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The Eric Carle Museum
of Picture Book Art
  • 125 West Bay Road
  • Amherst, MA 01002


  • Thursday, Friday10 am-3 pm
  • Saturday 10am – 4 pm
  • Sunday 12 pm - 4 pm

Closed Monday,Tuesday, Wednesday

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Making Art Together

Gabby's Miti Project

 Gabby Peterson, The Studio's January-Term Intern, hosted a special Studio activity a couple weeks ago. Here is her report of the day.

On what seemed like a normal weekend at the Carle, a student walked in to celebrate his birthday, and his 6 year anniversary of the first time he came to visit. During my time at the Carle, I realized that some people make visits to the Carle a tradition- whether they are weekly, on shortened school days, annually, during family trips, or during significant milestones. Everytime we see familiar faces, it reinforces the belief that The Studio’s young visitors grow between the times we see them.

The same process of physical and mental growth is intertwined with the root of my Special Sunday Project. I used the vivid illustrations and the insightful narrative of Mama Miti as inspiration for a project which allows the Studio’s visitors a chance to reproduce that power in their own artwork.Trees, or Miti if you are speaking in Swahili, possess an ability to grow physically, but there is a sense of internal growth as well. Rings that decorate the bark communicate the age of the trees, while the ripened fruit, and powerful blossoms which grow on the branches demonstrate another level of maturity. As trees grow from small seeds, to glorious displays on Rockefeller Center, or simply the orange tree that covers my Grandparent’s yard in Spanish Town, Jamaica, they gain a spiritual power that is withheld in the gifts people pick from their branches. Environmentalists and folklorists alike share theories of the inherent powers of trees in many forms.

Mama Miti: Wangari Mathaai and the Trees of Kenya is the story of Wangari Mathaai, the first African Woman Nobel Peace Prize Recipient in the progression of her growth from a young girl in Africa who loved trees to an inspiring environmental activist. The rhythmic English text is infused with the Swahili names for each of the trees she plants, and a common blessing, Thayu Nyumba, which means "Peace my people".

Donna Jo Napoli describes Mama Miti as a prolific community member who not only started the famous Greenbelt movement, but a friendly neighbor who donated seed s to people in her community so they could plant trees for sustenance, firewood, and other needs. Kadir Nelson’s illustrations highlight the beauty of Kenya and its people in the use of cloth, and vibrant paint. This tree project is an effort to emulate his interpretation of nature by using vivid colors, and bold textiles.

Much like Mama Miti in the book, each of the guests were given seeds. They were all instructed to use materials to make their own imaginary trees. The large center table in the Studio served as a buffet, where guest could fill their own trays with paper, fabric, yarn, cups, sticks, and cardboard. What grew from the range of assorted materials carefully placed on white trays were tall, bold, trees that extended from thick bark, forms that captured the coarse texture of branches, along with colorful shapes to represent leaves and fruits.

The studio replicated the turning point in the book Jumanji, as almost instantly guests were surrounded by magical greenery. Handing the seeds, was like rolling the dice to initiate the spontaneous, and fast production of an indoor jungle. Forest traversed the boundary of glass, that separated the cozy inside from the winter elements, as small, medium, and large hands cut, glued, and propped elements onto their trees. Banana trees, magic apple trees, singing trees, and other creations that sprouted from the minds of the visitors filled the tables. There were even Miti which visitors added leaves to. The Studio was covered with multi-colored, inorganically textured, misshapen flora and fauna.

There has been a lot of the growth since The Studio at The Museum first opened in (2002), but there was a different kind of growth which occurred during my Special Sunday, as the guests’ ideas developed into large trees. I worked for hours preparing this project so it could honor the humanitarian work which was artfully depicted in the book Mama Miti. I hoped everyone would respond well to the gift, but I did not envision the level of enthusiasm that I saw on Sunday. I felt inspired by the way guests of all ages celebrated the beauty of nature in their art work. And their innovative use of materials to create amazing structures. I enjoyed watching the visitors work together to construct their trees, and hearing them describe their work as they proudly held up their final products. Every time I step foot in The Studio, I look over at the Miti display on the back wall,  with joy that days after the event, guests are still excited to place their unique leaves. I truly enjoyed the planning and execution of this event!



We enjoy exploring materials and ideas in the Art Studio, and we’re excited to share our process with you! Please consider the following factors when adapting these posts for your learning environment: 

We facilitate a variety of programs within the Art Studio for a wide range of age groups. Please carefully consider the age appropriateness of each individual activity in your own learning environment.

Our projects are always done with adult supervision and proper safety precautions. Be sure all of your projects are overseen by adults who likewise follow proper safety precautions. The adults overseeing your project must also be responsible for handling or assisting with any potentially harmful equipment or materials. 

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is not responsible for any damages, injuries or liabilities that result from any activities contained within this website, and we expressly disclaim any responsibility or liability therefor. From time to time, we reference materials that we have found to be particularly important in our projects. We do not receive any monetary compensation for recommending materials. 



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