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Learning with the Lite-Brite

Who here had a Lite-Brite when they were kids? Nope, not me! It was the one toy that I remember asking for over consecutive birthdays and Christmases that I never received. And now, many many years later, I still want a Lite-Brite. Lucky for me, I work at the IMA and we have a 7 x 5 foot Lite-Brite in our Star Studio! Though it was built with 3 to 6-year-olds in mind, you might just find me hanging with the little ones creating colorful compositions using neon acrylic pegs.

Image from:

Image from:

But why does the IMA have a giant Lite-Brite at all? Well, it turns out that there are many educational components, beginning with imaginative play. As many early childhood studies have shown, play-based learning enhances the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development in early childhood. And … BONUS … play is an ideal opportunity for grow- ups to engage with their children. The purpose of the Lite-Brite, first made by Hasbro in 1967, is to create images using colored pegs. But Hasbro was not the first to come up with the concept of making pictures using colored dots. The term “pointillism” first came about in the 1880s, when artists like Georges Seurat began to make large-scale paintings using small colored dots of paint. The IMA has a couple of good examples of pointillism — Georges Seurat’s The Channel of Gravelines, Petit Fort Philippe, and Alfred William Finch’s The Road to Nieuport.

But it turns out that the concept of pointillism has been around even longer. Think mosaics. The earliest known mosaics have been dated to 3000 BC! And mosaics use colored stone, glass, shells or the like to create large, and sometimes quite elaborate, works of art.

lite_brite_07_loAnd in the 21st century, dots are everywhere! You are reading this on your computer or some other sort of digital device that produces words, pictures and graphics using pixels. Pixels are just little colored dots of light that, when arranged in a particular order, make an image. Which brings us back to the Lite-Brite … now ready for play and learning in the Star Studio on Floor 2.


Inspired by “Inspired by Matisse”

Matisse, Life in Color isn’t even open yet – Sunday is the big day – yet our Inspired by Matisse website has already logged more than 600 submissions! And let me tell you, some of them are pretty amazing!

What is Inspired by Matisse? In short, it’s a drawing competition inspired by the work of French artist Henri Matisse (1869-1954). Each month, September through December, we will choose winners from these categories: 0-5 years old, 6-12 years old, 13-17 years old, and 18+. Yes, there are prizes. But even better than the prizes, the winners’ work will be exhibited in the Matisse, Life in Color exhibition!

If you’ve got an iPad, just download a drawing app and get to work! If you don’t have an iPad, no problem – visit the Inspired by Matisse Lab and use one of ours. You would rather create art the old-fashioned way – with paper and pencils or paint or whatever? That works, too. Just take a digital photo and submit it to the Inspired by Matisse website.

In the meantime, here is a slideshow of the September first place winners. Enjoy!



From wallpaper to silk scarves

lilly-wallpaperArtists find their inspiration from … well, everywhere! In the case of Cleveland artist Susan Skove, she found inspiration in the wallpaper in the drawing room at Lilly House. Floral and nature images have provided the bulk of her inspiration over the last 22 years, and so she found that the Lilly House wallpaper aligned perfectly with her work.

“When I saw the incredible paintings done for the Lilly House, I was excited to create a series of scarves based on them,” said Skove. “Not only are the drawings incredible — the choice of colors are sensitive and beautiful. The wallpaper is also so varied in subject matter that it allowed for wonderful combinations of flowers leaves and birds on the scarves.”

Skove paints on silk. Her wearable canvases are delicate swirls of color that make a one-of-a-kind fashion statement for the lucky wearer. The process of painting on silk can take her anywhere from a few hours to several days, depending on the complexity of the design. First, she stretches the fabric between two sawhorses and applies the first layer of dye. Then she draws the design with a resist to allow for detailed painting. When she finishes the images, she paints the background. Once the scarf is dry, Skove steams it for two hours to make the dye permanent. The steaming ensures the scarf is colorfast and can be washed or drycleaned.

skove-scarvesYou can watch Susan Skove demonstrate her scarf-painting process at Lilly House on October 19 from 11 am to 4 pm. She will have scarves from her current fall collection for sale. If you can’t make it on the 19th, no worries … you can purchase her work  in the Museum Store, the Lilly House shop, and The Madeline F. Elder Greenhouse and Shop.


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