The word safari conjures up all sorts of romantic notions like going from place to place seeing exotic animals. So, when folks heard that Alexandrias Torpedo Factory Art Center was hosting an Arts Safari, they might have wondered how those two terms work together and what exactly would they being doing on a safari being held in an old World War II weapons factory.
The more than 3,000 children and adults who experienced the 13th Annual Arts Safari last Saturday found out first hand why the name is apt: Art Safari adventurers found fun artistic experiences on all three levels of the Torpedo Factory Art Center. Countless opportunities to work with clay and origami, or to weave, paint, color and create made it almost impossible to partake in all of the exotic artistic choices in the four short hours of the safari. The truly persistent young people who wanted to be sure to see absolutely everything took advantage of the Gallery Scavenger Hunt.
The safari adventure began as soon as you entered the building. A huge, multicolored paper mache giraffe and elephant greeted the intrepid, young explorers as they came in one of the three Torpedo Factory Art Center entrances. Immediately, children jumped into adding sticky, slimy strips of paper to a paper mache hippopotamus positioned near the elephant and giraffe. The hippo got taller and wider by the minute as enthusiastic families added their strips of soggy newsprint to the bulky framework. Second-grader Sean Lydon stated that he especially liked putting my hand in the gooey stuff and then spreading it out to help make the hippo.
After working on the hippo, some children became absorbed in folding origami while others rolled up their sleeves and sculpted clay or watched the potter spin his pottery wheel. Children of all ages were mesmerized as the potter took a simple ball of clay and created bowls or vases on his rapidly turning wheel.
The opposite end of the main floor was dedicated to showing the talents of Springwater, an artistic group that is passionate about spinning, weaving, knitting, crocheting, dying and/or surface design. Until recently, Springwater was an independent arts group, but now they offer classes and demonstrate their talents as part of the Alexandria Art League.
In the popular Springwater area of the safari, children patiently waited for a turn at spinning the brightly colored wool on a spinning wheel or weaving a tapestry on a loom. Young children, who are not known for holding still, waited patiently for their turn to sit and make the spinning wheel spin. The tapestry weaving appeared quite simple until the children tried themselves to keep the weaving and tension on the loom even and not miss one thread as they passed the shuttle across the threads.
After the zealous artists had mastered (or at least attempted) everything on the ground floor, a majority of them raced up one level to paint and have their artwork displayed on the second-floor railings. In addition, many a child skipped the second floor and leapt up several stairs at a time to get to the Torpedo Factorys third floor artistic offerings.
The third floor had three popular things do: make spiders or bees, hand-color photographs, or paint and draw pictures of blue and white pottery on a table. Hand coloring photographs seemed to be more of an older childs activity, but kids of all ages seemed to like making spiders with pipe cleaners and fabric. Once the spiders were created, the fabric and pipe cleaner arachnids sat on the shoulders of lots of young folks as they tried out other artistic pursuits. A number made bumble bees with pipe cleaners too.
Tucked in a corner of the third floor is the Alexandria Archeology Museum. By the time some of the little artists reached that room, they were more than ready to look at the arrowheads or other display cases. Still, the tables were always full of kids painting or drawing blue and white drawings or paintings of pottery while volunteer helpers provided some artistic guidance.
When families were finished with the creative arts exploration and adventure, most headed out the back Torpedo Factory doors with their childrens artwork in hand to enjoy the spectacular, Alexandria Chamber of Commerce sort of day and stroll along the festive water front as street musicians performed.
Mike Jankowski, a local attorney and the President of the Friends of the Torpedo Factory was pleased with the turn out for the Arts Safari. He said (in between putting slippery, pulpy strips of paper on the hippo), Our mission is to raise awareness and bring people in to the Torpedo Factory, and I think we are achieving that goal with the Arts Safari. The Friends provided some of the 60 volunteers needed to pull off the afternoons event.
As the Arts Safari wound down, Claire Mouledoux, the Arts Safari organizer and Torpedo Factory Director of Communications, said This fun-filled event also serves a greater purpose of sharing the power of artistic expression with children. The Torpedo Factory Artists Association has been proud to present this event annually for the past 13 years.
Regardless of artistic ability, last Saturday every child seemed to leave Arts Safari smiling and content that they had enjoyed successfully exploring new and different art mediums on their expedition through the Torpedo Factory Arts Center.
For more information about the Torpedo Factory Art Center go to: www.torpedofactory.org or to sign up for art classes, go to: theartleague.org. To become a friend of the Friends of the Torpedo Factory Art Center send an email to: [email protected].