WILLIAMSTOWN -- The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute will turn back the hands of time when it hosts Americana Family Day on Sunday, June 30 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Guests will walk into the sights and sounds of the 19th century, as painted by iconic American artist Winslow Homer (1836-1910).
"Americana Family Day is a celebration of Winslow Homer’s work," said Ronna Tulgan Ostheimer, head of public education at the Clark and organizer of Family Days for the past 14 years. "In designated areas for activities, there will be images of Homer’s paintings, such as sea scenes, domestic scenes and scenes of children at play that relate to the activity.
"Summer Family Day is always held in conjunction with the Clark’s summer exhibition," she said.
This summer, two notable exhibitions are on view at the Clark until Sept. 8: "Winslow Homer: Making Art, Making History" and "George Inness: Gifts from Frank and Katherine Martucci."
A family guide, which accompanies the Winslow Homer exhibition, can be obtained free of cost at the information desk. "The guide is an excellent way to encourage inter-generational conversation about the works of art. Children who answer the questions in the guide will receive a fun gift," said Monica Henry, education coordinator, who works closely with Ostheimer.
Admission to the galleries and all activities are free on Family Day.
The origin of Family Day at the Clark can be traced back to 1994. "Our director, Michael Conforti, came from the Minneapolis Institute of Art where they had a really active family day program, and he wanted to start such a program here at the Clark" said Ostheimer. "My work is the realization of his vision."
Planning and preparing for Summer Family Day usually begins the previous fall. "We look through the exhibition image book when we are brainstorming ideas for activities, performances, and art projects," said Henry. "The curatorial department prepares a book containing images in the exhibition. For us, the images in the book are to spark ideas for Summer Family Day."
Among the activities and entertainment offered on June 30 are hay rides, Lincoln Log house building, appearances by the street performers The Silver Swimmers and art making projects (including creating the sea in a jar, nautical tote bags, a Valentine’s mosaic of shells in a frame and an optical illusion Victorian-era toy known as a thaumatrope.)
Local artist Jennifer Fox will direct a printmaking workshop.
"We will explore basic printmaking techniques that will familiarize participants with some of the basic concerns of Homer’s printing making," Fox said. "As people come in, they will see examples of Homer’s work they can take as a jumping off point for their own creations. Children might do a heart or a smiley face, but that’s all right. They will go away with an understanding of the printing process."
In one of the tents dotting the Clark campus, talented musicians and storytellers will entertain audiences.
Husband and wife team Sarah Lee Guthrie and John Irion, known professionally as Sarah Lee and Johnny, will lead family singalongs from 12:05 to 12:45 p.m. and from 2:50 to 3:30 p.m.
They have toured extensively both as a duo and as part of the Guthrie Family Rides Again tour with Sarah Lee’s legendary father Arlo Guthrie. And they recently released the children’s album "Go Waggaloo."
From 11:10 to 11:50 a.m. and 1:55 to 2:45 p.m., story teller and folk singer Tim Van Egmond, who has been delighting audiences throughout the United States since 1978, will play the dulcimer and tell stories of the land and sea in the 19th century. "Some stories have repeated elements and I invite the audience to say them along with me," Van Egmond said.
Renowned author and storyteller Jane Yolan describes Egmond as "... a triple treat. He can sing, he can play a variety of wonderful instruments and he can tell whopping good tales."
The Forebitter trio, often touted as America’s premier sea musical group, will perform from 1 to 1:45 p.m. and from 3:45 to 4:25 p.m.
Geoffrey Kaufman, founder of the group, and the other members of the group, Craig Edwards and Rick Spencer, have been performing together since 1986. "We met at Mystic Seaport, where we were employed as chanteymen. We got together to sing and it worked out so well, we formed the group," Kaufman said from his home in New London, Conn. He explained that chanteys are songs sung by sailors to the rhythm of their movements while working aboard ships.
The Forebitter trio has recorded five albums including "American Sea Chanteys," in collaboration with Le Chasse Maree in France, which was released on both sides of the Atlantic.
To learn to fish, guests can stroll to the beautiful Lily Pond where Peter Kutzer, a professional fly-fishing instructor who works at Orvis in Manchester, Vt., will demonstrate fly fishing and give a lesson. "I will bring two instructors," said Kutzer. "We will ask folks if they want to give fly fishing a shot. I will have extra equipment they can use."
Guests interested in buying equipment will be given an Orvis coupon.
Children’s jaws will drop when they see Abraham Lincoln on the Clark campus.
"I will greet people and pose for photographs with them. Everyone wants a photograph with one of our greatest presidents!" said Lincoln impersonator Howard Wright who is 6-foot-3 and wears a genuine beard. At the Clark he will be in costume (a towering black stovetop hat, black frock coat and black bow tie) and will speak with a Kentucky-style accent. "If there is enough of a crowd, I will deliver a speech as Lincoln," he said. "The Gettysburg Address is only three minutes long." Wright praised Daniel Day Lewis for his interpretation of Abraham Lincoln in the film "Lincoln."
"We must have read the same material about Lincoln, as we portray him in the same way," he said. "Lincoln was friendly, humble, funny and appreciative of kindness extended to him."
Mary Shine of Williamstown always has enjoyed Summer Family Days at the Clark, she said. But this year Shine and her 11-year-old daughter, Molly, along with Joan Jones of Williamstown, became involved with the event before it became a reality.
"Molly led the way, coming up with ideas about games we could bring to the Americana Family Day," said Shine. Molly’s ideas for 19th century games were planted in her mind, her mother believes, when she read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s "Little House on the Prairie" and visited the Cummington Fair. Shine and Jones came to the project with the experience they gained as organizers of the 2012 Williamstown Holiday Walk.
"At the Clark," said Shine, "We are going to have a potato sack race, tug of war, pie-eating contest, arm wrestling contest, a three-legged race, a human wheelbarrow race, an egg toss and a slippery watermelon contest - two teams passing a watermelon coated with oil to members of their team."
"It will be lots of fun!" Molly chimed in. Contest winners will take home blue ribbons.
Fun feeds the spirit, the experts say, but the body still needs nourishment. And on Americana Family Day, local vendors Spice Root, Cricket Creek Farm, Espana, Hot Tomatoes, Mad Jacks BBQ and the Clark Café will offer a variety of food and beverages for purchase.
The Clark is located at 225 South St. For information: clarkart.edu or 413-458-2303.