Art & Nature Center at Peabody Essex Museum
October 30, 2013

The Peabody Essex Museum opened its redesigned and expanded Art & Nature Center in mid-October with a slew of family-friendly events and happily the fun continues this Saturday, November 2nd.

The Art & Nature Center has new exhibition spaces, art studios, interactive stations and amenities for young families. Rotating programs, activity stations, multimedia elements and annual exhibitions aim to highlight the connections between human creativity and the natural world.

Its premiere exhibit, Beyond Human: Artist-Animal Collaborations, boasts nearly 40 paintings, installations, photographs and audio and video recordings by artists who co-create or investigate art with live animals.

Jane Winchell, the director of the Art & Nature Center said, “While artists have depicted animals for thousands of years, Beyond Human celebrates a relatively recent phenomenon: artists who work directly with animals—either through collaboration or by tapping into an animal's innate behavior—to create unique works of art.”

The exhibit includes works by iconic photographer, William Wegman, whose photos of Weimaraners (including the image above) are world famous. His creative partnership with animals first began in the 1970s when his first Weimaraner, Man Ray, kept wandering onto the set of his video studio.

Another artist, Mary Jo McConnell, a Massachusetts painter, has made a study of the male bowerbirds of Papua New Guinea, which are known to create elaborate and carefully constructed displays to attract mates. They collect insects, flowers, berries, rocks, fungus and moss to create original compositions. McDonnell makes annual journey to Papua New Guinea to sketch and later paint the bowerbirds’ amazing creations. In addition to her paintings, there is an interactive station where kids will love making their own bowerbird-inspired displays.

Once Upon a Time, a video by German artist Corinna Schnitt, explores animal behavior in a human context. By situating a rotating camera at floor level, Schnitt documents how, in the course of 25 minutes, a living room descends into chaos as animals—domestic and barnyard—are introduced into the space. Kittens climb the curtains, dogs drink water from a fishbowl, ducks tip over baskets while goats and a donkey sets about deleafing every houseplant in sight.

Drop-in art-making, animal face-painting, and puppet and marionette shows are scheduled throughout the November 2nd event. Kids can balance stones to make sculptures with an environmental artist; sculpt with clay; and work on other projects like scrimshaw and silk screening.

Even if you can’t make the special events, the exhibit offers a way to talk and think about art and nature with your kids.

For more information or to get a detailed schedule of Saturday’s events, visit PEM’s website.

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