East Side Music Together

The instrument free-for-all

During each class, there’s an instrument free-for-all where the children can try out different sounds.

Since she was only a few months old, I’ve taken my two-year-old daughter to Music Together — first in East Providence and now on the East Side of Providence. Classes are broken into nine-week intervals with a different theme (and CD to go with it) — Triangle, Bongo, Drum, etc.. The songs include simple sound combinations like Biddy Biddy to favorites like Palo Palo and John the Rabbit, so that children can start singing along as soon as they can make sounds.

Local mom and musician Jen Romanat runs our East Side Music Together class — in our most recent class, Jen led songs on both her guitar and ukulele, and the children sang, dance, spun with the parachute, and tried out a variety of instruments including drums, maracas, and tamborines.

Who wouldn't love parachute play?

Who wouldn’t love parachute play?

The Music Together philosophy suggests that children learn music through adults who model it for them so the class encourages adult participation. And although the children may be quiet during the class, don’t think that they aren’t listening, absorbing and learning. My daughter who sat pensively throughout many of the songs during the last class came home singing them and making the clicking horse noise she learned that day.

Note: Jen Romanat will also be performing at the Hope Street Market on July 3, July 24, August 7, August 21; the Armory Market on July 11, July 18 and August 15; and Gladys Potter Park (Humboldt) throughout the summer.

East Side Music Together

Music Together

Just Pickin’ Flowers (Jen’s Music)

How to Build a Forest at the Granoff Center for the Arts

Becoming part of the installation "How to Build a Forest"

Becoming part of the installation “How to Build a Forest”

I often find contemporary art installations a bit baffling, but I nonetheless decided to take my daughters to the “How to Build a Forest” installation at the Granoff Center for the Arts. So last night, the three of us walked in to a quiet room filled with spectators in seats observing diaphanous trees slowly rising and partially filled rubber balls being rolled around the room. We received a few instructions (from Brown student and filmmaker Laura Colella, no less)–remove your shoes, stay on the wood floor, and be careful what you touch since the forest is delicate. These rules seemed simple enough except, of course, if you happen to be two- or five-years-old.  I politely took a seat and would have liked the girls do the same. Instead they improvised–taking on the roles of animals in the forest, crawling on all fours and making strange noises while (fortunately) still respecting the forest structures. As it turns out, they became part of the show. Perhaps that’s the point.

Note: Although 2/28/13 marked the end of Lisa D’Amour, Katie Pearl and Shawn Hall’s “How to Build a Forest” exhibit, you can attend a future Granoff Center exhibit or art installation. See more about “How to Build a Forest” at Brown.edu.

Festival Ballet: Little Red Riding Hood

Festival Ballet's most recent performance included an amended version of Little Red Riding Hood.

Festival Ballet’s most recent performance included an amended version of Little Red Riding Hood. Photo By Matt Francis. Design by Fatoumata Camara. In this Photo: FBP Company Apprentice Mady Issa.

“The seats are in the fourth row, is that all right?” the woman over the phone inquired when I bought my tickets for Festival Ballet’s production of Little Red Riding Hood. As it turns out, there are only four rows in the theater, and as such, there’s not a bad seat in the house. Located at their studio space (where they also offer classes for adults and children of all levels), this small theater offers a perfect venue for an intimate show where children especially can feel close enough to the action to remain engaged.

Mushroom Costume. Design by Brianne Benack. Photo by Matt Francis. In this photo: FBP Company Trainee Eugenia Zinovieva

Mushroom Costume. Design by Brianne Benack. Photo by Matt Francis. In this photo: FBP Company Trainee Eugenia Zinovieva

You won’t be wowed with fancy sets here, but you will be impressed by skillful performances by a dozen talented ballet dancers. For Little Red Riding Hood, the theater partnered with RISD’s Junior Cut & Sew Studio to produce some wonderfully intricate costumes. To make the show less fearsome, they amended the story–the hooded dancing wolf escapes from Central Park Zoo and wants to eat Little Red Riding Hood’s cookies, not the girl herself.

As if that’s not enough to convince you, the show concludes with milk and cookies from Seven Stars Bakery, along with a chance to meet and talk with the dancers.

Although the performances of Little Red Riding Hood are already sold out, the Festival Ballet line-up includes several other upcoming shows for both children and adults.

Festival Ballet
825 Hope Street
Providence, RI

Kreatelier: Sewing Workshops for Children

The proud owner of a handmade doll–that is, made by her very own hands.

Soccer, gymnastics, piano — these are the afterschool activities that may typically come to mind. But sewing?

Since Geoff bought himself a sewing machine last year, our five-year-old daughter has taken an interest in a new type of arts–the material kind. So for her birthday, she received a private sewing workshop from Kreatelier’s Alexis Cormier. When I left her there with Geoff, I figured she’d make a little hand-puppet or something. Instead, I arrived an hour later to discover she had nearly completed a doll in her own likeness, down to the curly hair.

Of course, in addition to the sewing workshops for children and adults, Kreatelier is also a store selling locally handmade bags, pillows, fabric jewelry, clothes and other items. And for anyone not interested in making a doll from scratch, those are for sale too–complete with custom clothes and shoes.

804 Hope Street
Providence, RI

48 Hour Film Project Providence, RI

Write what you know. Use who you’ve got. A still from our new short Bubble Gum Ice Cream screening this week as part of the 48 Hour Film Project Providence.

You might think it’s insane to sign up to write, direct and edit a film in 48 hours when you’ve got a five-year-old and a one-year-old. We did too, but we did it anyway. The result is the short film Bubble Gum Ice Cream, which will screen this week in Lincoln, RI along with dozens of other films also made in and around Providence, RI this past weekend.

The 48 Hour Film Project began in 2001 and now (in 2012) will inspire thousands of filmmakers to produce nearly 4,000 films in 120 cities on 6 continents. This happens to be our third time participating in the project — the first time was in 2004 in New York City (that film has been forever archived), the second time in Boston in 2008 (which you can watch online), and now here in Providence in 2012. I wonder where we’ll be producing our next film in 2016?

Bubble Gum Ice Cream screens with Group B on Tuesday night at 9:30pm.

48 Hour Film Project, Providence 2012
Date: July 17, 18, 19
Time: 7pm & 9:30pm
Place: Cinema World, 622 George Washington Hwy #321 Lincoln, RI 02865

Children’s Rhode Island Holiday Shopping List

Baby Doll play set available on Etsy in Rhode Island: http://www.etsy.com/listing/46824903/

If you’re doing some last-minute shopping, that’s all the more reason to keep it local. Here are a few ideas (feel free to post others in the comments) for great children’s gifts that are either invented and/or made in Rhode Island.

Handmade local items at Craftland.

Located on Westminster Street in Providence, this packed little shop sells jewelry, t-shirts, cards, puppet-making kits, toys, you name it. All the items are hand-crafted by regional artists.

Seven Acre Toys
Providence, RI
Wood blocks, rattles, mobiles, teethers and more.

Pockets of Learning
Warren, RI
This children’s toy company makes unique soft toys. We still have the three little pigs set that Madeline got as a gift years ago.  I’m not sure they still make that, but they have a soft tea set that I’m sure Lucy would love.

Local searches in RI
On Etsy, you can find local artisans who make dolls, toys, clothes, etc. A quick search for “children” in Rhode Island brought me to this adorable mini baby set (pictured above), owl wall plaque, and toddler aviator hat. See the full list of children’s items in Rhode Island.

Mill Street Puzzle Company
Newport, RI
Located in Newport’s Historic Hill, this company creates American-made jigsaw puzzles that celebrate American heritage.


Providence, RI
Let’s not forget one of my personal favorites — a word game for the Scrabble-obsessed.

Of course, Hasbro, the maker of Mr. Potato Head, Play-Doh and a plethora of other toys and brands is also located in Rhode Island. In fact, it’s one of the big national public companies located in the state (CVS is another), and as such is a major employer here.  Buying Play-Doh doesn’t have the same feel as buying a hand-crafted item. Still, a local job is nothing to scoff at when you’re unemployment rate still exceeds 10 percent…

Who out there has other suggestions?

The Art of the Brick: A Lego Art Exhibit

Madeline found a cello made of legos at the Narrows Gallery exhibit.

When Lucy started to crawl, I moved Madeline’s ten pounds of legos out of the girls’ room and into the living room. I feared that the tiny brightly colored pieces would make too tempting a snack for an infant.

The Narrows Gallery's exhibit "The Art of the Brick" is open through November 19, 2011.

But Madeline seldom went to the living room to play with them. What was once her favorite activity was no longer part of her daily play.

So I decided, it was time to bring back the legos.

Yesterday, we drove to Fall River where the Narrows Gallery is currently hosting a free art exhibit of work by New York artist Nathan Sawaya. The pieces, entirely made of legos, don’t match the intricacy of the displays at Lego World (in Germany we saw a lego stadium with 30,000 lego people fans), but they were inventive — a giant pencil writing the word yes, a yellow man with an open chest pouring out legos (which Madeline said looked like a jack-o-lantern), and a full size cello.

Lego walls down the hall give children the opportunity to build their own lego art.

Of course, it’s hard enough to prevent kids from touching art when it’s not made of legos, so wisely the center set up an accompanying build-your-own exhibit down the hall with logo walls so low even Lucy could try her hand at building.

The exhibit inspired Madeline to build her own at home too — so far she’s made her own lego family, a sewing machine, and a robot. Legos are now strewn all over the kitchen and our bedroom floor. Lucy loves running her hands through the giant bucket of legos. As expected, I have caught her eating one a few times, but so far she hasn’t swallowed any. At least, I don’t think she has.

Madeline's lego girls.

The Art of the Brick
through November 19, 2011
Narrows Gallery
16 Anawan Street
Fall River, MA

RISD Museum: Tours for Tots

Madeline creates her own art during the RISD Museum's Tours for Tots.

Someone recently asked Madeline what she wanted to be when she grew up.

“Well,” she replied. “I’m already getting started. I’m an artist.”

So apparently in support of her current career, we visited the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Museum yesterday during their Tours for Tots. The hour-long program, which continues Thursdays in June, offers children ages 3-5 an interactive tour of one of the museum’s exhibits, along with a chance to create their own art. Yesterday’s tour brought us to the wooden Dainichi Nyorai Buddha, which sits 9-feet tall in its own dimly lit gallery. The children learned the story of Siddhartha, as they discovered how to sit and think like Buddha. We then moved to an open room where the kids spread out on the floor and created their own crayon drawings inspired by the story. The event ended with all of the new ‘artwork’ on display for everyone to admire.

A still from Schnitt's "Once Upon a Time"

Each week brings a different tour, so you can attend more than once. And while you’re there, you can get your fix of Van Gogh, Monet, Manet, and other masterpieces, along with some less traditional art like Sarah Sze’s notepad cut into a tiny and intricate fire escape or Corinna Schnitt’s video loop Once Upon a Time, which shows what happens in an unsupervised room full of chickens, cats, birds, fish, bunnies and a goat. Who says art museums are for adults?

RISD Museum
Tours for Tots

Thursdays June 2, 9, 16, 23 at 2 pm – 2:45 pm
(meets in the Chace Lobby, free with museum admission)
www.risdmuseum.org (also see family programs)

Sarah Sze
artist website | exhibit info

Corinna Schnitt
artist website | exhibit info