Outside the Barnes, a smaller-scale draw

Marin Huttie, 4, tries to decide which masterpiece image from the Barnes collection she should copy at the workshop. CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Marin Huttie, 4, tries to decide which masterpiece image from the Barnes collection she should copy at the workshop. CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Posted: May 28, 2012

Sitting at a table in the shade of sycamore trees outside the new Barnes museum, Isabella Royal, 5, was a tiny picture of concentration Saturday morning.

Henri Matisse’s The Red Madras Headdress was on display inside, but Isabella was peering at a small laminated reproduction and using colored pencils to create her own impression of Matisse’s iconic image of a seated woman in a patterned headdress. Her parents, Kenya and Peter, watched, rapt.

"Normally she’s coloring in a coloring book or just using a little notepad and scribbling," Kenya said as her daughter tried to decide between using gold or orange to draw the woman’s chair. "But this!"

As part of the Barnes museum’s 56 hours of Opening Weekend festivities, the nonprofit Fresh Artists was enlisted to give children a chance to make their own "mini-masterpieces" from the Barnes Foundation using pencils, markers, crayons, and oil-based pastels.

The East Falls-based nonprofit promotes children’s access to creating art, runs arts projects, and raises money to provide teachers with art supplies by selling large-scale reproductions of children’s artwork to corporations.

"This is about making invisible children visible and using this vision of art to change people’s hearts," said Barbara Chandler Allen, who founded Fresh Artists in 2008. "We believe the art will speak for the children for years to come."

Fresh Artists, she said, already has placed more than 1,000 large-scale reproductions of children’s art in corporations across the country.

Through an earlier project with the Barnes Foundation, students from C.W. Henry School in Mount Airy and John Hancock Demonstration School in the Northeast created versions of pieces in the Barnes collection. Twenty-nine were selected and blown up to create a gallery outside the Barnes while the new museum was being constructed.

"Not only is Barbara bringing art supplies to schools that are needy and don’t have anything, she is bringing so much to the children themselves," said Evelyn Bock, a retired art teacher from Henry whose students’ works were displayed during the Barnes construction.

"It just changes their whole attitude," said Bock, who was one of the teacher-volunteers Saturday. "They feel they have accomplished something. It is a fabulous program."

Allen said Fresh Artists was thrilled to participate in the Barnes’ Memorial Day festivities of films, lectures, musical performances, tours, and art demonstrations, a week after its official opening.

The children and families who shuffled through the laminated reproductions and sat down with their selections outside the Barnes on Saturday included Rosalind Wood of North Philadelphia.

She had been walking along the Parkway with her 8-year-old granddaughter, Amirah, when they spotted the tables stocked with art supplies and piles of heavy paper with frame-like borders.

Attracted by all the greenery, Wood had chosen Henri Rousseau’s Monkeys and Parrot in the Virgin Forest and started sketching.

"You can be surprised by what you see when you’re out taking a walk," Wood said.

Meredith Wiggins, a family therapist who has been involved with Fresh Artists projects in the schools, was among the volunteers.

"I’m really enjoying this because the parents — we didn’t anticipate this — are taking a piece of paper, too," she said. "They’re sitting down with their kids, and they’re talking about art. And they’re drawing, together. That would never happen in school, and probably doesn’t happen at home anymore, either."

The Royal family had come from Overbrook to take advantage of the weekend’s free activities at the Barnes when they stumbled upon Fresh Artists outside.

"We’ll get inside eventually," Peter Royal said as he watched his daughter work on her version of a Matisse that she would be able to compare with the original.

Fresh Artists’ masterpiece-making workshops will continue outside the Barnes along the Parkway above 20th Street Sunday and Monday from 2 to 4 p.m.

Contact Martha Woodall at 215-854-2789 or at martha.woodall@phillynews.com

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