"Lo, Children Are An Heritage of the LORD: and the Fruit of the Womb is His Reward" - Psalm 127:3

Friday, April 27, 2012

Homeschool Field Trip to the National Museum of Wildlife Art

 Early this morning the eight year old and I hit the road for a big adventure - a homeschool field trip to the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole.  The eight year old gets carsick, so when we were going through the winding canyon to Jackson, he kept covered up.

 It was cold today, but sunny, which is always a problem for carsick kids.  Thankfully we didn't have any problems though.

 He was starving by the time we got to McDonalds for breakfast.  He ordered oatmeal with fruit and maple, two hashbrowns, and hot chocolate.  I don't think I've ever seen anyone order oatmeal at McDonalds before, but it was a healthy choice, and he loved it.

The museum is quite a beautiful place.  I don't know if you can see in this picture or not, but it's kind of camouflaged into the hillside, covered with rock.  It looks a lot like a fortress or castle hidden in the hill overlooking the Elk Refuge.
 
 This group of bronze elk meet you at the highway to lead you into the museum parking lot.

 These bison are close to the entrance, along with other works in bronze, featuring deer and wild turkeys, as well as a natural stone amphitheater style row of seating, I'm guessing for group talks and such.

 This was our group of homeschoolers - preschool through high school.  There are quite a lot of us in our small community.  And these are just the ones that made it to the field trip.

 My eight year old was in the youngest group - preschool through 2nd grade.  I almost think I ought to have bumped him up with the 3rd-5th grade group, but he enjoyed it so it was fine.  The lady standing is from the museum, and she led our tour.  The group followed animal tracks that had been velcroed to the floor, then stopped to discuss different works of art.  Here they are studying a wolf painting.

 Then they were on to the next painting - a mountain lion.

 (In case you're wondering, I asked and received permission to take photos.  The only thing they limit is flash photography.)  I love this bronze of an elk.  It was probably my favorite smaller bronze in the museum.

 This bronze of a herd of horses is an amazing piece - and very large.  In the background on the right you can see a lady standing against the wall.  This piece was on a pedestal, which made it taller than us - probably over 6 1/2 feet.  It's in the middle of the isle, so you can walk all the way around it.  On the other side, an Indian is clinging to the back of one of the horses.

 This is an interesting painting by George McLean.  It's the impression of a bird that has swooped down to snatch up a mouse.  All you see is the tracks and the impression of the bird lifting off.  I had to look twice to make sure it wasn't a photograph.

 This is my all-time favorite piece of art.  It's Tucker Smith's "The Refuge."  I was working as a reporter for the local paper when he completed this piece back in 1994, and had the privilege of interviewing him in his home.  It was such an amazing experience, I've never forgotten it.  At the time he had just finished this piece, which if memory serves, was commissioned by the museum as a tribute to the refuge.  I was broke at the time and the $220 price tag for a print was beyond my budget.  Now, if you can find them, you're talking thousands rather than hundreds of dollars.  Some day, I'm going to own one, along with a wall long enough to display it on :)

Isn't this bison picture amazing?  Looks like he's coming out of the mist.  The guide shared a lot of information on each animal she led the kids to.  Here she talked about the difference between horns and antlers and why bison horns don't grow very long when mountain sheep horns do.  I loved that she had something for the kids to touch along the way at each stop too.  She usually had a plaster cast of the footprint, and sometimes more - like a bear skull, and later on the trail, a bear skin rug they could lay on.  

 The museum has a lot of great displays.  This one is a re-creation of an artist's studio.  This was John Clymer's studio.  It was amazing to see all the things he had on hand.  I'll show you the studio in three photos, from left to right.

 The chair in the foreground is covered in buffalo hide, and three is a bear hide behind that, and several skulls hanging on the wall.  Several books on the shelf are about anatomy or animals.

 The middle of the studio features a desk and an easel, file drawers and a couple of chairs.  On the wall there are several mounts and skulls antlers. 

 To the far right, there is a clothing rack filled with authentic old western wear for cowboys, mountain men and Indians. 

This huge canvas is sketched out (I think you can make it bigger by clicking on it).  It was sketched out to be a waterfall, and a herd of mountain goats working their way up and around a bend.  Even unfinished, the sketch is amazing.  I wish I could just sketch like that!
 
 This enormous room features the artwork of ONE artist - Carl Rungius.  And he was amazing.  (Seems like I'm using that word a lot, huh?)  I didn't count how many pieces were in this room, but it had to be more than 30.

 He has some very realistic artwork of all sorts of western animals - moose, mountain sheep and mountain goats here...

 This painting of the antelope herd was one of the most realistic ones.

 The neat thing about this room is the displays they have on the artist's stuff, or things to teach how he did his craft.

 This display featured an old easel and a palette with paint blobs on it
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I took a picture of the information about Rungius, in hopes you could read it if you wanted to.  He did much of his painting right around the town we live in.

 This was a self portrait he did called "Better than Bacon" which depicts him leading his horse which is loaded with the antelope buck he has just shot.

 It's quite an interesting story if you want to click to enlarge and read it.

 When the kids got to a gigantic portrait of a black bear, the guide had placed a very small bear skin on the floor for them to explore.

 I can't begin to describe how magnificent this picture is.  The oranges and yellows of the trees are so vivid and the size of the picture really makes the bear come to life - it's probably six feet across or so.

 This was another favorite of mine from the Rungius room.  I am so impressed with artists who can accurately depict under water objects.  This painting is as large as the last one with the bear.

 This is a painting of a grizzly bear - you can see the differences in the bears not only in color, but also in the nose and the hump on the back of the grizzly.

 Here's another display of how the artist worked.  There is a camp stool, umbrella and travel box of art supplies.  The display is done up complete with sagebrush and dirt, a buffalo skull and an old saddle.



There is even a display case with his rifle, old camera and several photos of him on his adventures near our home.  I think it means more to kids when they can connect something like a famous artist to their own location.  It makes it more believable that they too could grow up to do something great.

 This moose was very lifelike.  I'm definitely going to have to get a book of Rungius' work for our art studies for our homeschool.

 At the end of the museum tour, our guide read a story to the kids and let them just hang out.  My son is laying on the bear skin in this picture.  You can see how small this little bear must have been ... just a cub.

 Here's my son with his hand next to the plaster cast of a bear footprint.  Kinda scary, huh?  I definitely wouldn't want to meet this guy out in the woods.

 In one corner of another room of the gallery, there were a couple of chairs, with a small table between them.  Several books that they offer for sale were displayed there, along with these adorable bookends.

 I LOVE these bookends :)

 At the end of the tour, my son was thirsty, so we hunted down a drinking fountain.  He tried the first one, closest to the front in the photo and winced and said it was horrible, then he tried the middle one, which he said was a little better, and finally the last one, which was perfect.  Three bears, anyone?  I didn't bother to tell him it was all the same water ;)

 Here he is posing with a huge moose bronze.  This one is a fountain too.  Moose like to hang out in marshy areas, and this one has his front legs down in the marsh, with the water piped up to his antlers and dripping off of them.

 And here he is next to a little (ha) totem pole.

Of course no visit would be complete without a stop in the gift shop. He ended up picking out the cougar in his left hand to purchase.  He wanted to buy a whole pack of wolves, which he tells me is seven, but I nixed that idea as soon as we figured out they were more than $5 each.

 I thought these were really cute - they are mobiles made with wildlife.  They are just made out of heavy paper, and I told my son we could make some to hang above the baby's crib.  I wasn't about to pay $34 for the pre-made ones!

They had the mobiles in fish too, which would probably be much easier to duplicate.
 
 This is one of the most fun things about the museum - the kids' room.  (My son, who is reading over my shoulder, just informed me that the gift shop was the most fun thing there, but this is the second-most fun thing.) 

 Anyway, they have the kids' area divided up into different areas.  This is the art studio.  They provide easels, paper, writing utensils, and all sorts of inspiring things - like displays of different claws, skulls, and eyeballs.  Fun, right?

 My personal favorite is the Reading Nook.

 Someday I'm going to re-create this in my own home... when I have a big enough home.  It's a little room with a bench all around, with bookshelves under the bench.  It would be perfect for the kids' books.

 One of the best features of the room is the little hammock they have hung between the wall and the end of the shelves.

The ceiling has a mesh canopy with imprints of leaves on it, so it feels like you're outside.
 
 This is a view from the entrance above.  When you first enter, you overlook the main floor open room.  The stairs go down on the left behind the rock wall, then turn and go down into the main room.  Can you see the crouching mountain lion that overhangs the rock wall above the stairs?

 Here's a closer view from the stairs below.  Let's just say it's very realistic, and rather intimidating.

After our tour, we all headed over to Pizza Hut for the lunch buffet.  I would have taken pictures, but I was seated at the Mommy table, and thought I would look a little strange.  I did make the mistake of mentioning to a good friend that tomorrow is my 40th birthday.  (She had told me not to look forward to turning 50, as she has had some health issues since then.)  Anyway, she thought the whole restaurant needed to know and she made them all sing!  Not to worry, I won't forget her "thoughtfulness" ;)

 We headed home, and straight into this - a Spring blizzard.  It wasn't too bad, and didn't accumulate much.

And I arrived home to this ... my three year old and one of the daycare kids covered in marker...  Back to reality!

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