Last night, I attended the final session of our “Imagining Eden” workshop at the University of Michigan’s Museum of Art/OffSite, and the subsequent student reading. The workshop participants, fifteen elementary and middle schoolers who have spent several weeks working with our volunteers and UMMA docents, impressed me endlessly with their thoughts on a slide of “Mount Hood from the Dalles” by John Mix Stanley. They’ve now studied landscape photography, surrealist painting, Chinese tapestries, and a number of other types of art. They know about perspective, mood, shadow, and that “people tend to clutter up a landscape.” They know how to put words to how the scene in a painting might feel or smell.
These students have spent the last month writing about the black-and-white, sometimes-ethereal-sometimes-gloomy landscape photography of Lyle Gomes, the museum’s current exhibit. The student reading revealed a remarkably diverse group of stories and poems—from creepy to sweet to funny—all of them jaw-droppingly good. From Madeleine’s amazing poetry to Mini’s scary article to Julia’s prolific fairy fiction, let’s just say it was a good show.
And so, many thanks to Sarah Henschell-Doyle, who has kind of a long name, and teaches remarkable workshops, and wooed every student in that workshop into writing stellar and astounding work. Many thanks also to Pam Reister at UMMA, who is lovely in every way, and was wonderful to work with. And thanks to KT, Julie, and all the docents and volunteers for providing indispensable help! Thanks to UMMA/OffSite’s entire staff for letting us take over their gorgeous space for a month. And, most importantly, thanks to the students who participated, and were brave enough to share their work with us, and never cease to amaze and inspire us.