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Art Inspired Writing Challenge: Winners Announced!

Two high school students rocked their creative skills and submitted two fabulous fictional stories with illustrations inspired by artwork in The Rockwell collection.

Their original stories are imaginative, inventive and transform how we think about our personal connections to art objects in museums. Art and arts environments can provide an expressive outlet for understanding and making sense of the world we experience and live in. The Rockwell serves as a resource in the community for integrating creative learning opportunities that uses art as a catalyst for projects and ideas.

The Rockwell proudly announces 10th-grader Claire Birdwell and 11th-grader Catherine Emms as the winners of the Art Inspired Writing Challenge. Featured below are their stories with the artwork that inspired them.

The Art Inspired Writing Challenge is presented in partnership with The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes.

Thoughts of a Parfleche Bag
by Catherine Emms

Inspired by Parfleche Container, Northern Cheyenne Culture

The painted parfleche bag was honored to contain what its owner stored in it while following the buffalo herds. Although it was dissatisfied with some of the objects being placed inside it, such as the small brown lizard from the other day that wouldn’t hold still, rustling around until the top flapped open to allow escape. That failure made the bag feel ashamed despite having been eager to get rid of it. It also regretted meeting the annoyingly loud toad covered in bumpy warts from last week that soaked a corner in urine before the young Cheyenne forager reached in with her small hand to remove the nasty creature. The bag hoped its bright blue, red, and yellow pattern of lines, triangles, and other shapes hadn’t gotten soiled because of the spooked toad. On the other hand, it loved carrying the more pleasant and inactive objects such as the large dry root dug up earlier today or the wild berries full of juice last summer. In the end, even when it might not particularly enjoy holding whatever objects it was bearing at times, the bag was proud to be needed and used daily.

The Driftwood Horse
Story and Illustrations by Claire Birdwell

Inspired by Untitled (Horse) by Deborah Kay Butterfield

As Felica’s eyes closed, the promise of visiting a new art museum was bouncing around her head. Felica’s excitement for the day to come soon faded as she drifted to a soundless sleep.

Sounds of crashing waves soon awoke Felica from her slumber, where she found herself standing on a dusk lit beach with light pink sands. She looked around, trying to make sense of her new surroundings when she heard the sound of something walking toward her through the sands. Quickly she whipped her head around to see who or what might be walking towards her finding that the one responsible for the sounds to be a creature made of driftwood resembling a horse.

As her gaze set on this driftwood horse it seemed to recognize her and stop. Felica remembers her grandmother’s stories of magical beings and spirits, she thought this driftwood horse to be a spirit sent to her to guide her, but to where was the question. The driftwood horse stood in front of Felica, then turned walking into the forest that lined the pale pink beach; Felica followed closely behind the driftwood horse as it led her into the dense forest. As they walked deeper into the forest Felica noticed how with each step of this wooden horse, the vegetation grew. When its hooves left the ground, blue flowers and a glow of green were left in its’ wake. Just as soon as they started their walk through the forest they soon stopped, Felica looked up from the wooden horses’ hooves making out a tall brick building resembling a small castle standing alone in the middle of a clearing. Walking towards the castle-like building she noticed a hole between the second and third stories just between windows.

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As Felica noticed this she turned to look at the driftwood horse only to find it had disappeared to have only left behind blue flowers. Confused Felica walked forward to the mysterious blue flowers so focused on these flowers she did not notice the approaching growls. She began to hear the intensified growls coming ever closer from the depths of the forest. Now scanning the forest for source of the growls Felica did not have to look for long, for two humongous black dogs approached her slowly before opening their jaws wide and lunging toward her. Not knowing what to do Felica fell to the ground desperately trying to cover herself with her arms, realizing she no longer heard snarls of angry beast. She reluctantly stood up to see only that the forest had disappeared to be replaced by a pale moon. Felica then heard a deep rumbling begin towards her, in a matter of seconds thousands of stampeding buffalo consumed and surrounded her splashing red liquid as their hooves struck the ground. Hiding her face from the splash of the red liquid, she was struck by a charging buffalo.

This sudden impact woke Felica finding the light of morning was seeping through her window and sound of her mom walking down the hall toward her room. Dazed from her confusing dream trying to figure out a meaning, she abruptly remembered the museum she was about to see.

Quickly she got dressed and ready for the day rushing past her mom and to the car. When she arrived at the Museum, she was surprised to find that it looked almost identical to the building in her dream, except for the whole that once was between the second and third floor was now filled with a buffalo emerging through the wall. This interested Felica but not enough to keep her from the art inside, running in she immediately went to the second floor. Looking around, a particular painting caught her eye, walking closer Felica saw it was named “The Buffalo Hunt”, the painting itself was enormous in size depicting Indians on horseback hunting and killing buffalo. This surprised Felica for in her dream the night before similar buffalo stampeded around her, making this connection Felica figured the red liquid the buffalo had stampeded in was the blood of the dead buffalo.

Pondering her dream and its connection to the painting Felica reluctantly moved on knowing they would not stay at the museum all day and that there was much more to see. Moving to the adjacent room Felica is greeted by the driftwood horse that guided her to the museum the night before. The horse itself was “Unnamed” and had its neck softly arched looking slightly to its left, Felica couldn’t help but feel the wooden horse was looking at her. Without warning the horse jumped to life galloping circles around her, with every stride glowing foliage grew covering the room transporting her back to the lush forest of her dream. This time though the pale pink sandy beach was not awaiting her, instead a lantern-lit path awaited. The lantern-lit path led her to a gazebo where her grandmother was waiting underneath, smelling the blue flowers with the black hounds at her side.

Felica could not believe her eyes. Running toward her grandmother she sprang into her arms where Felica fell asleep in her grandmother’s warm embrace. She awoke on her mom’s shoulder, she asked what was wrong, for her mother’s face was covered in tears. Her mother responded that her grandmother had passed early that morning. Felica suddenly crying heavily fell into a deep sleep where she once again saw her grandmother on the forest path walking with her deeper into the forest; with the black hounds by her side.