Project Details

Fabric 1

Producer/Manufacturer: Dazian
Primary Use: Main

Fabric 2

Producer/Manufacturer: Fisher
Primary Use: secondary

Fabric 3

Producer/Manufacturer: Fisher
Primary Use: secondary

Design Name
Chris Sullivan

Design Company
Children's Museum and Theatre of Maine

Fabrication Company

Graphics Company

Project Manager Company

Installation Company

Please describe the project specifications

A new exhibit at the Children’s Museum of Maine features Beautiful Blackbird, a children’s book by Maine artist Ashley Bryan. Over the course of his long career, Mr. Bryan, who is Black, noticed the lack of children’s books which include or are about Black people, and set about correcting the situation. The exhibit features an interactive, participatory video event. But first, in the entry alcove, a monitor shows Mr. Bryan leading a classroom full of young readers in a call-and-response recitation of the book. Then, visitors enter a semi-dark room, in which a video rear-projection shows a diverse group of birds perched on the branches of a large tree. When the visitors move, motion sensors react, and several birds respond by laying eggs. When the eggs hatch, the new chicks’ movements mimic the movements of the visitors standing in front of the motion sensors. Wild dancing ensues! The walls surrounding the exhibit are printed with the bright, colorful and dynamic graphics of Beautiful Blackbird, enlarged to fill the room from floor to ceiling.

What is unique or complex about the project?

Rear-projection often requires a large space behind the screen, but that was not possible here. The projector is placed close to the screen, and projects downward onto the screen at a steep angle. The fabric used for the screen itself was tested to prove that it works in this application.

Keeping museum exhibits fresh and relevant is always a challenge. This exhibit makes that a bit less difficult; its construction allows the message and content of the exhibit to be completely changed, while retaining the same structure and floor plan. The graphic elements are zipped off and replaced with new. The idea is to substantially reduce the cost of the next exhibit!

Current Covid protocols require the museum to limit the number of visitors, so it took some time to realize that visitors need to be told how to play with the birds in the exhibit.

Beautiful Blackbird’s characters are birds, not people, but Ashley Bryan’s message of inclusion and celebration is clear, and beautifully portrayed for a young audience.

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