Jennifer Garner, The Blanton’s Manager of School and Family Programs, explores the connections between art and poetry with Badgerdog Literary Publishing and a group of young writers from Austin ISD

Since childhood I’ve loved nothing more than to be transported to other worlds by reading a good book, short story, or poem, so it was a delight to discover a type of poetry, inspired by art no less, that I had never encountered.
I certainly knew that numerous writers have translated their interpretations of a visual artwork into writing. I just didn’t know, until about ten years ago, that poetry written to describe or to comment on an artwork came from an ancient tradition called ekphrasis. This new discovery for me brought together two things I cherish—reading literature and engaging with art. And it has led me to want to give other people in Austin a chance to experience this connection too.
Not too long ago, I found kindred spirits in my colleagues at Badgerdog Literary Publishing, an Austin-based literary arts non-profit, and for the last few years, we have teamed up to bring kids to the museum to see art and to give them the opportunity to write about it. This year we just couldn’t resist bringing over 500 young writers from Austin ISD, Manor ISD, and the Texas School for the Blind to see the exhibition El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You about Africa. Under the direction of Badgerdog instructors, each student in their program had a chance to engage with and respond to works of art by El Anatsui, an artist who is recognized as one of the most original and compelling artists of our time.
Whether you have already seen the exhibition or you plan to visit it in this last week before it closes, I invite you to view works of art through the eyes and hearts of our community’s children.

[For
Assorted Seeds]
Assorted Seeds

I dig and I zig-zag.
Seeds grow in a row.
It is a rug in the floor,
big and giant as a person.
I pick it up, and it’s sick
but not wea
k.
El Anatsui, Assorted Seeds II
-Zaudiel Diaz, fourth grade
T. A. Brown Elementary School

Sin titulo

Estaba lloviendo y yo quería
ir afuera pero mi mama me
dijo no. De repente algo
salio de la tierra. Yo salí
corriendo para agarra las
semillas. Pero cuando las agarré
yo me transforme en una
flor malo. Me caí en el
piso y mi mama me
miro me recogió y me
planto. Mi mama no sabía
que esa flor era yo.

Untitled

It was raining, and I wanted
to go outside but my mom
said no. Suddenly, something
came out of the ground. I ran
outside to grab the seeds. But
when I grabbed them I turned into
a sick flower. I fell on the floor
and my mom looked at me. She
picked me up and she planted
me. My mom did not know
I was a flower.

-Vicente Perez-Guerrero, fourth grade
T. A. Brown Elementary School


[For
Omen]
Egg Hatching

It hatched. It isEl Anatsui, Omen
running as fast as
a cheetah fights ferocious
predators—alligators,
bats, snakes, raccoons.

It’s a T-Rex running like
a cheetah to hunt and eat food.
He was little but he was big
in his heart. He was
invincible.

-Andres Garcia, fourth grade
T.A. Brown Elementary School

Images:
(Top) El Anatsui, Assorted Seeds II, 1989, wood, Photo courtesy: Museum for African Art / KelechiAmadi-Obi
(Bottom) El Anatsui, Omen, 1978, ceramic, Photo courtesy: Museum for African Art / KelechiAmadi-Obi

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