos.  In addition to our group of 7, there were two other students, two other parents, and two teachers signed up for the tour.

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I wasn’t sure how the day was going to play out. I knew the three girls would enjoy the art museum but wasn’t sure how much this particular field trip would appeal to the three boys. I assumed we would simply be walking through the museum and looking at art, but soon discovered there was much more to this outing than meets the eye, and it ended up being one of the coolest outings we have attended in a long time.

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We were blessed with an exceptional tour guide, a sweet girl who was both knowledgeable and engaging, drawing everyone into the experience, even the younger boys.

We began our day on the first floor, in a room showcasing large canvases with the shared theme of “art that tricks your eye.” As we walked around the room we discussed the techniques each artists used to create the optical illusions that played out on the wall before us.

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Then we all had the opportunity to create our own eye-tricking work of art.

Using two circles of paper, we drew two different parts of the same picture on the two circles. For example: a fish bowl on one paper and the fish on the other.

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By gluing the two circles to either side of a wooden dowel we created a spinning toy that became a moving work of art. Like a child’s flip-book, the motion of spinning the dowel merged the two drawings and the eye would then register the two images as one.

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It was very neat and all the kids had fun with this art project.

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From there we moved upstairs to an exhibit of prints made with engravings.

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Once again after learning about this art medium, we had the opportunity to create our own work of art. We were each given a piece of Styrofoam and were encouraged to walk around the room, be inspired, and create our own engraving on the Styrofoam that we would use to create a print.

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After everyone had finished their engraving we moved to a workroom where we learned how to use our engraved “plates” to make prints.

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Gracie’s print.

The finished results were delightful!

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After a 30 minute lunch break we reconvened for the second half of the outing which was a scavenger hunt through the museum. We were split into two teams and were each given a scavenger hunt list of exhibits to visit and tasks to perform at each stop.

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It was an awesome way to help the kids really engage with the exhibits, making learning about the art fun and impactful.

I was on a team with Rusty, Grace and Ozzie, while Tyler, Molly, and Tatum joined the other team.

Some of our scavenger hunt tasks included:

1.Choose one piece of art in the Sharon Kerry-Harlan exhibit and write a haiku poem about the piece.

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2. In the Frenzel Gallery take a look at Schabacker’s animal fabric collages and choose one of the animals from the gallery to sculpt out of clay.

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3. In the Bacon Gallery find the self portrait wall in James McMarray’s exhibit. Spend a few minutes looking at the collection of self portraits.

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Go to the end of the gallery and find the self portrait station and create a self portrait.

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4. Step inside the Gary Spinosa exhibit and spend a few minutes viewing the sculptures . What adjectives would you use to describe this exhibit?

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At the end of our scavenger hunt we joined the other team back at the starting point to compare notes. What a fun way to engage visitors in the art!

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It was an awesome field trip and I can’t say enough positive things about the Erie Art Museum and its staff.

This outing earned two thumbs up!

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Simply Wicked

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I love the new trend in theatrical story telling. It speaks to a tendency that we as mere mortals fall prey to all too often, and that is the tendency to try to label or sort people into simplified categories. There is a laziness in moving through life this way. This isn’t a new concept. It has been a weakness of humanity since the beginning of time. Somehow it makes us feel safer, more in control, and perhaps a bit superior to lump our fellow sojourners in this walk through life into groups, much like we would sort a pile of papers…the ones worth keeping in this pile…the ones that can be discarded in that pile. We struggle with the greys of life, longing for the simplicity of a black and white world…

Pretty or Ugly

Smart or Dumb

Rich or Poor

Good or Bad

And then when reality hits and we are faced with a pile of greys that can’t be sorted clearly into one pile or another we will over look the tints and shades of that person and simply push them into one of our predetermined categories based on what is most visible on the surface.

This is a shallow, lazy, and completely inaccurate way of seeing others, and yet we are all guilty of it.

You see, no one fits in one single pile. We are all composed of swirls of lights and darks. We are all a mix of strengths and weaknesses. We are a composition of what we have learned, how we were raised, the things that have happened to us, and the truths that we believe, so when we naively try to sort others into categories of hero or villain we are doing a great disservice to them and to ourselves.

For no one is all hero.

And no one is all villain.

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There are weaknesses and sins to be found in every perceived “hero” and greatness buried within each “villain.”

We are the product of our experiences and to judge another by a walk you haven’t taken is a very dangerous thing.

This reality is finally being acknowledged by society in a recent trend we are seeing in books, movies, and theatre in which the long established heroes and villains of literature are being reexamined and the other side of the story is being told. It is fun to look at these well known classic stories from childhood through different glasses. It is entertaining, but also affecting. It is a powerful reminder of the truth that no one’s story is as simple as it seems on the cover and unless we are willing to invest the time, effort, and compassion into excavating a bit deeper we may never see the hero hidden beneath the façade of the “villains” in our life’s story.

Two weeks ago we were privileged to be able to see this new trend in art play out on the stage of the Benedum Theatre in Pittsburgh when Grace, Molly and I went to see the Broadway production of Wicked.

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Here is a synopsis of that incredible show:

“A vivid reimagining of the classic The Wizard of Oz, Wicked spotlights the untold stories of Oz’s most famous (or infamous) characters, namely the Wicked Witch of the West and her unlikely friend, Glinda the Good Witch. The show follows green-skinned star Elphaba from birth to college and through the life-changing events which eventually label her “wicked,” introducing spoiled rich girl Glinda, local prince and heartthrob Fiyero and even the Wizard of Oz himself, a troubled man very unlike the one you may remember. As Elphaba, a passionate political activist if there ever was one, fights injustice and seeks to undo the mistakes of the past, dark secrets and personal tragedies shape the history of Oz, paying homage to the classic Wizard of Oz story while simultaneously changing fans’ understanding of it forever. A cautionary tale about love, friendship, loss, hatred, envy and an unwillingness to accept anything that is different, Wicked effortlessly reveals that there are indeed two sides to every story.” -Broadway.com

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It was an incredible night.

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We were there with 50 friends from church after one of the ladies sent out a group invite last summer inquiring as to whether anyone would want to join her and her girls at the January showing in Pittsburgh and take advantage of the group rate. Toby and I decided to surprise the girls with Wicked tickets for their Christmas gift.

The night finally arrived and we were so excited. After a few hiccups (like leaving our tickets at home and having to back track) we finally made it.

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The venue was as magical as the show itself.

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It was so much fun to kept stumbling across friends that were scattered throughout the theatre as we found our way to our seats.

We sat with the Tame family and the girls each got to enjoy the experience with their besties from church!

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The show was simply magnificent. I had goosebumps on my goosebumps through the entire thing.

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The costumes, choreography, singing and dialog came together to take us on a magical journey as we saw Oz (and the characters within) through new eyes.

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It was a perfect night with two of my greatest blessings!

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A VERY belated birthday celebration

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Last summer Molly’s best friend turned 16. At the time Molly acknowledged Tatum’s birthday with a promise of a day out on the town to celebrate this milestone birthday.

Then life got in the way, pushing birthday plans to the back burner as we put out the more unmanageable fires that were closing in on us.

As Christmas break neared Molly came to me with the request that we set  one day of Christmas break aside to honor Tatum’s birthday rain check. Molly had an idea of what she wanted to do and asked if we could make it happen. Her plan was to take Tatum to Pittsburgh to the Carnegie Art Museum for the day, so they could leisurely explore the museum and let Tatum spend the day soaking up all the beauty the museum has to offer…something Molly knew Tatum would appreciate and enjoy.

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In the middle of the day she planned to take Tatum out for a birthday lunch.

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The timing was perfect. Ozzie was home for the week and without any other commitments fighting for our attention we decided to dedicate our Friday to Tatum’s gift from Molly but also take advantage of our Carnegie membership so the boys and I could enjoy a day at the Carnegie Natural History Museum that is conveniently housed in the same building as the art museum.

After getting our tickets we said good-bye to the girls and headed in opposite directions.

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The girls’ fun was recorded by Molly’s iPod, allowing me to steal some of the photos that recorded their fun day.

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While the girls were soaking up the culture of the art museum (something we steered clear of with the little boys) we headed over to the Natural History museum.

This was more up the boys’ alley with its animal dioramas,

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Dinosaur Hall,

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The Exploration Station,

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And digging in the Boneyard.

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The highlight of the day, however, was the live animal show. Tyler was completely engaged and fascinated by this interactive and informative show where we learned all about…

 Corn Snakes:

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Hedgehogs:

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Alligators:

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 And Skunks:

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By late afternoon Ozzie was worn out and at one point fell asleep in a chair as we waited for Tyler to come out of the bathroom.

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We had a little time before we needed to meet up with the girls, so we explored the hall of statues, 

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And then headed to the Christmas tree display to check out the themed trees and the beautiful nativity set.

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The boys and I had a fun day learning about animals, both modern and extinct, while soaking up the beauty of this historic building that houses all these neat artifacts…

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And I think the girls had a fun day too!

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 Happy VERY belated birthday, Miss Tatum! 

St. Louis City Museum- Round 2

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If you are taking a trip to St. Louis you ABSOLUTELY MUST visit the City Museum. Kids or no kids – don’t even ask what it is – put it on your bucket list RIGHT NOW.

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We first discovered it a year ago while on our cross country bus trip. Our first stop was in St. Louis and we were looking for something fun to do since it was Tyler’s birthday. We went, not knowing what to expect, and found it to be absolutely mind blowing.

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The first thing I read about (when researching the City Museum) was the famous 10 story slide (YES I absolutely said TEN STORY SLIDE) but I was not prepared for the sheer excitement, incredulous wonder, and core exhaustion that would accompany us!

The City Museum is like a living breathing work of art. An old shoe factory originally- it is evolving constantly with new additions.

In fact they have said:

“Usually, the way something gets built is a board gets together and comes up with a mission statement, and they do a search for an architect, and they go through an approval process, and they start raising funds, and by the time something gets built, they forget what it was for in the first place. When we get an idea here, we start building it that afternoon.” -City Museum

We found that to be true. We were amazed by all the new additions to the museum since our visit 10 months ago.

This place is incredible. Just look at SOME of the playground outside!

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It is no easy feat to walk through there if you’re terrified of heights like I am! It IS, however, the PERFECT place for my daredevil husband and kids…especially Tyler! Safety with the feeling of terror. There are (almost) no rules except for a few safety height requirements. The building is meant to be climbed on, in and through.

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My three boys heading in three different directions down three different tunnels!~

City Museum was collectively one of the top highlights from our trip around the country, so when we were mapping out our route to get to Texas for my brother’s wedding we deliberately routed ourselves through St. Louis so we could enjoy another day at one of the coolest places on earth!

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Here is a little history of the City Museum found on WIki:

“City Museum is a play house museum, consisting largely of repurposed architectural and industrial objects, housed in the former International Shoe building.

Popular among residents and tourists, the museum bills itself as an “eclectic mixture of children’s playground, funhouse, surrealistic pavilion, and architectural marvel.” Visitors are encouraged to touch, climb on, and play in the various exhibits. “Don’t touch the art” is never commanded; although safety docents are present on each of 11 floors.

The City Museum has been named one of the “great public spaces” by the Project for Public Spaces and has won other local and international awards as a must-see destination.

City Museum was founded by artist Bob Cassilly and his then-wife Gail Cassilly. The museum’s building was once an International Shoe Company factory and warehouse but was mostly vacant when the Cassillys bought it in 1983. Construction began in January 1995.

The City Museum opened to the public on October 25, 1997. Within two years, it was drawing 300,000 visitors a year.

The museum has since expanded, adding new exhibits such as MonstroCity in 2002, Enchanted Caves and Shoe Shaft in 2003, and World Aquarium in 2004.

Cassily remained the museum’s artistic director until his death in 2011.

A circus ring on the third floor offers daily live acts. The City Museum also houses The Shoelace Factory, whose antique braiding machines makes colorful shoelaces for sale.”

The entire building is one magnificent piece of art, all intended to be touched, climbed on, explored and experienced. In a world of helicopter parenting and “Do not touch” signs this “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium” encourages exploration and imagination.

They make a point of not giving out maps to the museum and instead encourage you to simply explore.

Behind every corner was a tunnel entrance or the start of another adventure. For Tyler it was heaven on earth, although  ALL enjoyed it!

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The museum is comprised of multiple floors of adventures, each with its own theme:

First Floor

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“The original part of the museum, the first floor is home to a life-size Bowhead Whale that guests can walk through and view a large fish tank from the mezzanine or the always popular “Puking Pig.”

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Also on the first floor, are a number of tunnels that run across the ceiling, hiding above a sea of fiberglass insulation cut to give the impression of icicles.

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To get into these, one can climb up a Slinky, which is an old refrigerating coil (donated by Anheuser-Busch),

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or through a tree house which leads into a giant hollowed out tree that leads to a cabin on the other side of the floor.

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The floor itself is covered with the largest continuous mosaic piece in the US, which then morph their way up columns, consuming every section of this floor. In one area is a tunnel known as the “Underground Whaleway” which runs beneath the floor and into the “Original Caves.”

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Enchanted Caves and Shoe Shaft

One of the museum’s most popular attractions, the Enchanted Caves and Shoe Shafts run through the center of the Museum, and go all the way to the 10th floor.

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Opened in 2003, the Caves are an elaborate cave system hand-sculpted by Bob Cassilly and his crew.

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From every direction, a different creature is staring back.

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Since 2007, the Caves have also held a 1924 Wurlitzer Pipe Organ from the Rivoli Theatre in New York City.

The Shoe Shafts were developed from structures built for the International Shoe distribution operation. To get the shoes from various floors to the loading dock, staff would place the shoes on spiral shafts. The Shafts opened in 2003 with one three-story spiral slide, and five years later added a ten-story slide that starts at the roof and goes down to the Caves’ entrance.”

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Shoelace Factory

The Shoelace Factory has shoelace machines from the 1890s. Visitors can order custom-made laces.

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And outside you will find: MonstroCity!!!

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Located in front of the building, MonstroCity features two Sabreliner 40 aircraft fuselages suspended high in the air,

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A castle turret,

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Four-foot-wide slinkies that can be crawled through… one very high that leads to a slide,

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That is Molly WAY up there!

And two ball pits, one for young children and one for older ones, each pit being filled with large, rubber dodge balls.

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The Cabin Inn is an early-19th-century log cabin located beneath MonstroCity. Originally the home of the son of Daniel Boone, it was owned by the Hezel family for more than a century and is now a bar and entertainment venue.

The Roof

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The roof has a small old-fashioned Ferris Wheel.

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It also has a slide that goes under a small pond.

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The pond has stepping stones that go from one side to the other.

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The roof also has a school bus that had actually worked once, extending past the edge of the building.

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Visitors can walk in the school bus and open the door from the driver’s seat.

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Also found on the roof are a giant rope swing contained in a free-standing aluminum dome underneath the roof’s centerpiece; a giant metal praying mantis.

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It is possible to climb a series of enclosed metal ladders inside the dome (of an old planetarium) to an exit at the top.

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The view from the top!

The entire experience was mind-blowing…a feast for the eyes and for all the senses. The attention to detail, the creativity and artistic detail made for incredible photo opportunities, although the grandeur simply can’t be captured by a lens.

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The little details made it an photographic treasure hunt as all of us stumbled across one cool shot after another.

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We were there 7 hours and could have stayed another 7. It was definitely one of the coolest places we have EVER been. For $12.00/ person we felt we got our money’s worth 100 times over! Honestly, I cannot even begin to tell you how A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. the City Museum is. These photos do it NO justice as most of the pictures I took just looked like abstract chaos of intertwining branches, rooms, rock, tile, coils, and everything else that the museum is created from. You absolutely have to experience it for yourself – it will blow you away.

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But be forewarned – at the end of the day you’ll be utterly exhausted but dreaming of your next visit to the City Museum!