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Art meets history: Marquette Regional History Center hosts day camp for local youth

Betsy Rutz, Marquette Regional History Center educator, shows a piece of art to 11-year-old Beau Deiter of Marquette, at left, and his brother, Lucas, 9. Art and history came together during an MRHC day camp on Monday. (Journal photo by Christie Mastric)
This miniature nature scene is one of the creations campers made at this year’s Art and History Camp at the Marquette Regional History Center. (Journal photo by Christie Mastric)

MARQUETTE — The lawn by the Marquette Regional History Center looked a little different earlier this week with miniature nature scenes — and they weren’t made by impish chipmunks.

On one patch of the grass was a pine cone surrounded by cattails and other natural materials. Another patch had flowers around a shrub.

Those scenes were courtesy of the youngsters who on Monday attended the Art and History Day Camp, the seventh annual collaboration between the MRHC and the Liberty Children’s Art Project.

Betsy Rutz, museum educator at the MRHC, helped facilitate Monday’s session, along with MRHC curator Jo Wittler and LCAP Director Carol Phillips.

The focus of the day was British artist Andy Goldsworthy.

According to the National Gallery of Art, Goldsworthy works with natural materials such as leaves, sands, ice and stone that often come from the local site.

He was an inspiration for Monday’s camp.

“We’re doing these outside installations,” Rutz said.

“Installations” might be an official-sounding word for the creative scenes since they were made with nature in mind.

However, they weren’t meant to be permanent.

“Some of them will disappear with the wind, and that’s OK,” Rutz said.

So, a few adjustments had to be made in their creation.

“Right away, some kids want to use glue, and I said, ‘We’re not going to use glue,'” Rutz said.

Wittler showed nature-made bark from the museum collection that pertain to nature art.

The campers made their scenes outside, but they also spent time in the museum, albeit in a more limited setting than in the past because of social distancing related to COVID-19.

Rutz said scenery painting was to be the focus of Tuesday’s session, and that kept with the overall purpose of this year’s camp.

“The idea is to use a local history theme and create art,” Rutz said.

The camp also coincided with the new MRHC exhibit titled “The Great Outdoors: The History of Recreation in Marquette County.”

That exhibit features noted local outdoors people as well as photographs and vintage recreation equipment.

“So the outdoor rec inspired outdoor art, which inspired the Andy Goldsworthy thing,” Rutz said.

The day camp was scheduled to run in two sessions, Monday and Tuesday as well as Thursday and Friday. What set it apart from other camps was the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which brought on several new restrictions: Masks were required and enrollment was limited to allow for social distancing. Also, all art projects were individual, not group creations.

One of those individuals was Nina Fassbender, 11, of Marquette, a frequent attendee of area children’s-related events.

She said one of Monday’s planned activities was to view a book filled with leaf prints that’s over 100 years old.

Monday’s camp was going well for Nina, who made a mini-art project of which she got an aerial view after climbing a tree.

What’s more camp-like than climbing a tree?

“I like nature and I like art, and this is an art camp, and I have been known to be able to multi-task, so right now I’m just drawing many scribbles of what I think,” Nina said.

The Marquette Regional History Center is located at 145 W. Spring St. For more information, visit marquettehistory.org. For more details on the LCAP, visit Lchildrensartp.org.

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net

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