With no grandparents around, museum gets inventive on Grandparents Day

Published on Sunday, 10 September 2017 21:41
Written by Erica Schmitt

Staff Writer

NEW BRITAIN -Future inventors could have been made inside the New Britain Museum of American Art Sunday.

A half-dozen visitors spent the early part of the afternoon fashioning original creations from technological parts and other materials in a workshop led by teaching artist Lindsay Behrens.

It was a celebration of Grandparents’ Day and the museum’s current Samuel F.B. Morse exhibition.

No one in attendance could affix the “grand” prefix, but several parents were on hand. That was not a concern for Behrens, who was excited to foster inspiration and nurture imaginations, no matter what age her students were.

“Everybody is connected to a grandparent in one way or another,” she said with a smile.

Susannah and Gaoya Chen and their daughter Sophie, 10, of West Hartford, were at the museum to browse the M. Stephen and Miriam R. Miller Shaker Gallery, which features woodenware made by a Shaker community. They were surprised to find out about the workshop.

“We visited a Shaker village over the summer,” Susannah Chen said. “My daughter likes how precise and tidy their work is. She’s very organized.”

Morse was also precise in his work. Behrens gave a brief presentation on the life of the painter who went on to invent the electromagnetic telegraph and the code that bears his name.

As the story goes, Morse was working on a painting in Washington when he received a letter delivered by horse, telling him that his wife had fallen ill. A second letter revealed she had died. He rushed home to New Haven only to discover she had already been buried. The delays in delivery of information eventually led to his invention.

“He knew then he had to figure out a faster way to get information across and that’s what led to him inventing the telegraph,” Behrens explained. “His goal was communication.”

Pieces of communication devices were scattered around the tables at the workshop. Visitors picked through and manipulated them to their whims, fastening different pieces together.

“You want to start off with a sketch to get the wheels turning in your brain and then you can use the pieces we have here to make an assemblage of sorts,” Behrens told the group. “It’s sort of a brainstorming activity in case someday you want to invent something.”

The components that make up a tube television were among the materials, along with computer fans, motherboards and keys, and cellphone parts. More typical “crafty” items including feathers, popsicle sticks, glue, buttons and sequins were also available.

Kate Swanson, the museum’s coordinator of family and community programs, dropped in to check on the progress of the inventive creations as they came together.

“Is that more aesthetic or will it have a practical use?” she asked one artist.

Leila and Talia Asal, 13 and 12, stood over the same table toying with separate works.

Asked what she enjoys most about art, Talia said, “You can make anything you want.”

In honor of Grandparents Day, activities focused on Morse and the connections between art, science and technology. Visitors watched a screening of “A New Look: Samuel F.B. Morse and The Gallery of the Louvre” and the Sunday Music Series featured The Rosa-Laurent Duo, two music professors from Central Connecticut State University. The Terra Foundation-supported Morse exhibit is inside the Don and Virginia Davis Gallery through Oct. 15.

Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, or eschmitt@centralctcommunications.com.

Posted in New Britain Herald, , General News, New Britain on Sunday, 10 September 2017 21:41. Updated: Sunday, 10 September 2017 21:44.