Family Art Project

Co-run by Mallory Muya and Ryan Davis, the Family Art Project is a program through Wave Hill Public Gardens and Cultural Center in which families come together to explore their own creative capacity and build community through storytelling and creating ecological and nature-based art. The Family Art Project is an inter-generational, place-based, drop-in program for families to tune into the lessons that nature has to share, and draw on their own personal and cultural experiences to cultivate a deeper relationship to the environment.

From 2018 – 2021, Mallory developed each weekend’s curriculum to integrate biomimicry, living systems, social-emotional learning, social justice, and environmental science. Each weekend’s themed project encouraged play, creativity, and experimentation by incorporating a range of art techniques using natural and up-cycled materials to minimize ecological footprint. A sampling of project descriptions and photo documentation of selected programs devised by Mallory below.

Tell the Bees

Celebrate Pollinator’s Weekend at Wave Hill by outfitting yourself with wings, antennae and a pollen cup to buzz around in a hive of six-sided cells and forage in the flowers. Join in a bee parade and do a waggle dance to communicate to other members of the hive. 

Papermaking with the Brilliance of Seeds and Weeds

Honor the resilience of weeds and the brilliance of seed dispersal through papermaking. Create paper pulp from weeds sourced from the compost. Embellish your paper with seeds who find creative ways to spread. Then write stories on your paper based on the traits of your seed and weed allies.

Bundle Dyeing and Hapa Zome

Join visiting artist Natalie Stopka to create botanical works of art featuring common herbs and garden flowers—like marigolds, coreopsis, and hollyhock. We’ll practice the technique of hapa zome, also known as plant pounding, and then bundle-dye on fabric using simple, ecologically-friendly processes and aroma-therapeutic ways to explore botanical color.

Tools to Navigate

Explore themes of belonging, migration and connection to place. Decide which otherworldly place you’d like to navigate—perhaps outer-space or the deep seas—then create sculptures infused with a little magic to help you explore that world. Learn real navigation, mapping and tracking techniques to inform how you create your own, made-up, navigation tool.

Be-of-the-Earth Topography

For thousands of years, we have identified landforms with specific human traits to help connect to the environment around us. Explore the visual language of cartography and abstraction to make multi-layered artworks with landforms that take on their own lives. Using recycled maps and printmaking, create individual collages, or join in a collaborative installation highlighting landforms near and dear to you.

Water Has the Perfect Memory

Join the stream with exhibiting generated@wavehill artist Bahar Behbahani as we activate her installation through movement, reflecting on memories, and artmaking. Together, we’ll create layered artworks and poetry atop texts of the eight rivers in conflict that Bahar highlights in her work. We’ll use this poetry to choreograph our own dances as we use our bodies to trace the route of the underground pipes and drains. Finally, gather around the raft and share memories of rivers we are akin to.

Compost Herbaria

Step into your role as a naturalist
by creating a backyard herbarium
and DIY flower press with everyday
materials. Take a walk with
exhibiting Sunroom Project Space
artist Duy Hoàng through the
woodlands to Wave Hill’s compost
pile to collect fallen flowers and
leaves, paying special attention
to your surrounding environment.
Then, head back to the studio
to create work that infuses your
unique observations and thoughts
to reimagine what a scientific
document can be.

The Memory of Space

Can you visualize a favorite area in your house/neighborhood? Join exhibiting Sunroom Project Space artist Amir Hariri
to draw plans and then build constructions purely from your impressions and memories. Take a walk around Wave Hill to collect natural materials that remind you of home, and add them to your constructions of cardboard, foamcore and wood. Turn your memories into small sculptures that intertwine the ideas of outside/inside and past/present.

Design a Re-Wilding Device

As spring starts to take root, join Winter Workspace artist Jessica Segall to design a seed sculpture. Using a mixture of soil, clay and local wildflower seeds, create sculpture
as a re-wilding device. Take your sculptures home to place in your garden or somewhere that could use a little more wilderness, and watch them transform from art to nature.

Unfurling Field Journal

Take a walk around Wave Hill and see that flowers are blooming and plants are growing. Take advantage of this wondrous season of growth, and make handmade journals—unfurling as flowers do—to document your observations.

A Meta-flor for Me

What flower do you most identify with? Artists in the Figuring the Floral exhibition are exploring ways flowers represent different facets of their identity. Find the flower that gives you a metaFLOR for who you are. Create multi-layered works using monoprinting and collage to represent you and your flower’s identity. Take a picture of you as the flower or how you might be with the flower and place in your works as a self-portrait.

Herds, Schools and Bevys

Celebrate collaboration,
community and power in numbers
as we explore the many ways
animals exist and work together
in herds, schools, flocks, bevys
and more. Create animal puppets,
then join your Family Art Project
neighbors for some group
storytelling to help your puppets
find their packs.

Tree Ring Mandalas

Join Family Art Project to celebrate Arbor Weekend and create tree ring mandalas that serve as self-portraits. Each year, a tree produces a new ring of visible growth, marking its life history. In a tree ring, you can find information that the tree has carried about its own personal growth, and the changes in its ecosystem. Count the years of your own life and consider what forest disturbances have impacted you to create your own unique mandala that speaks to your growth and the growth of the community around you. View curriculum resource here.

In the Path of Monarch Butterflies

Monarch butterflies begin their migration in September, heading thousands of miles to Mexico. Monarchs are celebrated widely as a symbol to imagine a world without borders. With bold, painterly marks, make large-scale, printed butterflies with orange-white-black patterned wings. Participate in a group installation on the Conifer Slope, displaying milkweed and butterfly prints that show the inspiring journey of the monarch butterfly.

Raptors Take Flight

Soar and celebrate Wings over Wave Hill Day. Make your own movable raptor puppet or windsock resembling the migrating hawks and other raptors circling and gliding above the Hudson River. With the winds at our back, we’ll form a procession of raptor puppets in flight, leading up to an outdoor group-soar.

Restore and Re-story the Land

How do you relate to the land? Come tell and plant your story in our collective story garden and celebrate our unique and special relationships with the land that holds us. Together we’ll take inspiration from the work of Robin Wall Kimmermer, botanist and storyteller, as we consider how land restoration starts with restoring our
relationships to the land. Create a story mobile of your favorite nature spot using natural materials and paper cut-outs.

Bioblitz Myths & Imaginary Species for Biodiversity Day

Scientists estimate that there are over five million plant and animal species unknown to humans. Celebrate the International Day for Biological Diversity by going on an imaginary bioblitz—your own biological survey—to find make-believe animals and plants that may just exist. Create your own species using upcycled electronic parts and other recycled materials, and place them in their very own habitats.

Mapping Histories through Seeds, Beans and Grains

Join Winter Workspace artist Nobutaka Aozaki to map your family history and explore your personal relationships to seed, bean, and grain. Make a mosaic with seeds,legumes and grains, and rethink the connection between food, art, and family history.

Root Among the Stars

Octavia Butler tells us, “the destiny of earthseed is to take root among the stars.” Many storytellers have derived myth and meaning from the images created by the cluster of stars that make up constellations. Stars have always guided us across the world. A myriad of stories have been inspired by seeing clusters of stars as constellations that make up an image. We may not be able to see all the stars in our own galaxy, but we can imagine that they are endless! Using cardboard, wood and light, create your own constellation based on what you want written in the stars.

Patch it Up—Nature Heals

Be inspired by nature’s ability to heal. Look to the forest that heals itself, starfish
that regenerate limbs and trees that pump sugar to their sick tree-neighbors. Create patches by making stamps from upcycled styrofoam, then pin them on your favorite
jacket or iron them onto clothes that need some love.

Springtime Scrolls

What does nature tell you? Join a facilitated walk that will lead us in the different ways we can listen to what nature is telling us about itself. Create a scroll using upcycled materials to capture the cycles, transformations, and wisdom that nature shares in its own way.

The Walking Snag

Celebrate Scavegers and Decomposers Weekend at Wave Hill. Is your bark peeling? Are there bugs at your roots? Is there fungus among us? Which decomposers lurk within? Once a tree has lived its life, it either falls and becomes a log in the forest or a snag—a standing dead tree. Outfit yourself as a snag and cover yourself with fungus, lichens and other decomposers that you create! Join a parade of walking snags (zombie style) to celebrate our decomposer friends.

Painting to Migratory Bird Songs

Experiment using natural materials as your paint brush to make marks on a Family Art Project collective sky while listening to the music of migratory birds and letting their calls inspire you. Look to the knowledge of migratory birds that pass through Wave Hill and create pastel birds to add to our collective sky in celebration of these travelling birds.

Plant Morphology

Be inspired by the botanical illustrations in the exhibition opening in Glyndor Gallery this weekend. Observe living specimens of plants, fruits and flowers up close, then make drawings inspired by their shape, size and structure. Use watercolor pencils and paints to illustrate your plant or combine it with collaged plant images. Consider the importance of biodiversity on our planet while you conserve species in two dimensions.

Preserving Past and Future Fossils

Travel back to prehistoric times and explore ways in which animals and plants have evolved. Then, time travel to the future
to document how animals and plants are affected by changing environments. Use clay and imprinting to bring awareness to how animals and plants are affected by, and adapt to, climate change.

Wormy, Squirmy Decomposers Parade

Investigate all the critters at work in the cool damp earth beneath the ground. On a tall hat, make a luscious, dark, and murky ecosystem of insects and decomposers, like earthworms, ants, protozoa and fungi. Then top it with a flower and march your decomposing troop in a fall parade.

The Wonder of the Wardian Case

Join visiting artist Jan Mun to create a Wardian case, a simple terrarium historically used to transport living plants from the far corners of the globe to bring medicinal and agricultural plants around the world. Learn the history of these beautiful structures while you use repurposed materials to make your own, transporting a little bit of nature to your home.

Metamorphosis Mobiles

Work with clay, recyclables ,and natural materials to create mobiles, investigating the changing form that frogs and toads
undergo as they grow. Learn where frogs and toads thrive as they contribute to our pond habitat, and find a lily pad for your
frog and toad friends to perch on!

Nature Reshaping and Wild Adaptation

As humanity continues to reshape the world around itself, what will other life on this planet come to look like? With exhibiting artist Geoffrey Owen Miller, create art inspired by his work in Wave Hill’s Sun Porch and envision dreams of future nature. Create papercraft sculptures of plants and animals of your imagination based on adaptations that will be important to the future.

The Earth on the Turtle’s Back

Come listen to the Iroquois story of how earth came to be. Honor the history of our planet, and all that it has given us, by screen-printing a turtle image and building layers of earth atop its shell by creating a collograph with a printing plate made from natural and upcycled materials.

Silky Caterpillar Sustenance

Celebrate the brilliance of caterpillars! Moth caterpillars have the ability to create cocoons from the very silk within them. When they need to find new leaves to eat or to escape danger, moth caterpillars release a silk line from within. Using fiber arts techniques, explore your own silky strength by making your own cocoon, wrapping within it a message or picture of something you would like to transform.

Sí Se Puede

Listen to stories of farmers and activists Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez to learn more about the United Farm Workers Union. Then, look to the creative ways some of
today’s farmers are cultivating and harvesting the land. Use this as inspiration to create a dream farm maze to meander through.

Symbiosis Scenes

Symbiosis is everywhere! Lichen is formed from the symbiotic relationship between fungus and algae: cleaner fish help bigger
fish by picking at dead matter on their skin. Sea anemones ride on the backs of hermit crabs and, in return, hermit crabs are protected from octopuses. These are just a
few examples of plants and animals in relationship with one another. Create scenes of symbiosis in a diorama to highlight your favorite plant or animal partnerships.

Forest Stories

From understory to emergent
layer, the forest holds many
stories. Create your own spinning
storytelling device that explores
the unique stories that each forest
layer tells.

In Your Hands Now Paper Garden

Join the Family Art Project in honoring Mandela Day for what would be his 101st birthday! Nelson Mandela’s own words tell
us that “It is in your hands to make the world a better place.” Together, we’ll design the gardens of our dreams, imagining what they could be used for. Using origami, paper-cutting, and other paper-art techniques, we’ll create vibrant gardens that reflect the spaces we imagine for our future.

The Epic of an Eel

Celebrate Hudson River Eel Weekend by looking to the arduous journey eels make during their annual migration, their adaptations and the place eels call home. Create your own puppet theater to act out your own stories about these epic underwater adventures.

Roots and Routes Portraits

Artists in Glyndor Gallery this spring are drawing from personal and cultural experiences to reimagine their relationship to place. Visit the gallery for this weekend’s exhibition opening, then respond to the artwork by using your own silhouette as the canvas to map out your personal and cultural relationship to the land. Infuse your own memorabilia—junk mail, letters, maps and family records—into your landscape to trace your own roots and routes.

Ubuntu—I am Because We Are

The term ubuntu, which means humanity towards others in Nguni-Bantu, serves as the cornerstone for visiting artist Tijay Mohammed’s art project, which is inspired by his mother. Anchored in West African cultural traditions, the project focuses attention on our connections to migration and creates a gathering space for celebration of all. Primarily using African wax fabric and incorporating other assorted materials and objects, participants create mixed-media
portraits in tribute to loved ones—and as a celebration of ourselves.

Felting the Magical Atmosphere

Come together to read Faith Ringold’s Tar Beach and imagine flying over places that hold a special meaning. Then layer stiffened, wool-felt shapes to create a magical atmosphere to hold you on your spectacular journey, defying Earth’s gravity!