It seems that almost every public event you attend these days offers activities for children—games, bounce houses, face painting. All well and good, but the activities planned for kids who attend the sixth annual eco-themed Moss Rock Festival at The Preserve in Hoover this weekend, Nov. 5-6, offer a somewhat richer experience, according to event producer Eileen Kunzman.
“There’s nothing wrong with them jumping on those moon things, but we want children doing things,” Kunzman says. “I don’t want people painting the kids’ faces. We want the kid doing the painting. We don’t want canned entertainment. We want active, creative entertainment.”
To that end, Moss Rock will offer about 15 different workshops and activities, many of them created by local visual artists, teachers and performers, presented under the name WonderKid Studios.
And it’s not just children who can get their share of entertainment, active or otherwise, at Moss Rock. The event will feature visual art, design installations, food, live music, a wine tasting, hikes, bike rides, vendors offering information about “green” goods and services, and other activities, all nestled in The Preserve, a lush, 250-acre residential development.
This year, Moss Rock asked the local artists who helped develop the WonderKid Studios to build on their admiration for the artists who have influenced them. “We started with the contemporary artists that they are most influenced by, and then from that extrapolate some project for children that gives them a tether to art history, and then the materials and process of a contemporary artist, or of making art,” Kunzman says.
In Charles Tortorici’s workshop, “Fiddle-In Poet Tree,” inspired by performance artist Laurie Anderson, participants will use cut-up words to compose poems and lyrics on pieces of paper shaped like violins, then hang their creations in the branches of a “poet tree.”
Anna Sue Courtney will offer “Squeaking Tribe Puppetry,” in which kids will use paper scraps to make shadow-puppet figures inspired by the work of South African artist William Kentridge and the gypsy puppeteers of Turkey, India and Asia.
Artist Daisy Winfrey will present a workshop titled “Linen Labyrinth,” in which kids will recycle old fabric and other objects into passageways through the woods and use natural objects as starting points for design, drawing and painting.
In Sycamore Toffel’s “Sounds Like Rhythm,” kids will connect with nature through language, stories and movement.
Brodie Whetstone will present “Flowers & Fish & Birds, Oh My!” in which kids can paint, sculpt and build with natural materials, such as rocks, sticks and clay.
The other artists at the WonderKids Studios will be Alley Bulka (“Message Men”), Bob Carr (“O’Keefe, Recycled”) and Gwendolyn Griffin (“Nature’s Nests”). In addition, several groups, including the Alabama Waldorf School and McWane Science Center, will present activities.
Kunzman describes the way in which children in the midst of creative projects at Moss Rock – or at the annual Magic City Art Connection, which she produces – demonstrate their active engagement with artistic activity. “I describe it as a hum,” she says. “What that hum means to me is that the child is invested, that they are curious and interested in what they doing. They are not bored. They are sticking with something they really find interesting that grabs them in a different, active way. You just feel it. There is no frenetic running around. You see concentration. And if mom and dad are coming by, they can say, ‘Look what I made,’ and that stays with them.”
According to Kunzman, MRF has been fortunate to have access to a strong local talent pool of artists to help create these kids’ activities. “We have had just a stream of great artists who understand children and the process of creating,” she says. According to Kunzman, Paula Boggan, artist and MRF education coordinator, helps generate ideas and is a valuable “linchpin,” or connection, to artists in the community.
Moss Rock will also feature the results of a classroom project called “Nesting.” Elementary and middle-school kids studied the way in which many animals, not just birds, build nests. The students then created habitats using repurposed or recycled materials. “[It’s] taking learning and turning it into a creative interpretation, and when a child does that, it stays with them forever,” Kunzman says.
In addition to kids’ projects, Moss Rock will again display creative, eco-friendly outdoor installations as part of “Etc.Spaces.” The design-build challenge this year, “Lighten Up,” is designed to educate the public about advances in LED technology. Participants were asked to create a light fixture using LEDs and repurposed or “upcycled” materials.
Artists Row will be filled with scores of white tents featuring visual artists in a variety of media. The artists, who offer their work for sale, will show pieces that depict or were influenced by nature.
The Eco-Ideas area will feature about 40 vendors and environmental groups offering tips on everything from composting and community gardens to green construction and energy conservation.
Moss Rock Festival will offer hikes, a geo-caching game and The Big Ride, an easy, two-mile bike tour. The Big Ride is designed to allow visitors to the festival to get a great view of The Preserve and enjoy the fall foliage while getting some exercise. “It’s all about nature, getting outside, being with family and friends and moving,” Kunzman says. “[It’s] a carefree way of getting that heart rate up or chewing up the calories.
The “Off the Vine” wine tasting will feature several wineries that use organic or sustainable farming methods.
The Moss Rock Festival will take place Saturday, Nov. 5, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 6, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission is free, though there is a separate charge of $15 for the wine tasting. Attendees must park at Regions Park and take a shuttle to the event. Electronics recycling and secure document destruction will be available at Regions Park during certain hours. For more information, visit www.mossrockfestival.com.
Jesse Chambers is a contributing editor at Weld for Birmingham and contributing writer at B-Metro magazine. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.