Teens bring favorite books alive with clay

  • Cynthia Fulton of the Meadowedge Art For Children in Bernardston helps her students construct literary figures of their choice out of wire armature, foil, plaster wrap, clay and fabric. From left are Gavin Johnson, 14, of Bernardston, Clara Fritz, 11, of Leyden, Fulton and Ella Dubin, 11, of Northfield. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Above: A literary figure in construction. Below: Completed figures. Moley (left) is from “Wind in the Willows” and Smollett (right) is from “Treasure Island.” Recorder Staff photos/Paul Franz

  • Participants in the Meadowedge Art For Children in Bernardston construct literary figures of their choice out of wire, plaster of Paris and fabric. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

Recorder Staff
Published: 10/7/2016 9:17:58 PM

BERNARDSTON — Eleven-year-old Ella Dubin focused on the largely unshaped mass of clay before her. She could see a finished product in her mind’s eye, and worked to carefully mold the clay into a human face just a couple of inches tall.

Dubin, a fan of the Harry Potter novels, has been working to make a model of Professor Minerva McGonagall through “Readers as Artists,” a program offered by Meadowedge Art.

The program, which is open to local teenagers and tweens ages 11 to 14, allows participants to create a 12- to 14-inch model of a character from one of their favorite books. The models will then be temporarily put on display at local libraries, and participants have the option of choosing where their models will go.

Cynthia Fulton, founder and director of Meadowedge Art, a nonprofit art workshop located on Fox Hill Road, said she hopes the program will be a fun way to heighten participants’ understanding of their readings while increasing their appreciation of arts and literature.

“It may deepen their experience of the reading,” Fulton said, explaining that to construct a character, her students have to think deeply about what that character looks and acts like. Many of the students will not have movies or pictures to base their model on, and will need to use the book’s description as their sole guidelines.

“I picked the book I had read most recently so I would remember what (the character) looked like,” noted Gavin Johnson, 14, of Bernardston, who is sculpting Day from the book “Legend.”

All of the models will be posed reading the book that their character is from, which Fulton hopes will increase interest in reading.

“People will be curious about where the character is from and want to read the book,” she said.

Fulton said she came up with the idea for the program early this year when considering a grant application with the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Fulton knew she wanted to propose a project with teenagers, and remembered that, when she taught art at Eaglebrook School in Deerfield, she had her students craft book characters whom they emulated. Fulton decided to pitch a similar project to the Massachusetts Cultural Council and submitted her grant application in May.

Fulton learned in early September that she had received a $2,500 matching grant through the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Cultural Investment Portfolio Program. The grant will help cover Fulton’s services, art materials and the cost of creating brochures, which Fulton is distributing to local schools and libraries.

Fulton said she feels the Massachusetts Cultural Council was particularly supportive of her proposal because it targets teenagers, and combines both art and reading.

“There aren’t many cultural programs for teenagers,” she said.

Fulton said she has already notified libraries in Sunderland, Shelburne Falls, Bernardston, Northfield and Greenfield, as well as several schools in the same towns. Each program participant is involved for four weeks, and Fulton has already arranged for several workshops across Franklin County:

Meadowedge Art, Thursdays from 4 to 5:30 p.m. or Sundays from 2:30 to 4 p.m.

Greenfield Arts Block, Wednesdays from 4 to 5:30 p.m. from Oct. 26 to Nov. 17

Montague’s Carnegie Public Library, Wednesdays from 4 to 5:30 p.m. from Jan. 4 to Jan. 25

Sunderland Public Library, Wednesdays from 4 to 5:30 p.m., Feb. 1 to Feb. 22

Northfield’s Dickinson Memorial Library, Wednesdays from 4 to 5:30 p.m. from April 5 to April 26

Fulton called the project “a labor of love,” and said that if she could train people to help her supervise the classes, the program could expand even more. She is also fundraising and applying for local cultural council grants to account for the matching $2,500.

To help cover costs, Fulton suggests each participant donate $5 to $10, but adds that the project isn’t about money.

“I don’t want people to not be able to do this because they don’t have the money,” she said.

By June, the program will be finished.

“We want to get 60 to 100 figures because there’s libraries everywhere and they all want them,” Fulton said.

To get involved, contact Fulton by phone at 413-219-7807 or by email at cfulton@meadowedgeart.org.

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