March Break Masterpiece

During the week of March 9, 2014, youth across Ontario took full advantage of their mid-winter break. With another snowstorm in the Greater Toronto Area, it seemed that the season of cold and ice had just begun. But some kids spent time warming up to activities far from the ordinary indoor, movie-watching and online gaming.

March break is a whole other world at the McMichael. Without entering a classroom or opening a textbook, it’s an educational experience that’s unique, fun and inspiring. Last week, we hosted March Break Special, our first accessible and inclusive March break program. We were able to accommodate the needs of new and returning participants, while introducing exciting multisensory projects.

The three day program followed a different theme during each session. On the first day, instructor Anna taught the group how to use stencils, paints, oil pastels and engraving tools to make images inspired by the Arctic. After a visit to the gallery to view First Nations and Inuit art, (including a larger than life Narwhal tusk!) the group returned to the studio. Everyone finished off the day with multimedia stamp prints, using plasticine, natural found objects like shells and leaves, and paint.

Well rested and ready for round two, the group returned on Thursday, March 13 to delve into the surrounding landscape. Participants were inspired to make their own tree sketches after experiencing the different textures of bark, branches and pine needles. The group went for a walk in the sunshine to collect an array of pine cones in different shapes and sizes for the next activity. After lunch, the group proceeded with drawing beautiful branches and curvy leaves with textured pastels and vibrant watercolour paints.

To end off the day, participants exited their comfort zone by creating interpretive scenes of horizons, sunsets and surrounding landscape, using thick acrylic paint, sand and salt. By using cardboard combs, chopsticks and forks to create lines smooth and squiggly, the ultra sensory activity was enjoyed by all – even parents sat down to revel in the therapeutic element.

On the final day of camp, the group made three dimensional sculptures with Plaster of Paris. The special product is a modeling clay made by adding water to a fine powder solution. The solution heats up and can be placed inside a confined space, like a balloon, where it can be slowly molded into different shapes by hand. As the plaster cools, bumps and curves form. When this handmade stone is removed from the balloon, it can be painted with vibrant colours or carved into intricate designs.

It was a beautiful day on the McMichael grounds, so we decided to take a walk on the path leading to the Humber River Trail, which is located just below the wedding hill, behind the gallery. The group created their very own sculpture garden, complete with snow inukshuks, porcupines, forts and even a large rabbit!

After some Vitamin D from eating lunch and being in the sun, everyone relaxed by molding Play Clay into various shapes. Some participants made nature scenes with bark and pine cones, while others created key chains and paper weights. Using earthy cream, green and brown colours, the group created beautiful nature inspired works. Some members wanted to mimic Inuit art, swapping ivory stone for Ivory soap to make their own sculptures using safe wooden tools.

As the sun tucked behind the clouds, the Artists’ Studio was filled with triple-threat, multimedia artworks completed by three young artists within three days. We may have seen better weather in previous years, but nothing compared to the fantastic art created at March Break Special.

The group says, "sunshine!" as I take a photo. March Break Special was a blast!

The group says, “sunshine!” as I take a photo. March Break Special was a blast!

See you at the McMichael on June 21 for Drumming Circle, the summer edition of our popular ArtVenture Accessible Family Art programs. With a First Nations percussion performance, art making and outdoor exploration, it’s a program you don’t want to miss!

McMichael adventures with the maple leaf

March break is always a special time at the McMichael, and a busy one, too.
That’s why they call it “March Break Madness,” after all!

This year, we offered our very first accessible art program, Canadian Maple Leaf Adventure, to conclude a busy week with some creatively quiet family time. On Saturday, March 16th, art instructor Anna Pallotta led five families on an adventure inspired by Canadian landscape and the lush greenery within it.

The program began with pencil sketches at Pine Cottage, where Anna showed the group how to do shading techniques overtop images of birch and maple trees. Following the warm-up activity, the group went on an exciting walk throughout the front entrance of the grounds. Anna distributed photographs she took of the McMichael landscape to each participant to scout out the exact location of each image. The scavenger hunt was a great way to explore the grounds and witness their reflection on the definitive Canadian work inside the gallery – the next destination.


Inside gallery one exploring the Group of Seven

As families gathered inside the Grand Hall, took of their coats, hats and mitts, Anna guided them throughout the gallery’s many Group of Seven exhibits. She engaged each participant with insightful questions, and everyone was able to make strong correlations between the works and personal experiences.


Anna discussing the Group of Seven’s siganture painting techniques



Later, the group wound down with the viewing of The West Wind, a film montage depicting a “day-in-the-life” of artists like Tom Thomson and A.Y. Jackson.

Anna accompanied the film with an even
more natural soundtrack
– a music compilationwestwinddvd from National Parks of Canada,
entitled the National Parks Project.  

It is a beautifully organic album comprised of 39 musicians dispered across 13 national parks. The groups spent five days in destinations that include the Bruce Peninsula, Cape Breton and Kluane. It’s a wonderful way to “capture the majesty of landcape through music and image.”


The best part about the McMichael is that we don’t need to travel to any of those three parks – we have majestic art and nature at our fingertips! And it’s all accessible, too.


Hope to see you at our next family art program!