I have to go back, waaaaay back, to Glenn Loomis elementary school in Traverse City and a group of friends with a common flare for the weird and creative. We spent our weekends, school recesses, and afternoons making up plays, radio and tv shows, and creating characters out of clothes, thin-air, or absurd rewrites of late 70’ and early 80’s tv. We were bossy and confident and rode our bikes and big wheels across town and neighborhoods without a care for anyone who thought we were strange. We were OM kids (Olympics of the Mind) – yes, that nerdy school thing. But, we weren’t cut-out for building balsa wood structures that hold 1000’s of pounds or designing electric cars that can out-manoeuver today’s Google robots. We did “Play” problems. And we were good at it.
As 7th and 8th graders, our “Play” problem theme was Vincent VanGogh. Our challenge was to write a play based on one of Van Gogh’s paintings and to recreate several of his works in addition to creating paintings that mimicked his techniques and style. We chose Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night.” With guidance and love from our OM coaches, Lana Crandall and Patti Olsen, we spent a year immersed in Van Gogh’s art –and living in our own Starry Night world that we created. It was that perfect, beautiful learning that occurs when kids don’t even recognize what’s happening because it’s all about experiences and fun.
Since then Starry Night has represented a world of magic, dreams, and the beauty of everyday life in everyday little towns. And everything about that painting ignites meaning and memories in my heart that connect me to experiences and friendships that have shaped the trajectory of my life – or at least how I look at life.
I got to see Van Gogh’s Starry Night as a senior in high school at The Chicago Art Museum. The crowds were huge during our museum visit and we had headsets for an old style, cassette guided tour. I had mostly stopped listening to the audio tour as we were rounding corners because there was so much to take in and see so I wasn’t prepared for exactly when The Starry Night was coming and I was completely jarred when I first saw it. It’s so cliché, but it really did take my breath away. I wasn’t prepared for the way, seeing it in person, would impact my whole being. It was surreal and magical and I was in some sort of shock-state being in the same room with this painting that was both iconic and at the same time, so personal and intimate. I was thankful that the room was fairly dark, with such a big crowd, and as I inched my way forward to be as close as possible I couldn’t hold back the tears. I stood there star-struck in front of Starry Night as long as I could before I had to catch-up to the school tour.
I knew when we moved out here to Leelanau County, back in 2002, that this would be my Starry Night. Back then we only had two kids and now we have four. And although John has more than once shook his head at my propensity to dream big and bold, he has never doubted the vision and the rightness of this time and place for Starry Night Barn & Studios.
We replicated Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” for the night backdrop along with “The Bedroom” and his self-portrait and created a “Starry Day” scene, mimicking his painting style, for the daytime scenes in our play.