Tag Archives: Making Magic

Making Magic: The NEA, NEH, IMLS and Your Library

*This post is part of Free for All’s “Making Magic” series, which will focus on Kelley’s exploration of the opportunities in the library’s Creativity Lab as well as musings about the arts, creativity and imagination.

If you’ve been reading the news, you know that the President’s proposed budget cuts funding to a number of cultural organizations including the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS). What you might not realize is just how deeply these organizations affect your library. Now, read closely here and note that I said YOUR library and not libraries in general. I stress this because, though many don’t realize it, a number of our current and former services and programs are/were supported by these organizations.

For today’s post, I’m not going to talk about the dollars and cents of this proposed change. Instead, I’d like to share with you some of the specific things that the NEA, NEH and IMLS have done for YOUR library.

creativity lab logoThe Creativity Lab: The IMLS makes possible the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funding administered to states. LSTA funds made possible the opening of the Peabody Institute Library’s Creativity Lab, a popular makerspace that offers its resources free to the public. For those of you who love the Creativity Lab’s classes, Open Labs, 3D printers, laser cutter, vinyl cutter and sound recording equipment, you owe a big thank you to the IMLS.

conversation circles logoConversation Circles: Conversation Circles is another important service made possible because of a two-year LSTA grant. Thanks to the IMLS, the library was able to obtain equipment and resources to offer free, volunteer-led sessions that provide weekly opportunities for non-native English speakers to practice basic conversational English in an informal setting. This grant also allowed the library to open a Language and Literacy Center on the third floor of the Main Library.

neh logoDiscussion Programs: If you attended the library’s Muslim Journeys, Let’s Talk about It: Jewish Literature, Picturing America, or America’s Music discussion programs, you have the NEH to thank. The NEH funds numerous discussion programs in libraries and the aforementioned are just a selection of the ones we have been lucky enough to host in Peabody. Thanks to the NEH we were able to hire scholars to facilitate discussions, invite field experts to talk about artists, and purchase books and supplies necessary to run each program.

big read logoThe Big Read: Did you participate in the library’s Big Read of Julia Alvarez’s In the Time of the Butterflies? Materials and programs for that month long series, including a Skype visit with Julia Alvarez herself, were made possible by a Big Read grant from the NEA.

All of the examples I mentioned in this post are/were offered free to the public. The NEA, NEH and IMLS don’t just celebrate arts and culture, they make access to arts and culture possible for everyone.  As you can see, we owe much gratitude to these federal cultural organizations. Their work enriches our libraries, but more importantly their work enriches our lives.

Making Magic: Music in the Stacks

*This post is part of Free for All’s “Making Magic” series, which will focus on Kelley’s exploration of the opportunities in the library’s Creativity Lab as well as musings about the arts, creativity and imagination.

Last week, the library offered the first performance of our Acoustic Archives Concert Series. Acoustic Archives brings live music to the library’s historic Sutton Room and features singer-songwriters from the North Shore and Boston areas. Last Monday, we featured Jay Psaros, a Boston based singer/songwriter currently celebrating the release of his fourth studio release, a self titled collection of ten songs ranging from mellow crooners to roots rockers. Check out this video for a sample of what you may have missed!

Wish you could have been there? Read on for the upcoming schedule of performances in the series.

April 18th at 7 p.m.: Ian Fitzgerald is a folk singer and songwriter.  Based in New England, he has toured throughout the United States.  Ian has released five albums of original material, including his new album You Won’t Even Know I’m Gone, (November 2016).  Performer Magazine called Ian ‘a polished songsmith who is high atop a field of great artists breaking through to festival and folk concerts throughout the States.’  To that end, Ian performed at the 2016 and 2015 Newport Folk Festivals and has opened for Iris DeMent, Willy Mason, Vandaveer, The Ballroom Thieves, and many more.

May 8th at 7 p.m.: Winner of the Boston Folk Festival’s Songwriter Contest and dual Creativity Award recipient from Salem State University, Molly Pinto Madigan is a young songwriter who has earned praise for her angelic voice. Filled with smoke and roses, heartbreak and beauty and unrelenting hope, her songs combine haunting melodies with raw, poetic lyrics to create an intimate and evocative listening experience.

Making Magic: The View from Here

*This post is part of Free for All’s “Making Magic” series, which will focus on Kelley’s exploration of the opportunities in the library’s Creativity Lab as well as musings about art, creativity and imagination.

During a recent fly tying class at the library, I was reminded of the power of looking at things in new ways. In this case, the instructor was talking about making your own flies for fly fishing, and how to spot inexpensive materials that make good representations of insects to attract fish.  For instance, do you think you could make a simple feather and some chenille look like a fly? Fly tying is an art that involves fine detail and a good eye for an accurate representation. Until this library program, I never really thought about fishing as creative. Well, to be fair, being a vegan I generally don’t think about fishing at all, but nevertheless, I received an important reminder from this class.

If you’ve ever seen the movie Dead Poets Society, you know it’s impossible to forget the scene where Professor Keating asks his students to stand on their desks in order to look at the world in a new way. (If you haven’t seen the movie Dead Poets Society, I beg of you, stop reading this post and go watch it now!) Whether you’re a creative looking for inspiration, or someone who would like to renew your joy for the day to day, taking a moment to see the world, and the people and things within it, with fresh eyes can enrich enrich your life immeasurably. So this week, I’m asking you, not necessarily to stand on your desk, but to step outside of your routine and really look around. Then, in the wise words of Neil Gaiman, use your experience to “write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.”

 

Making Magic: Making Memories

*This post is part of Free for All’s “Making Magic” series, which will focus on Kelley’s exploration of the opportunities in the library’s Creativity Lab as well as musings about art, creativity and imagination.

A little less than a year ago, I moved. Moving means that you have to systematically go through everything you own- and I mean EVERYTHING- to determine if each item is worth packing and paying movers to haul to your new house for you. The process becomes one of lightening your load, both physically and mentally, but also one of discovery.

Amongst the piles of clothes no longer worn, board games rarely played, and sheets too worn out to keep, I was lucky enough to find the collection of letters that my nana sent to me when I was in college. Written in firmly-pressed pencil and the distinguished slant of a left-handed person forced to learn right-handed techniques, the letters immediately brought back the voice of a much-loved woman who has been gone for 20 years. The first thing I did was read them all multiple times while happy-crying into an old scarf that didn’t make the moving cut. The second thing I did was think about a way to preserve them, so that when the paper and pencil no longer hold together, I can still experience these written conversations with my nana.

love always, nana

Thanks to the wonders of Adobe Creative Suite’s Photoshop software, which is available on every laptop in the library’s Creativity Lab, I was able to do just that. Using a scanner, and my knowledge of Photoshop’s image editing capabilities, I was able to create high quality images of each letter and envelope. Those images are now saved in two locations, nicely digitally preserved for future reading. In addition, I was able to upload those images to the Mixbook website and turn them into a gift book for, if I do say so myself, one of the best Mothers’ Day gift ideas ever.

If you too have some letters, photographs and other memories that you would like to digitally preserve, the library can help! As I mentioned, the necessary software is available in the Creativity Lab and, if you don’t know how to use Photoshop already, we have classes that will teach you what you need to know. Our first “Perfecting the Past: Photoshopping Memories” class is in progress right now, but we have another one coming up in the spring and details will be available on the library’s online events calendar soon.

In the meantime, start cleaning out those closets! You may find yourself pleasantly surprised by what turns up.

family photo
Kelley and Hazel (Kelley’s nana), June 1996

Making Magic: Why I Don’t Make New Year’s Resolutions

*This post is part of Free for All’s “Making Magic” series, which will focus on Kelley’s exploration of the opportunities in the library’s Creativity Lab as well as musings about art, creativity and imagination.

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I’m writing this on New Year’s Day and thinking about all of the resolutions that people make at this time of year. Get organized, lose weight, exercise, be more patient, eat healthier…. Wonderful aspirations all, but how many people actually keep them after the first week or month passes? And what do they say about how we feel about ourselves? Usually resolutions involve something we don’t want to do but feel we should, they focus on our faults and failings, the things we feel are “wrong” with us. They say, “You’re not good enough” and spur us onto changes that often aren’t sustainable.

The truth is, you are good enough, and you have everything you need. In 2017, in the words of Elizabeth Gilbert, my wish for you all is to “embrace the glorious mess that you are.” Maybe if we all loved ourselves a little bit more, we wouldn’t need resolutions because treating ourselves and each other better would come naturally.

In the spirit of just that idea, I offer you a list of books about mindful and compassionate living. What does this have to do with creativity and imagination you ask? You’ll be surprised at where your art goes when you take the time to be mindful, be present to the world around you, and especially when you tune into what’s going on inside of your gloriously messy self.

yamas and niyamasThe Yamas and Niyamas by Deborah Adele
In this introduction to the ten ethical foundations of yoga, Deborah Adele devotes a chapter to each Yama and Niyama that includes clear examples and explanations of the concepts followed by a series of questions to help readers spend time deeply exploring each principle. Whether you’re a yogi looking to deepen your practice, or someone who just wants to expand your way of living and thinking, you’ll find lots to explore here.

miracle of mindfulnessThe Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh
Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh wrote this brief but thought provoking book that teaches us to bring mindfulness to our everyday activities. In Hanh’s world, even an act as simple as washing the dishes is an opportunity to find peace and presence in each moment.

 

 

the invitationThe Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer
“It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.” Thus opens Oriah’s famous poem, The Invitation, which is the basis of her book. The Invitation asks readers to look deep into themselves to learn to experience life fully. Rachel Carlson, author of Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff says, The Invitation is a treasure. If you want to live more deeply, honestly, and passionately, you must read this book.”

Making Magic: Keeping it Real

*This post is part of Free for All’s “Making Magic” series, which will focus on Kelley’s exploration of the opportunities in the library’s Creativity Lab as well as musings about art, creativity and imagination.

Recently, I watched Patti Smith’s Nobel Prize ceremony performance of Bob Dylan’s A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall. Smith was chosen to accept the prize for Dylan who was unable to attend, a huge honor of course, and her performance to quote the “New Yorker” was fierce. The fierceness came from the Philharmonic’s gently accented  orchestral accompaniment; the fierceness came from the deep and gravelly tones of Smith’s famous voice; the fierceness came from the power of lyrics that reflect dark times that resonate today; but most of all the fierceness came because Smith messed up and she owned it gloriously.

When Smith forgot the lyrics of the second verse, rather than mumbling her way forward, she politely asked the orchestra to stop and then apologized to the audience for being so nervous. Her apology was genuine, and despite the fact that Patti Smith is a famous rock star her visible nervousness was real. This performance was important to her, the significance of the ceremony was overwhelming, and it meant a lot to her to get it right. When the instruments began again, Smith’s voice was stronger and the performance all the more powerful because Smith broke down the wall, let the audience in, and acknowledged that she was human and that the emotional weight carried in her heart and by this song were real.

Sometimes the hardest thing about being a writer or artist, and one of the toughest things about life, is being honest about things that are difficult to face. But the best stories and essays, the best works, are not the ones about the day when everything went perfectly; they’re the ones that dig deep to talk about the pain, the guilt, the hurt, the brokenness, the honest portrayals of the times when we messed up. We all have those things inside of us, but the power of artists is their ability to bring them to the open to help us learn and heal. When Smith stopped the orchestra, she made it not only OK to be imperfect, she made it powerful to be imperfect. She honored herself and her art by embracing all of the many facets of herself and her performance. In the process, she honored the song by infusing it with a deeper reverence that would have been lacking without that moment when her heart was just too full.

So the next time you’re writing, painting, performing, or otherwise creating, I encourage you to think about the power of imperfection and the glory of being genuine. In the meantime, find some inspiration in two musicians who are also wonderful writers: Bob Dylan and Patti Smith.

Just KidsJust Kids by Patti Smith
Having devoured this book in two afternoons, it’s no surprise that I can’t recommend this National Book Award Winner highly enough. Smith’s memoir of her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe not only tells their story but paints an engrossing picture of life in the days when the boho set lived in New York’s Chelsea Hotel. Smith and Mapplethorpe support each other’s interests and art, and even after they are no longer a couple, they maintain an intense friendship that lasts until Robert’s death. A powerful story beautifully told.

m trainM Train by Patti Smith
In M Train, Smith tells the story of her artistic process and the loss of her husband through a tour of the places that have shaped her life. Starting with a coffee shop and then moving to international travel, Smith’s M Train is an tour of an artist’s life.

 

chroniclesChronicles: Volume One by Bob Dylan
Dylan’s memoir explores his life and career highlighting the people and places who influenced him and his music. The New York Times’ book review said that “this book recaptures its author’s first stirrings of creativity with amazing urgency. Mr. Dylan is fully present in re-experiencing the dawn of his songwriting career.”

LyricsThe Lyrics: 1961 – 2012 by Bob Dylan
Read the lyrics to the songs that earned Dylan the Nobel Prize in Literature. To quote the Los Angeles Times, Dylan “was the rebel, the healer, the bard in blue jeans and oversized shades who sang a generation through war and peace, past the perils of unrest and self-complacency. . . . And now Dylan has entered that pantheon, shoving against the boundaries of the definition of ‘literature’ just as he pushed past so many borders in music.”

Making Magic: The Spirit of Giving

*This post is part of Free for All’s “Making Magic” series, which will focus on Kelley’s exploration of the opportunities in the library’s Creativity Lab.

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Take a minute and think about the most meaningful gifts you’ve ever received or given. If you were to list them my guess is that few, if any, of those gifts came from a store. Often, the meaningful gifts are the things that are passed on from loved ones and trusted to our keeping, shared activities, or the things that someone took the time to make for you. Being as this is a Making Magic post, I’d like to take some time to focus on that third option.

If you’re struggling with holiday gift ideas, you can’t go wrong with a homemade present, and thanks to the library’s Creativity Lab, you have more tools and options at your disposal than ever before! Why not 3D print your brother a custom case for his phone, laser cut your mom a new keychain etched with a photo of the two of you, or use the recording studio to write and record a song for someone special? If those ideas don’t appeal, just visit the Lab and I’m sure you’ll find the inspiration you need to create that perfect gift.

The other wonderful thing about handmade gifts is that they make the giver feel pretty good too. When I make something for someone, I find that I spend a lot of time thinking about them during the process, and who doesn’t feel good when they spend time thinking of the people they care about? So this year, why not put a little extra love into your giving? If you’re looking for ideas, here are some great books to get you started.

Hip to StitchHip to Stitch by Melinda A. Barta
Barta presents 20 contemporary embroidery projects with illustrated step-by-step instructions. Unique projects include a guitar pick case,  and a stitch embellished skirt. Great projects for both beginning and advanced embroiderers.

 

food gift loveFood, Gift, Love by Maggie Battista
From preserves to pantry items to baked goods, Battista presents over 100 food gift ideas to make and share. When you’re done cooking, make sure to get creative with your packaging. The Creativity Lab has plenty of yarn and ribbons just waiting to be put to use.

 

needlecraft bookFirefly’s Step-by-Step Encyclopedia of Needlecraft
Whether you’re looking for projects, step-by-step instrctions, or just some really beautiful illustrations of needlework, this is a great resource for beginning and advanced needlecrafters. Whether you’re interested in making knit, croched, embroidered, quilted, appliquéd, or sewn gifts, this is a book rich with ideas to get you started.

 

jewelry techniquesThe Workbench Guide to Jewelry Techniques by Anastsia Young
Jewelry makes a wonderful gift, and you’re in luck because we have jewelry making kits in the Creativity Lab. Check out this guide by jeweler and artist Anastasia Young to gain a comprehensive understanding of jewelry techniques. Lapidary Journal says this “well illustrated book is a must-have volume for anyone interested in making jewelry using the traditional and modern methods.”