Kickoff to an artful summer

WARREN – Andy Barkley and his two daughters, Sam and Mallory, spent Father’s Day ambling through the Trumbull Art Gallery and gazing at fantastical works by Kenneth Patchen.

TAG used the opening of the Patchen exhibit to kick off its 10th annual Summerfest program that promotes children’s creativity through summer art workshops.

“We came out to kick off our summer,” Barkley said.

He explained Mallory, 7, had participated in Summerfest events in the past, but that this would be 4-year-old Sam’s first year. The two girls chatted excitedly about which classes they would take: definitely the one that included making an “alien friend” and another titled “Fairy Magic.”

“These two love arts and crafts, so it’s great for them,” Barkley said.

Certain to inspire their imagination, the gallery was filled with prints from Patchen’s visual poetry books and original silkscreens of his work – famous for its inventive mixture of words and whimsical creatures. Patchen, a Niles native who graduated from Warren G. Harding High School, dubbed his art form “picture poems.”

“He does these one-liners and died in 1972, but they’re still so current,” said Marianne Nissen, founder and adviser of Summerfest.

Nissen pointed out one of Patchen’s works and related it to the recent online data collection by the federal government. The work features three technicolor bird-like animals with the script: “I have a funny feeling that some very peculiar-looking creatures are out there watching us.”

In an adjoining gallery hung Patchen-inspired works done by Kip Minnick, a longtime TAG volunteer who passed away April 15 from lung cancer. Minnick’s works added a Warren-flavor to Patchen’s style and even referred to his own impending death. This year’s Summerfest is being dedicated to him.

In addition to the courses being offered at several locations, Summerfest will conclude with a parade of the children and their artwork around Courthouse Square. Jacki Mountan, director of Summerfest, said all Trumbull County children, whether they participated in Summerfest or not, are invited to join in the parade starting at 11:15 a.m. June 28 at TAG, 196 E. Market St.

“It gives them a very good foundation of how to learn for the future,” Mountan said of the classes. “It teaches them to look at the world openly.”

Patchen’s works will remain on display until July 20.