Van Gogh Alive and Fly Art: Extending the Art Experience

Dear Students,

We went to the Arizona Science Center this weekend so I could visit Van Gogh Alive. It  is tremendous. I hope you can see it before it leaves town on June 18.

He loved yellow, it was the color of happiness for him

Prior to the show, I borrowed Van Gogh books and a documentary from the library. I learned he suffered from mental illness. I knew his brother Theo supported him financially and emotionally with a treasure trove of letters full of praise and encouragement. I remembered his poverty, anxiety, his passion and Starry Night.

I entered the Van Gogh Alive exhibit through a dark antechamber. The room exhibit space is dark and filled with screens with Van Gogh paintings projected onto them. The room wends around corners. The images panned and scanned, zoomed and faded. If you failed to read the introductory text (as I did) before walking into the exhibit you are left on your own to orient yourself.

The frameless art exhibit was created by Australian Grande Exhibitions and reflects the artwork using 40 projectors equipped with SENSORY4 high resolution technology on giant screens, walls, columns, floors and ceilings.
Synchronized to a powerful classical score, more than 3,000 Van Gogh images in enormous scale create a thrilling display that fills every available surface – immersing you entirely in the vibrant colors and vivid details that constitute Van Gogh’s unique style.

When I’m left hanging, I’m one of those flip to the back of the book people. I like to see how it all works out. So I walked immediately to the back of the exhibit to the gift shop and read all the signs and paged the brochure.

painted while inside an asylum following the birth of his nephew, a relatively happy time for Van Gogh

When I returned to the exhibit I ended up standing where I could read the quotes, then I rotated 360 and took in the changing landscape. I could see the show was organized into periods of his life.

The iconic Starry Night

I was stunned to learn he painted Starry Night using his view from the window of an asylum.

Wheatfield with Crows. I learned the most about this painting from the exhibit.

I thought the way the exhibit presented Wheat Field with Crows was very well done.

After Gaugin left

Youtube has a list of the music they played during the exhibition. It was gorgeous. The quotes were inspiring. I wanted to take notes but instead I soaked it in.

Get to know Fly Art in Queen Creek and take a class. Follow them on Facebook and see how they inspire you! Even if you are not nearby this passionate community is inspiring.

Closer to home, if you want to extend your Van Gogh Art experience, I encourage you to visit Fly Art in Queen Creek and take a class. Like them on Facebook and see how they inspire you! Fly Art is another great model for folks wondering what is 21st Century Learning. Here you have entrepreneurship, a deep knowledge of a certain area and unique offerings. I think the kids that get involved with programs like this have their lives in enriched.

You can find Fly Art in Queen Creek (18423 E San tan blvd Suite 2,Open Studio 11-2 Tues thru Sat & evenings by reg). Fly Art cultivates a passionate community of artists. For folks that say “I don’t know what to do with my older child in the summer, take a look at what the kids are making at Fly Art. I love love love their runway models fashion dresses made out of paper. Spectacular.

The model wears…paper! I love the creativity! Winning!


Mrs. Kenney

P.S. Van Goghing with youngsters: we have a membership (we bought it through Groupon) so my exhibition ticket to Van Gogh Alive was $8.00. I did not bring my own kids, there were children inside. I thought my boys would run through the space in 5 minutes and then ask to leave. You know your kids, the film/photo loop is 30 minutes.

Hohokam Hat Trick: Discovering the Mesa Grande Ruins

Dear Students,

This morning I was going to work in the libray, but the school was locked up so I did the next best thing and drove to Bookman’s Entertainment Exchange in Mesa. Driving out to Bookman’s took me to a new place in the valley. I took a minute with the GPS to see what was nearby. I looked at Leisure: Museums — Mesa Grande Ruins. Off we went. I passed the highly praised El Charro’s, the laudable Child Crisis Center,

Wikipedia says the City of Mesa bought the land parcel containing the Mesa Grande Ruins from B-Movie Actress Acquanetta, after they promised to preserve it. Can this be true?

I found the Ruins at the NW Corner of 10th Street on the corner of Brown/Date St. I encountered a fenced block and two locked gates. One sign identified the area as the Mesa Grande Ruins on the National Register of Historic Places. When I peered through the fence, I saw the caliche mounds and some black tarp. It looked like a big pile of dirt.

Mesa Grande Ruins, Mesa, Arizona

Photo by thornydalemapco on Flickr

Disappointed, I drove around the block looking for an opening. I stopped a pedestrian who said it was always closed and that way it had been as long as he knew. So I came home and jumped online. What I discovered is a long journey to preserve the ruins and bring them to the public. The story of the modern Mesa Grande Ruins is tied to volunteers that work to preserve the story of the past. I am so grateful to the collection of individuals who have protected the ruins from encroachment.

The ruins are an archeological work in progress. Through the fence, I could see black tarp covering dig sites. (Wikipedia photo)

My fascination with the Hohokam grew with all the irrigation channels in Gilbert, Queen Creek and Mesa. I only see pieces of the puzzle. I don’t understand it. I wish I did. Part of my stumbling around Phoenix is a desire to understand the layers of how people made their life here, because here I am, raising my family here.

Hohokam Territory…note dots for Pueblo Grande and Casa Grande, Mesa Grande completes the troika

The Hohokam people had many settlements in the Gila and Salt River valleys of southern Arizona. Mesa Grande is one of the last places to show how the Hohokam created an irrigation network that pioneers began to reuse in the late 1800s. Mesa’s first inhabitants realized the partially filled canals for what they were and began excavating them to start the Valley’s modern agricultural industry.

Mesa Grande by air, from the north west…somewhere in here is a ball court, you can see some walking paths as well when you are close by. If your child plays soccer make sure to point out the ball court, a prehistoric precursor to our soccer and indication of the stability of the community that they could and did play games.

They built rectangular pit houses from earth, rather than stone, and lived in small villages.  They were a peaceful people who cooperated to build large canal networks. Some of their canals were over ten miles long and used gravity to control water flow and to flush out the silt! The Hohokam were the only cultural group in prehistoric North America to rely on massive canal systems, irrigating up to 110,000 acres of corn, beans and squash. Archaeologists from the Arizona Museum of Natural History excavated one prehistoric canal that measured 15 feet deep and 45 feet wide. These irrigation systems represented monumental efforts of labor and engineering. In the late 1800s farmers rebuilt and opened the brilliantly engineered Hohokam irrigation systems – some remain in use today.


Ernie Rawlston using home-made and commercial surveying equipment to map the excavations at Mesa Grande. (Photo by the SWAT: Southwest Archaeological Team)

Between the 7th and 14th centuries they built and maintained these extensive irrigation networks along the lower Salt and middle Gila rivers that rivaled the complexity of those used in the ancient Near East, Egypt, and China. These were constructed using relatively simple excavation tools, without the benefit of advanced engineering technologies.

Frank Midvale and Anna Madora Baker were pioneers in preserving the ruins for the public

These highly successful agricultural techniques produced a surplus of food. Villages and populations grew. Over the next 1500 years the Hohokam expanded their settlements into the Tucson Basin, then to the Phoenix area, and as far north as present-day Flagstaff.  It is incredible to me when I see the channels of water flowing along the roads that these channels are living connections to the Hohokam.

Mesa Grande Cultural Park coming Fall 2012! When the $250,000 center opens in 2012, Mesa expects to operate it from Oct. 1 to May 15. The expected hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays.

If you plan to visit: Contact Arizona Museum of Natural History Curator of Education Kathy Eastman at (480) 644-5662 to find out more about the ruins or plan a visit inside the fence. The City of Mesa purchased the Mesa Grande ruins to preserve this cultural treasure with the goal of opening it to the public as an educational and recreational facility.  The City is building a new welcome center at Mesa Grande and the goal is to open it in the fall. Fingers crossed that this works out.

Mesa Grande Woodcut, the Salt River is the middle line below the mountains

Next stop for us: Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park.

Warm Regards,
Mrs. Kenney

Citation Note: This post is a collection of quotes I lifted from Mesa newspaper articles and Arizona Museum of Natural history. If you follow the links you will see the original articles in context.

I heart Mesa: An East Valley Water Guide

Dear Students,

I found this guide online and knew you would like it!

Mesquite Aquatic Center, Chandler, Arizona

Reblogging this from i heart mesa.: A Summer with Heart: An East Valley Water Guide

Follow the link to learn more, lots of information here.

Wet Regards,
Mrs. Kenney

Memorial Day: Decorating a grave at the Historic Pioneer & Veterans Cemetery

This morning we drove downtown to visit the Pioneer and Veteran’s Cemetery and leave flowers. Part of the original Memorial Day Order, designating May 30, 1868, “for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion…”

photo by E Groves

Just off 12th Avenue and Jefferson Street in downtown Phoenix is an old cemetery, mostly hard dirt and markers lined with smooth stones

The 11 acre cemetery is set behind a fence and closed to the public except during visiting hours.

We had three artificial flowers and one small American flag.

We met three volunteers at the cemetery. The veteran’s graves were already decorated by volunteers but there was room for our flowers.

The community had a program at 9AM and the volunteers were just locking up to go home. They were kind enough to stay and show us around, we could see it was a long day for them but this is the sort of thing dedicated people do in the background of every community, making the world a nicer place with their actions.

The gravesites had little columns for inserting a spray of flowers. Max laid flowers at three different sites. It only took a few minutes.

Now we know where to go in Phoenix and what to do. Thank you to the volunteers at the Pioneers Cemetery Association. It was good to spend some time with you today. We’ll be back.

With Respect,
Mrs. Kenney

5 Things to do on Memorial Day

1. Be Traditional — decorate the grave of a soldier

2. Be Contemplative — to pause for one minute at 3:00 p.m. (local time) on Memorial Day, to remember and reflect on the sacrifices made by so many to provide freedom for all.

3. Be Generous — donate to a Veteran related cause like Warrior Writers, Wounded Warrior Project, Special Operations Warrior Foundation or Vietnam Veteran’s of America Donation Pick up to name a few. Charity Navigator will help you find a charity that uses it’s donations the best.

4. Be Celebratory — to to a parade or a Veteran’s event, google your community to learn more

5. Be Proud — Fly the flag, following flag etiquette

Local Note: The largest Memorial Day observance in Arizona is at the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona, Cave Creek Arizona. A list of other cemeteries by county can be found here.

Out of State Note: Mystic Seaport, in Connecticut had a traditional Decoration Day ceremony. You can read about it here.

Papago Park: Hole in the Rock Hike

Dear Students,

Every time I drive to the Zoo, my eyes wander over the prominent buttes that form the “Hole in the Rock, to the left of the Zoo.” To me, the non-hiker with two little boys, it looked like an impossibility.

Because I don’t know anything about Arizona yet, we parked at the zoo and walked over where I saw the dedicated parking area…c’est la vie

This weekend we had mild weather, we were in the Zoo parking lot, I said on impulse, let’s walk to the Hole in the Rock. And so we did.

We didn’t know if we would walk to the back of the rock and see technical climbers with crampons and ropes. We hoped there was a manageable way to reach the top.

Mr. Dreamy walked with Brady and I walked with Max.

Max was eager to climb, he left the well marked trail and took off vertically

The path was graded and had steps cut into it at spaced intervals. I corralled Max and we caught up with our family

by now we are three minutes into the hike and three minutes from the summit

We rounded a corner and lo and behold, Hole in the Rock hike is 1/10 of a mile long and an elevation of 200 feet. Dead easy. I saw pregnant woman walking littles in flip flops. This is my kind of hike!

The hole reveals itself in stages, it is bigger than it looks

We entered through a smaller oval in the rock, certainly big enough but it opened to yield a cavern in the rock and a larger hole facing the zoo. People streamed in and out continuously, posing for pictures, enjoying the view, children climbed the rocks in the interior.

This is the reason we aren’t going to the Grand Canyon for a long time

Telling Max when we reached the top “Look at you! You climbed a mountain!” and the reward of his beaming face makes this a million dollar hike. I know he traces mountain ridges with his hands and tells me how he would walk along the top if only I would let him. Today, he got his wish.

we had our own turn at a group picture and then we were off to feed the ducks

My verdict on the park: The Hole in the Rock hike makes my roster for “out of town guests”, it’s so easy nearly anyone can do it. It’s a thrill to do it the way we did it, totally unaware of how easy it was and how pretty the view would be. This will be fun to share with my out of town guests. Do you bring family to the Hole in the Rock? Have you watched the city lights and seen the sunset?

From the Peak of Papago,
Mrs. Kenney

If you visit the park: All gated roadways and trailhead parking areas are open 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. for the park located east of Galvin Parkway. Trailhead parking west of Galvin Parkway is sunrise to sunset or 7 p.m. whichever, comes first. Though gated parking areas including restrooms and ramadas will close at 7 p.m., the trails remain open until 11 p.m. Don’t overlook the nearby Nature Trail, .25 miles long and begins at the ranger’s office. It has signage for the desert plants. I’m sorry we missed it. (Links to all 4 trails in the park)

World War II: The Yoo Hoo Incident

Dear Students,

I copied this article from one of my favorite history blogs. It tells a funny story that happened during WWII basic training. Almost all of my uncles served in World War II. I grew up listening to their stories. This is a good one.

Reposting from NotsofancyNancy a WWII blog I like, great story!

The Yoo Hoo Incident

It is here in the timeline that the incident that made my father’s regiment famous happened. Dad was on furlough at this time, falling in love with my mom and hanging out with her family in Brookville, Kansas. Even so, news of this incident provided the “mothers” of the soldiers a reason to campaign. This is where Dad’s regiment and Lieutenant General (LTG) Ben Lear were granted the first nicknames of World War II. This is a story worth preserving.

click over to continue reading….World War II, Chapter 6, The Yoo Hoo Incident

I hope this story made you smile,
Mrs. Kenney

Memorial Day: A Letter from a Soldier

31 Jan 68 Tuy Hoa, Vietnam

My grandmother saved my father’s letters home in a scrapbook. This is one of them.

Dear Mom,

My father and his best friend traveled to Vietnam from San Francisco. When they landed in November, they went in different directions

You can stop worrying about me. The truce violations here put down in a day and all is quiet.

Lt. Brooks was posthumously awarded the Silver Star. He had been in Vietnam less than two months.

Brooks got killed on 28 Dec and was buried on 4 Jan. His wife just wrote to tell me. She is having a baby in May. Shame about this whole war. That sight at the west end of town is really sickening.

My father came home, changed his clothes, put on a suit and went to work. He volunteered at vet events for the rest of his life.

The stoical VN go on celebrating as usual. 2 villages 2 miles west of here razed by the air strikes and artillery so they aren’t so happy. The MAC V compound was untouched so that makes me happy.

He took me to visit Rick Brook’s name at the wall and now my sisters and I take our children.

I hate this place and wish it would go away.

30 years later he asked me to take this picture of him at the FDR Memorial in DC.

Don’t feel too much like writing just wanted to let you know I was OK.



Etiquette for Displaying the American Flag

Note: Army Sgt. Steve Flaherty, of Columbia, S.C., killed in Vietnam on March 25, 1969. His letters return from Vietnam made headlines. I linked to the Stars and Stripes article here. Excerpts from the letters are here. A pdf describing Gold Star Mother and Vets return to Vietnam here. You can remember Sgt. Flaherty by visiting his name on the Vietnam wall at  Panel 28W Line 035.