Headlands Center for the Arts

Headlands at Home with A Little Culture

As part of our distanced programming, we’re partnering with Lucie Charkin of A Little Culture to bring you a series of fun, accessible, art-filled activities for you to do at home with the kids. Lucie’s art-making activities take inspiration from the Headlands campus and commissions, the first being a window haiku inspired by Wall Space, Chris Kabel’s installation in The Commons, which features a curated series of commissioned texts and poetry.

June 1, 2020: Kintsugi

Image of the front of Headlands building 944, a large white building, with a multi-colored concrete entryway. Text overlay reads: Headlands at Home, In Collaboration with A Little Culture. Kintsugi, Inspired by Ball-Nogues Studio
The entrance of 944 and Welcome Terrace East & West


As part of The Commons, Ball-Nogues Studio restored the crumbling driveway in front of Buildings 944 and 945. 

The studio founders Benjamin Ball and Gaston Nogues describe their work as a mixture of art, architecture, and design, with a touch of craft. For Welcome Terrace East & West the Los Angeles-based artists and designers wanted to sensitively restore the remains of the pathway, making it structurally sound and exciting to walk on.

To do this they looked to Kintsugi: “the Japanese art of mending broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. As a philosophy it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.” They reshaped the driveway fragments, located near the front entry of each of the main buildings, and reassembled them using brightly colored stripes of terrazzo mortar.

A brown bowl with evidence of repairs made with gold.
An example of kintsugi, from the Ethnological Museum, Berlin, Germany

Project 1: Ice Engineers

For this project you’ll need ice cubes, food coloring, paint, or different juices, a container of your choice, and access to a freezer.

a hand pouring colored liquid from a jar over ice cubes in a tray.

Think like a crafty, foody, engineer. Mix your coloring with water in a cup, and place your ice cubes in a wide, flat, high-walled dish. Pour your colored liquid over the ice and place the dish in the freezer overnight. Once frozen, the colors and cubes will make a smooth, strong, “kintsugi” surface. (Bonus: if you use juice, you can eat it like a popsicle!).

Project 2: Kintsugi in the home

Now that you’ve mastered freezer-based ice engineering, time to take a pass at some kintsugi inspired decorative mending of your own home.

Multi-colored, patterned tape used to make a vibrant design on a wood floor.

Use washi tape—a decorative, durable, paper masking tape—to “mend with care and beauty” an item or floor in your home. Maybe you have a cracked plate, or kitchen tile with a cracked corner (just test that the tape will come on and off cleanly!). Using the washi tape, temporarily “mend” those things around your home, and have fun enhancing the things around you!

Share your projects using #HeadlandsAtHome and tagging @HeadlandsArts!

May 25, 2020: Excavating History

Image of the yellow walls of the Rodeo Room, with text reading Headlands at Home in collaboration with A Little Culture Excavating History Inspired by David Ireland

With this week’s project A Little Culture explores the work of David Ireland, who, as the first Artist in Residence at Headlands, directed the 1986 rehabilitation of the stairwell and second-floor rooms of Building 944. David’s project was a collaboration with volunteer artists, Headlands’ Board and staff, and sculptor Mark Thompson

David was interested in the natural beauty of everyday things—broken chairs, brooms worn by use, and stained walls were his art materials of choice.

“You can’t make art by making art,” he once said. David prefered to make art from the stuff he used and spaces he inhabited in his everyday life. 

An image from the interior of David Irelands home, including yellow walls, a chair attached ot the wall, and a sculpture made of brooms

This is a photo from David’s house, at 500 Capp Street in San francisco. He treated his home as a work of art, and it’s now home to the 500 Capp Street Foundation, which presents exhibitions, educational programs, and events. 

Project 1: Objects Have Stories

Sitting at home, take a moment to look about you. 

Do you notice how every object—an old chair, a chipped plate, even the walls of your house—have a story to tell? Look closely and make note of how some walls or pieces of furniture show their history. They may bear marks or scuffs from years of use, evidence of restoration or repair, or other changes they’ve undergone over time. 

It’s this visual history that David found beautiful. 

Why might he have thought these things were beautiful? What do you think about when you see that familiar dent in your favorite chair or old stair rail?

As you examine your home, write an inventory of all the marks, lumps, bumps, or changes over time you can find. What story does this inventory tell? 

An image of the Rodeo Room, featuring the yellow sealed plaster walls.

David’s year-long restoration of the Rodeo Room and Eastwing was described by the Headlands team as being “more like an archaeological dig than an art project.”

Working with the team of artist volunteers, David removed eight decades of paint and plaster from the walls of Building 944 at Headlands. With sandblasters, sandpaper, solvents, and dental tools, they painstakingly removed decades of layers of paint, stopping at the original plaster applied in 1907 or, as in the Rodeo Room, the imperfect layer of mottled greens and ochres. 

The result is a weathered, lovingly excavated reflection of the building’s history, reaching back through all of the eras through which these rooms have served as a sheltering and gathering place.

Project 2: Layers of Time

Let’s reverse engineer those paint layers and have fun with textures and colors. 

Materials you’ll need: several pieces of heavy paper, paints, crayons, markers, erasers, kitchen sponges, and a piece of thin-edged card or a squeegee.

On your heavy paper, using whatever art supplies you have on hand, combine layers of different color and material, and explore their different properties! Try layering, pouring, dripping, squeeging, and abrading your materials. Take your time and let your paints or markers dry between layers, and try different techniques and materials for each layer.

Assorted paintings featuring layers of color in overlapping stripes

Share your projects using #HeadlandsAtHome and tagging @HeadlandsArts!

May 18, 2020: Archiving & Storytelling

This week A Little Culture brings us a project inspired by Headlands Artist Carrie Hott’s (AIR ‘14) The Key Room. Located on the first floor of Headlands’ main building, The Key Room is a multifaceted, multimedia project created by Carrie to serve as both a permanent art installation and a visitor resource center.

The Key Room includes a wide variety of things that are relevant to Headlands. As well as cataloguing the objects she found in Headlands’ archive and material collection, she made original images and video footage of the site.

The “Archive Room,” prior to Hott’s intervention. Photo by Andria Lo.

Hott also made a bank of phones which play pre-recorded audio tracks, sounds, and interviews from various moments and key players in the Marin Headlands’ history (including artists, former land inhabitants, military personnel, and park rangers, to name a few). There’s even a phone for recording your own message for future visitors to hear!

Project 1: Tell the Story of Your Day

Call a friend or family member and leave a thoughtful voicemail message that tells the story of your day. You might include what you noticed, how you filled your day, and maybe how you feel. You can also try writing an oral history of your home, which you can then record as a voice memo to share with others via email.

Project 2: Create and Archive a Collection from Your Home

Many artists who spent time at Headlands left something behind, and those items often ended up in the “archive room.” Carrie investigated each object in the Archive Room to discover their hidden stories and links to Headlands.

Objects from the Archive.

Your Turn!

Grab 20 objects from around your home. Now think of them as a “collection” and create your categories (for example: “play”, “edible”, etc.—get creative!). Label and organize each object as an archive of your days at home.

Display your collection! Try calling someone or guiding a housemate through the story of each object and the ideas behind the category you chose for it.

Take a photo and share your archive with us by tagging @HeadlandsArts and #HeadlandsAtHome on social media!

May 11, 2020: Botanical Illustration

This week A Little Culture brings us a project inspired by Headlands Artist Ann Hamilton’s Mess Hall. Back in 1990, Ann Hamilton spent a year as an Artist in Residence at Headlands, working on a special commission to restore the kitchen and Mess Hall in Building 944. During her stay, Ann spent time exploring the buildings and surrounding landscape of the Marin Headlands.

Books, and a personal reading of the interior and exterior spaces of the Headlands, fed into Ann’s restoration of the Mess Hall. Ann and a team of volunteers removed layers of paint from the walls, and covered them with botanical illustrations of local species copied from books in the library at UC Berkeley. You are now invited to bring the plants that are found in the natural landscape around you into your home, with two creative projects for #HeadlandsAtHome

Project 1: Botanical Illustration

Botanical illustration has a long history of helping current and future generations share and learn about the properties of plants for food and medicine, and understanding how to maintain natural ecosystems. Find a plant specimen: take a clipping from somewhere close to home and bring it inside to draw, or find a photo for reference online.

While making your botanical illustration, look closely at your plant specimen. Every detail is important. What do you notice about its seeds, petals, stalk, leaf shape, veins, and texture? What information about this plant do you need to share in your illustration to allow others to identify your specimen?

You can press your specimen in paper between heavy books to make it easier to draw or use as a flat specimen.

Project 2: Plaster Your Drawing

You can make your own easy-to-wash-off natural plaster in your kitchen.

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.        

After getting permission, paint a layer of your natural plaster over your botanical illustration or pressed plant to fix it to a wall, plate, or piece of paper in your home. It’s safe to use and washes off easily with water, so be creative!

Don’t forget to share your projects using #HeadlandsAtHome and tagging @HeadlandsArts on social media!

May 4, 2020: A Window Haiku

The wall of Headlands Building 945 featuring text of a poem by Wendy Rose. People are crossing the common space and sitting on the concrete steps. Overlaid with text: "Headlands at Home: In Collaboration with A Little Culture. Window Haiku Inspired by Chris Kabel's Wall Space"

Chris Kabel’s Wall Space is a commissioned installation that transforms the east wall of Building 945 into a giant canvas for the work of poets, writers, and thinkers. His choice of medium—transparent wire mesh letters— was inspired by the natural light of the Headlands and by historical movie theatre marquees. As the light shifts across the building, the letters cast shadows which appear and disappear from view until the sun returns. Curators and writers who have participated in wall space include: Trey Amos, Patty Chang (AIR ’13), Tongo Eisen-Martin (McLaughlin Award ’19), Chinaka Hodge (AIR ’12), Claudia La Rocco (AIR ’13), Wendy Rose, and Camille Roy.

Project 1: An Easy 3D Haiku For Your Window Marquee

Write a haiku about a walk in nature that you remember from a special day. Then, make it 3D and share! What’s a haiku? Glad you asked! It’s a Japanese poem of 17 syllables in three lines of 5, 7, and 5. They usually have two related ideas and reference nature. For example:

Write, erase, rewrite;
erase once again, and then
a red poppy blooms.

Tips for writing your haiku: think of an object from nature, think about the feeling it gives you, and come up with a point you want to make in your poem. Then play with words that fit with the syllable pattern. Pick a word or phrase from your haiku (or the whole thing!) and write or draw it out to share.

Project 2: Shadow Drawing

How to: Grab paper, a pen or pencil, and the object you want to draw. Set up near a window with strong light, and trace its shadow!

Hands tracing the shadow of a drawing mannequin on a white piece of paper

Share your poem or drawing with your neighbors by hanging in a window for passers-by to see, and share them on Instagram using #headlandsathome and tagging @HeadlandsArts