For the building of the pergola I was fortunate to have the help of my friend, Richard Jones, who has a large collection of tools and the know-how to use them. He also helped build the structure over the sandbox, so it was easy to construct a similar structure for the art area. In "real life" he is a software engineer, so you just never know what kinds of hidden talents are out there.
We started and finished the project in one weekend. On Saturday we purchased the materials and got the basic structure assembled. The weather cooperated nicely and actually turned out to be hot, but we weren't complaining! Once things started to come together, we could see how nice it was going to look and how well it was going to fit in with the other shade structure.
On Sunday we put up the cross-pieces and finished the tricky, angled section of the pergola. It was another couple of weeks before we could come back with the stain and paint it. Once again, mother nature cooperated and kept the snow at bay until we could finish the structure and make it weather-proof.
We used the same color of stain as the sandbox shade structure to give the yard continuity. When all was said and done, you could hardly even notice that the pergola was there, which means it fits in nicely and doesn't "stick out". Success!
So, we've got a great idea - to frame, mat and display toddler art pieces and show it off as the "real" art that it really is. Many contemporary artists would be hard pressed to find such freedom of expression, such joy in each and every stroke. Not to mention the fact that some of the work they do is simply gorgeous and would look great hanging on YOUR wall. Think what a great story it would make too!
We'd like to put together this art show/fundraiser in a great venue, one where the art is visible and there is plenty of daily foot traffic, so probably a coffee shop or cafe in the local area would work best.
For opening night we'll like to host some live music from local musicians. January or February would be perfect, timing-wise, for us. If you'd like to be involved, help us think of the perfect location and ask your favorite local musicians if they'd help with a benefit concert!
For another fundraiser, families may purchase some really great kid's music CD's for sale by Lois LaFond and the Rockadiles. Lois, who has a grandchild currently in the program, has generously offered to donate 1/2 of the proceeds from each CD sale to our Natural Playscape fund. Please visit the link above for purchase information.
Now that our concrete has been poured, we can dive into part two of this project: the outdoor art area. We're so excited to have a place that is out of the weather to work on art and fine motor activities year round. It will also be nice to have storage for our art supplies where they can't be blown away, rained/snowed on or taken captive by squirrels!
We're working with an extremely tight budget so we'll need to find "previously loved" items for our art area if possible. The items we need for this project are:
1. Outdoor art storage that is weather, wind and squirrel proof, child-proof locks would be nice for some of the storage too, so we can keep "supervisable" materials outside and get them out as needed.
***Update*** We were able to sell a $65 backpack from our unsold yard sale items on craigslist and the same day pick up these nice metal shelves, also on craigslist, for $65! We took the doors off of one of them so they could be kid accessible, the second one we left the doors on for storing outdoor art supplies.
2. Art tables, weather proof, kid-art-proof and sturdy. It would be great if they could be easily cleanable so they could double as outdoor snack and lunch tables.
Outdoor art chairs
3. Chairs small enough for toddlers, and weather proof.
***Update*** We sold another yard sale item, a carseat for $35 and received an additional $30 in yard sale funds still owed to us, with this we were able to purchase 12 nice preschool-style chairs for $50 on craigslist, they normally sell for $30 each, and put the remaining $15 towards art tables!
4. Chalkboard and easels - we already have these, but the chalkboards need a new coat of chalkboard paint and some buckets for chalk and erasers mounted on the wall for easy access.
5. Planters to enclose the art area and protect it from "car traffic". They will also extend our gardening options so in the spring and summer we can have flowers and veggies growing at kid height! It would be ideal to find some that are already made, but we do have some extra lumber lying around and could try to make our own!
With a little over $1300 in the bank from our fundraiser-yard sale, we jumped right into phase one of the natural playscape project. So on a warm Tuesday evening in late September I rented a sod-cutter and ripped out about 200 square feet of sod. With the sod gone, the ground was ready for the new concrete that would extend our porch and be used for an outdoor art area as well as track for children to ride and drive their cars and riding toys.
We were so very fortunate to have Jon Edwards, my father, volunteer to come from Utah and help with the pouring of the cement. He arrived Wednesday afternoon and promptly went to work building the concrete forms.
Thursday morning he finished prepping the area--drilling in rebar, leveling it out with pea gravel (good thing we have lots of extra gravel lying around). Then he compacted the area with a soil compactor that he brought with him!
The cement truck arrived in the afternoon and was it ever exciting for the kids to watch that giant thing come backing down the driveway! But the time-crunch of getting the concrete unloaded from the truck and finished off before it dried was on. We worked until dark that night finishing the surface and edges.
The next morning we took off the forms and could walk on it! Monday morning the kids got to see it for the first time. No one had to explain to them what it was for. They raced up one sidewalk and down the other exactly as it was intended and clearly loved every inch of it!