Connected \\ January 18, 2019

Art and nature popping up

The hum of the Aeolian Landscape by Ned Kahn, the flip of a page of a favorite storybook, the scribble of a pencil shaping the leaves of an air plant — these are all things visitors have come to expect from the Dotty Brown Art & Nature Center’s Ongoing Displays area, so what would happen if it was no longer there?


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Kids explore the Aeolian Landscape by Ned Kahn in PEM’s Create Space Studio. © 2019 Peabody Essex Museum. Photography by Kathy Tarantola


As the ANC team faced the temporary closure of this space in October for renovations, we quickly realized this would leave our youngest visitors and their families without a homebase at PEM. This is how the idea for a Pop-Up in our Create Space Studios came into being.

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In my role as Art & Nature Center Creative Producer, I have the privilege of creating the educational programming for the center. From designing our monthly weekend drop-ins to finding live animals for an artist to sculpt, my job is pretty special. Making the Pop-Up space come to fruition has involved deciding what interactives, furniture, programs, artwork and soundscape provide the most meaningful experience for visitors while building excitement for the upcoming re-opening of the permanent space.

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A peek around the corner into our studio now reveals a bright and cozy reimagined space, populated with some of our most beloved activities. Maybe you’ll imagine what it would be like to fly like a butterfly and come back next week to hone your natural talent with the goat hoof shaker, a hand rattle made in Bolivia from goat hooves.

It’s been a joy to see how well received the Pop-Up has been since it opened in November. I have a good feeling the large number of finger puppets made of our new highlight objects, a 350-pound bronze tiger and a taxidermied Indian peacock, is only a small indication of how visitors of all ages will react to the reopening of the displays room on March 9th, with exciting new features and a new name - The Pod.

The Pod will be a space that highlights opportunities for connectivity and creative expression through a wide array of experiences and activities. In total, there will be over 240 objects in this installation including artworks and natural history specimens — a massive undertaking with the goal to represent art from every collection area at PEM. Visitors can also expect commissioned original artworks from living artists, plus a maker station and digital interactives to augment the experience and, of course, the reappearance of the famous bird case, which will feature 85 native bird mounts plus nine decoys and decorative carvings.

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The bird case will be updated with a new interactive console that features video clips and songs for over 30 of the 85 birds on display.

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Artists in Japan for retailer Kakuha Zenjiro, Tiger, Meiji period, about 1900. Bronze and glass. Museum purchase, 1990. E82871. Photo by Bob Packert/PEM.


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Steiff, Giengen, Germany. Tigger plush toy, 2018.


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Indian peacock (Pavo cristatus). Photo by Bob Packert/PEM.


We often forget, especially as city dwellers, that we are all a part of nature. The Pod will serve as a reminder of our universal connection with nature and of the amazing things that can be discovered right outside our front door. So, come visit us in the Art & Nature Center and then get outside to explore more!

The Art & Nature Center Pop-Up is open Tuesday - Sunday, from 10 am - 5 pm. The Pop-Up will be closing in preparation for February School Vacation Week programming on Monday, February 18th. Celebrate the opening of The Pod with us on Saturday, March 9th. To learn more about these programs, check out pem.org/whats-on.


PHOTOS ABOVE: Kids explore the Dotty Brown Art & Nature Center Pop-Up in PEM’s Create Space Studio. © 2019 Peabody Essex Museum. Photography by Kathy Tarantola

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