Mama Madison: What constitutes a keepsake?

Making art, keeping art, tossing art

It happens about once a year. A household object breaks, in this case a lamp, and instead of immediately finding the nearest place to get it fixed and being done with it, I end up moving a replacement from a different part of the house into its place, thus setting off a whole-home redecorating/reorganization chain reaction.

And with this shift of furniture, throw rugs and tchotchkes, I am usually inspired to undertake a much-needed purge of all my accumulated crap. I try to be ruthless in my hunt through every drawer, storage box and basket, unceremoniously shedding years' worth of hardened Wite-Out, instructions for appliances I no longer own and age-specific birthday cards that went unsent. There's usually very little I feel guilty about tossing out, environmental guilt aside, with one ominous exception.

No matter how many twisted fuse bead amulets, shredded sponge dot self-portraits or shattered pinch pot change holders I find, it's always hard for me to let go of my kids' art projects.

Now, I'm not really sure why I feel so penitent getting rid of this stuff. None of it, to be frank, is particularly good. As much as I'd like to believe there is latent genius in my daughter's early finger paintings, I'm pretty sure her works are not distinguishable from those created by the pointer fingers and pinkies of thousands of other children from across the world. And even if, by some unexpected twist of talent, dozens of years from now she becomes the Grandma Moses of her day, I don't think any collector will be dying for the large assortment of Rainbow Loom bracelets that she generated over winter break of 2013.

Besides, our relatively small home doesn't have the archival capacity of the Chazen. So with three kids, a dog, a cat and two adults vying for squatters' rights on every inch of unused storage space, I remind myself quietly that some of these "treasures" will just have to go.

But fortunately for us storage-challenged parents of petite, yet prolific, Picassos, this week in Madison offers some pretty awesome artistic opportunities that have a distinct added perk.

Nothing has to come home with you.

If you haven't yet visited the Art Cart this summer, Madison School Commmunity Recreation and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art's free, traveling art program, now's the time to do it. This coming week, on both July 22 and 23, the Art Cart will be stationed in Vilas Park to help facilitate the re-painting of the iconic Shoe slide -- an unforgettable Madison childhood experience.

Just think about the dual benefits of taking part. First, your kid's creativity will be on display in a popular public location for the entire city to see. Second, the mess -- and the mural -- stays in the park.

Then, on July 24, the whole family can head over to Villager Mall on South Park to take part in this year's Eat Play Art festival. From 6-9 pm, the mall (which houses the Urban League and Goodman Public Library, among other organizations) parking lot will be transformed into a community art and recreation space, allowing attendees to showcase their culture, skills and abilities.

And although the activities will run the gamut, including a dance party with DJ Chill, a highlight will be most certainly be the chance to see The Art Brothas, a highly entertaining music and painting improvisation group, perform live.

But even if the Brothas' talented artist Brota Oroian asks if I want to take home his creation at the end of the session, I will politely decline. The only work of art I plan to welcome into the house come event's close, child rendered or otherwise, will be one of Nuria Moffat's, face-painting artist extraordinaire, skillfully executed -- yet highly removable -- masterpieces.

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