"What you have to do
You do with play."
Carl Jung.

Artist Party - Becoming an Artist
presented by Edwina Peterson Cross

There are all sorts of wonderful, magical quotes, sayings, adages, maxims, bywords, proverbs and aphorisms in the world. You can buy them lettered on beautiful posters and hang them on your walls. We read them, we think about them, but how often do we LIVE them?

The following was a birthday part for an artistic, aesthetically minded fourteen-year-old and six of her friends. It illustrated to the girls that “artist” is a broad, active verb, that words can be put into action and that it is a lot of fun when they are. It was also a totally magical time that none of the girls (who are now in their twenties) have ever forgotten.

We took the poster by SARK entitled “How To Be An Artist” and between 4:00 p.m. one afternoon and 4:00 a.m. the next morning we experienced it; each line, each concept, each little piece.

Some of the activities are specific to our location, but could easily be adapted and changed to fit yours with a little creativity and thought. We are lucky to live in a small town where it is quite safe for a group to be out in the middle of the night with an adult. As this is most definitely not the case everywhere, the timing of some of the activities may need to be shifted to daylight hours in some areas.

We did not do the activities in the order they appear on the SARK poster, but rather in an order that best suited all the activities I had planned. I will explain them, however, in the order they appear on the poster.

Each girl was given a satin sack at the beginning of the party and they collected mementoes at different places as the night went on. At the beginning I gave each girl a 8X11 copy of the SARK poster printed like a coloring book in black and white and a set of markers. As we completed each item they colored it in on their poster. When we were done they had a completed color poster and got to keep their markers too.


April's Artist Party
How to Become and Artist - From Sark


1. STAY LOOSE - We arrived at the parking lot of the Middle School at about 11:30 p.m. I choose this place because it was a large parking lot and because some of the kids were still in Middle School and all of them had been. They got a wild kick out of dancing around the parking lot at school in the middle of the night; it was much more fun than any generic parking lot would have been. I turned the tape player up all the way and they danced wildly to Aretha Franklin’s “Respect”, The Beatles “Twist and Shout” and finally snake danced all around the parking lot to Harry Belafonte singing “Jump in the Line.”

2. LEARN TO WATCH SNAILS - I bought several large snails from the garden supply store. We arrived at the Japanese garden at Lithia Park at about 6:30 p.m. I played Debussy on the tape player and put the snails down on some flat rocks. The girls lay down on their stomachs and watched the snails for much longer than I thought they were capable of. Here they got their first memento; a small sea shell to remind them to slow down and watch the snails.

3. PLANT IMPOSSIBLE GARDENS - My husband cleared a small patch of garden in our back yard. The girls wrote “Wild Wishes” on biodegradable paper and buried them in the soil. Then they planted wild flower seeds all over the wishes and watered their “Impossible Garden” well. We played Vivaldi’s Four Seasons while they worked. (In a fun kind of irony, the only thing that really bloomed well from all the wild flower seeds were bunches and bunches of pale blue Bachelor’s Buttons!)

4. INVITE SOMEONE DANGEROUS TO TEA - This was intricate and involved an inside joke. At an earlier time one of the girls declared that my daughter’s had too many inside jokes that she wasn’t in on and she was going to make up an inside joke. They informed her that you couldn’t make up an inside joke, they just happened. “I can too,” she declared pointing where my daughter had spilled her pie, “LOOK! Lezlie spilled the cherries on the table! That is an inside joke now.” She was right, it was, and it is. I used that joke for this part of the party. My elder daughter was in on this and was prepared. Our next destination was the pie shop, but we were lingering on “the bricks,” the plaza outside the Shakespeare Festival. Suddenly one of their male friends (an actor) came from out of nowhere, rushed at Lezlie and declared in a huge voice “YOU! YOU! YOU spilled the cherries on the table!” then he stabbed her with what is called a “Romeo&Juliet Dagger” . . . a plastic dagger in which the blade retracts into the handle upon impact. Immediately after falling down “dead” Lezlie sat up and said, “Adam you are dangerous! Would you like to come to tea?” Something like this might not be advisable in a regular town. In a theater town people sort of expect odd things to happen and are not particularly phased by them. Somewhere else you might get arrested. We took Adam to tea and while we were there we made a list of dangerous people we would like to invite to tea. The girls caught the spirit of this wonderfully and listed wonderful “dangerous” people as opposed to horrible dangerous people. Alas, I don’t have the list, but I remember that our pal Will Shakespeare was at the top of a list which also included Gary Larsen, Dr. Seuss, John Lennon, Conan O’ Brian and Tom Stoppard. That would be quite an interesting tea.

5. MAKE LITTLE SIGNS THAT SAY “YES” AND STICK THEM ALL OVER YOUR HOUSE. Each girl received a package of tiny pastel colored labels. They sat down and wrote YES on each one. They put their finished notes into their bags and then they split my daughter’s notes up between them and stuck them all over our house. There are still a few around eight years later. And yes, there were a couple of parents who wanted to kill me.

6. MAKE FRIENDS WITH FREEDOM AND UNCERTAINTY - Using a list of synonyms and words similar to “Freedom” and “Uncertainty” the girls wrote progressive stories. They would write for five or ten minutes until I said “Stop!” then they would fold their stories into paper airplanes and fly them all over the back yard for a few minutes. When I told them to stop again, they picked up one airplane and went on with the story that they found there. These stories turned out really quite incredible and they had a lot of fun writing them and reading them aloud afterward. They also became quite good friends with the words “Freedom” and “Uncertainty.”

7. LOOK FORWARD TO DREAMS - Each girl received a small dream diary that had some basic dream analysis information in the front and a small “dream pillow” full of herbs and essential oils conductive to sleep and dreaming. We sat in a circle and talked about dreams that the girls had experienced in the past and what they might have meant. Each girl told about the best dream she had ever had and then invented a dream she would like to have.

8. CRY DURING MOVIES - Everyone wrote down their four favorite movies which make them cry and their four favorite movies which make them laugh (Activity #16). I tabulated them and later in the evening I rented the top two from each category. This turned out to be the activity for the next afternoon when they woke up.

9. SWING AS HIGH AS YOU CAN ON A SWING SET BY MOONLIGHT - I actually planned the party to coincide with the full moon, primarily for this activity. We took a vote on which elementary school in town had the best swings and it was no contest, Walker Elementary won hands down. We went to Walker to swing in the moonlight, drink sparkling cider and blow bubbles. A few drops of glycerin into commercial bubble mix makes the bubbles last much longer and catch the moonlight like magic. While some of the girls were swinging the others blew bubbles all around them, then they switched places. This was very magical, while the tape player played Cat Stevens “Moonshadow” and Kim Robertson’s “Moonshadows” on the Celtic Harp. We went directly from the swings out onto the huge lawn for the Moonbaths below, using the same music.

10. CULTIVATE MOODS - Because this party happened when the Shakespeare Festival Greenshow was dark, the small outdoor stage was empty. We used it to play a rousing game of Charades using mood words.

11. REFUSE TO BE RESPONSIBLE - I found a very strict natural foods book at the library and then made the girls sit and listen while I read to them what they should and should not eat. There were a lot of sidelong glances until I told them that sometimes (and only sometimes) you just have to refuse to be responsible and I served them chocolate pizza.

12. DO IT FOR LOVE - This was the final activity of the night, and really it was almost dawn. We went up to the balcony that surrounded the 100 year old theater at our High School. I gave each girl a candle safely contained in glass and we sat in a circle and lit them. Without saying a word, I turned on the tape player and it began to play “What I Did for Love” from A Chorus Line. There wasn’t a word that needed to be said, the message was very clear and I must admit there were a lot of tears at this point. I gave each of the girls a necklace with a heart shaped stone so they would remember that in the end, an artist always does what they do for love. I saw those necklaces around throats for the next six years.

13. TAKE LOTS OF NAPS - When this one came up all it said was “Tomorrow!” and that was just what happened!

14. GIVE MONEY AWAY - Remembering the adage “See a penny pick it up and all the day you’ll have good luck” the girls walked all over down town dropping pennies. They were careful not to get too many in one place so it didn’t look suspicious. They really loved this activity; loved thinking of all the people who would find luck picking up their pennies.

15. BELIEVE IN MAGIC - What would you do if you were magic? We have a fire pit in our back yard where we had a big fire that night. Each girl took a pinch of “Fairy Dust” threw it into the fire and said what she would do if she were magic. We went around the circle several times until everyone had several turns. I made the “Fairy Dust” by scraping the heads of wooden matches into silver glitter. There was not enough spark to be dangerous, but when the glitter hit the fire it sparked and crackled which was most magical. We used a big pot of “Faery Dust” at the fire and then each girl got a small bottle (without the match heads) to take home. This activity was nearly identical to #22 so we did them together.

16. LAUGH A LOT - As explained in Activity #8, everyone write down their four favorite movies that make them cry and laugh. I tabulated them and then rented the top two in each category. The girls watched all four movies the next day.

17. CELEBRATE EVERY GORGEOUS MOMENT - I’m sure I can’t describe this so it sounds nearly as fun as it was! All during the whole party, as we were driving around town in my big van, every once in a while I would pull the van over, hit the tape player where Three Dog Night would sing “Celebrate” and we would toast to that particular gorgeous moment with sparkling cider in tall champagne glasses. I found champagne glasses at the $1 store so I was able to use glass glasses which the girls got a huge kick out of (and they didn’t break a one and got to take their glasses home as a memento.) By the time I had done this half a dozen times they were all laughing hysterically whenever I would all of a sudden shout, “What a GORGEOUS moment!” and pull the car over. Then they would pass the cider around and get it up their noses because they were laughing so hard.

18. TAKE MOONBATHS - After swinging in Activity #9 we went out onto the large lawn behind the Elementary school and laid out blankets. The girls took a “Moonbath,” while I read them beautiful creative visualizations and they took lovely journeys in their minds. Then we did Activity #19.

19. HAVE WILD IMAGININGS, TRANSFORMATIVE DREAMS, AND PERFECT CALM. While the girls were taking their “Moonbaths,” after they had done some relaxing creative visualizations, I read them specific words for each of these concepts and gave them tiny scent pillows filled with essential oil conductive to that particular concept. Wild Imaginings: Ylang ylang and jazmine. Transformative Dreams: sleep herbs with tangerine and vanilla. Perfect calm: lavendar and orange.

20. DRAW ON THE WALLS - Children, teenagers, and adults for that matter really like to do things that they are not normally allowed to do. I set aside one piece of April’s bedroom wall and told the girls that they could draw on it with markers. They had a wonderful time and truthfully the wall was so brilliant that we left it that way until it was so faded you could hardly see the marker. April was twenty before she painted over it.

21. READ EVERYDAY - This one was also a hit and many of them followed through with it. Each person wrote down their four favorite books on four pieces of paper. We mixed them up and everyone choose four. Then you were supposed to read those four books during the next year. I was pleased and sort of surprised that these close friends listed lots of different books and this activity gave all of them new reading material and insight into each other.

22. IMAGINE YOURSELF MAGIC - This was done in conjunction with Activity # 15. To have them “imagine themselves magic” I had them actively visualize each person’s wishes and actually see themselves and the other person accomplishing the magic.

23. GIGGLE WITH CHILDREN - I have a son who is seven years younger than his sister. He was seven at the time. The goal of this activity was to tell him a joke and make him laugh. There was a prize for the one who made him laugh the most. A fourteen-year-old’s humor and a seven-ear-old’s humor are not the same and the winner was one who remembered this and told him something silly on his own level.

24. LISTEN TO OLD PEOPLE - Once again, this one was a great deal of fun. I called my mother and father who live in another state while another activity was going on. I then causally told one girl after another that she was wanted on the phone. When the girl answered the phone my Mom and Dad were ready for her with all sorts of inside information about her such as, “So, we hear you’re in love with Brad Pitt.” or “How is it you keep cutting Orchestra and getting away with it?” The girls were completely befuddled for some time until they figured out that the “old people” had been tipped off.

25. OPEN UP - We sat in a circle and went around answering questions truthfully and quickly. If someone didn’t want to answer they could say “pass.” We used questions such as: “I would love to go to..........”, “My best food in the world is...........”, “Happiness is......”, “I need........”, “I want...........”, “I like.......”, “Best in the world I like to...............”, “I wish I were more......”, “I get really mad when............”,

26. DIVE IN - Each girl got a light flying balsa airplane. While at the Elementary School we climbed to the top of the “Jungle Gym” and flew the planes off. As they let their plane go the girls said where they would go if they were in the plane. They had so much fun that they climbed down and got them and flew them again and again so they could go lots of different places. And . . . . I remember Laura flying a plane to Paris, and she ended up spending a semester there during college. My Lezlie flew a balsa plane to England - and that is where she is today.

27. BE FREE - This is a concept that may require explanation to those of you who come from warmer climes. It’s called a “Freeze out.” Where I grew up, in Utah, a Freeze Out was flirting with disaster at certain times of the year, which was exactly why teenagers did it. It involves rolling all the windows of the car down while driving relatively fast, preferably down a hill, for the duration of a song on the radio. In January, in Utah, with a song that lasts more than 3.5 you can end up with frost bite. If you Freeze Out to, say, The Doors “Light My Fire” everyone in the car would probably go into hyperthermia. Somewhere in the early 1970's it became mandatory to Freeze Out whenever anything by Credence Clearwater Revival came on the Radio. (And yes, I suppose my friends and I could have had some sort of collective obsessive/compulsive disorder.) So, up we went to the top of nearly vertical Park Street, rolled down all the windows, cranked up “Bad Moon Rising” and down we came. I didn’t even go too fast, but with the windows all open it felt like I did. I stopped at the bottom of the hill, put on the emergency brake, turned around and looked at the girls with their long hair blown all over everything and said, “What a GORGEOUS moment!”

28. BLESS YOURSELF - This was another activity done around the fire. The girls wrote blessings for themselves on small pieces of paper. They blessed themselves with something nonmaterial that they felt they needed, something that they wanted and something that they were glad they had. They then read them out loud if they were comfortable doing so, threw the paper in the fire and sent the blessing up in smoke.

29. DRIVE AWAY FEAR - Again around the fire. We sat and talked about things they were afraid of, about the difference between being physically afraid and psychologically afraid. They wrote their fears on small pieces of paper and we sent them up in smoke. I then gave each girl a Bear fetish, which is the symbol for courage and we talked about how they had the capacity to drive away fear.

30. ENTERTAIN YOUR INNER CHILD - We had a “sack lunch” picnic supper and played on the playground equipment at Lithia Park. I also set up my son’s Fisher-Price toys in the front room and the girls played with them while they were taking turns at writing on the wall and building the fort.

31. YOU ARE INNOCENT - This activity was also done at the fire. The girls wrote down something that was bothering them, something they had on their conscience, something they couldn’t forgive or something similar. We then silently sent them up in smoke. No one had to do this. We talked briefly about riding yourself of things like that and how carrying them doesn’t help.

32. BUILD A FORT WITH BLANKETS - As simple as it sounds. They used the kitchen table, all the kitchen chairs and every spare blanket in the house. It was really quite magnificent. After it was done, they all got inside and I read them a story while they had a snack before we went on. They all said it felt cozy and familiarly like their “childhood” - which seemed very far away to them at the time.

33. GET WET - Blessed with a beautiful park with a river that has a “wading place” we went there, waded in and got wet. It was early May however and near midnight and the water was cold so it was a bit of an adventure.

34. HUG TREES - Also in our lovely Lithia park is a beautiful grove of large, evenly spaced trees that I call the “Immanent Grove.” (Named after the grove of trees that moves around in Ursula LeGuin’s “A Wizard of Earthsea.”) We sat in a circle with a candle and I read them Chief Seattles Message in which he asserts that the earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth. The girls then very reverently walked through the grove hugging and patting the huge beautiful trees while the tape player played Celtic Harp music softly.

35. WRITE LOVE LETTERS - They each wrote two love letters - one that they would really give to someone or send to someone and one that they would burn. They each enveloped one letter and sent the other up in smoke. They really got into this one - such is fourteen! ~ Following is the Time-line that I established to try and get everything done. I didn’t make it - since it says we should have been home at 2:40 and it was actually 4:00 before we got home. However, it did help to have the time line as something to tell me where to go next and about how much time to spend at each site. I broke it into 11 “sets” just for my own organization.

Organizational details