l-r: Julie Barrett, A.Cavatica; Grace Lin, Folded Birds; Judith Krimski, Seeing the Seasons through the Trees
The Danforth Museum and School of Art is pleased to collaborate with Reach Out and Read on The Giving Tree Project, a unique exhibition in support of children’s literacy. Initiated by Newton middle school student Isy Mekler as part of his Bar Mitzvah project, The Giving Tree Project features original work by more than 27 children’s illustrators who responded to the seventh grader’s call to create “trees” for a Reach Out and Read fundraiser.
The Danforth exhibition features 27 3-dimensional “trees,” and will be on view in the Children’s Gallery from Sunday, April 15 through Sunday, August 17, 2012. The Giving Tree Project will also be the focus of the Highland Street Foundation’s Free Fun Friday at the Danforth on July 13, 2012. All are welcome to attend.
Isy Mekler is no typical thirteen year old. As a seventh grader at the Solomon Schechter Day School in Newton, MA, he is already an accomplished entrepreneur and advocate for literacy. Considering a project for his Bar Mitzvah, Isy was inspired by the iconic children’s book The Giving Tree. For a class assignment he "wrote" a letter to the author Shel Silverstein, thanking him for inspiring him to be a more giving person. As a volunteer reader for Reach Out and Read, a national nonprofit which promotes early literacy, Isy envisioned using his favorite book as the basis for a fundraiser to buy books for young children.
After searching the internet, Isy contacted more than 300 artists from across the country asking them to create works that could be then auctioned by Reach Out and Read. The Giving Tree Project was born. Thirty of the 300 artists responded, and were sent 3-dimensional Masonite “trees” that had been pre-constructed with help from Isy’s relatives in Colombia. Artists used these Masonite templates as the basis for creating the unique, original works now on view at the Danforth—each reflective of individual artistic styles, but all in support of children’s literacy.
Isy and The Giving Tree Project have received growing attention. He was the subject of a Boston Globe profile and was interviewed by Francesca Bastarache for public radio on Talk With Francesca. Isy was recently honored at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, where he received a 2012 “Make a Difference” awarded. Speaking to a crowd of 600 people about his success with The Giving Tree Project he explained “I have been inspired to give more of myself and I hope that this will become contagious.”
Creating a small forest in the Danforth’s Children’s Gallery, The Giving Tree Project begins with a Danforth exhibition of 27 works of original art created by established and emerging artists from across the country. These include Newbury Honor book winner Grace Lin; New York Times best-selling author-illustrator Peter Reynolds (of Judy Moody fame); and author-artist John-Paul Jimenez. Others include Julie Barrett, Andrew Fish, Nancy McCarthy, and Jean Wallace - all alumni and/or staff of the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, with whom the Danforth enjoys an educational partnership.
Grace Lin, who has previously exhibited in the Danforth’s Children’s Gallery, is very excited to be a part of this project. According to Lin, "Books erase bias; they make the uncommon everyday, and the mundane exotic. A book makes all cultures universal." Through The Giving Tree Project, Isy hopes to make books more accessible to children in collaboration with the efforts of Reach Out and Read.
The Giving Tree Project ends with an on-line auction to raise money for Reach Out and Read, which will take place after the show closes at the Danforth. More details from Reach Out and Read will be forthcoming.