Mindful Mountains, Cheerful Trees: Looking Closely at the Phillips

Fifteen brave participants joined me during Jazz ‘n Families Fun Days for an all-ages gallery exploration, “Mindful Mountains, Cheerful Trees: Looking Closely at the Phillips.” By observing our thoughts and works of art in the galleries, we practiced mindfulness.

Prior to the tour, I had created a set of mind jars, spurred by the excellent children’s book Moody Cow Meditates.

Mind jars awaiting new friends in the Phillips' Courtyard.

Photo: Meagan Estep

When you shake a mind jar, the swirling glitter represents crazy, overwhelming, troublesome (or excited, or thrilled) thoughts—basically our frazzled minds on a normal day. As you watch the glitter settle, your mind begins to do the same.

We started in the Courtyard, where each person picked a color of glitter and poured it into a jar. Then we swirled and swirled, thinking of all the thoughts, feelings, and emotions occurring for each of us that day. Watching his mind jar, a ten-year-old observed: “I feel my mind settle. I am calmer now.”

Participants enjoying meditation and the mind jars in the Courtyard.

Photo: James Brantley

Then we gathered inside before Morris Louis’s Number 182 and Blue Column. Participants mentioned the words “serene” and “peaceful” while looking at Louis’s paintings. For me, the colors had never danced before my eyes so vividly.

The Phillips Collections opens its doors for the annual Jazz and Families Weekend, celebrating art, music and creativity for young and old at The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC on Saturday, June 1, 2013.   DC Councilman and Mayoral candidate Jack Evans, a longtime arts supporter, helped open the event.(James R. Brantley)

Photo: James Brantley

Being mind-full is much more difficult than being mind-less, but the benefits are endless. I’ve decided to keep a mind jar on my desk here at the Phillips, so I can remember to let my thoughts settle throughout the day.

Recreate the experience at home using this mind jar recipe:

You will need:

  • Quart-sized glass Mason jar
  • Hot water
  • Glycerin (look in the pharmacy section of your grocery store) or light corn syrup
  • Dish soap
  • Fine glitter in any color


Fill Mason jar 3/4 to the top with hot water (not boiling!). Add 1/4–1/2 cup of glycerin. Glycerin will act as a slowing agent for the glitter, so the more you add, the longer it will take for your glitter to settle. Stir the glycerin in with a fork or whisk for one minute.

Add a few handfuls of glitter—how much is up to you. How many thoughts do you have in your mind right now? What colors are your emotions today? Choose your glitter based on how you feel.

Shake the jar.

You’ll notice that some glitter remains at the top of the water (this is surface tension—an underlying science lesson, too!). Add 4–5 drops of dish soap and shake gently. The glitter should begin to fall without creating too many bubbles.

Your mind jar is ready to go! Add more hot water if you want the glitter to fall faster; more glycerin or corn syrup to decrease the speed. And more glitter as you see fit.

Meagan Estep, Teacher Programs Coordinator

Mom’s Eye View

This is the third in a series of posts about this year’s attendance record-breaking annual free family festival, this time from a parent’s point of view. Jessica is Mom to Sophia, Very Young Dancer and niece-by-choice of Rachel Goldberg. Read the first and second installments of the series. 

Photo of Jessica's family creating Jasper Johns-inspired prints in the art-making workshop

Making prints with Sophia while her dad, brother, and Rachel look on. Photo: James R. Brantley

It was a great day for sure, even from the very start. I got everyone up bright and early to beat the crowds for Jazz ‘n Families Fun Days at the Phillips–my 2 1/2 year old Sophia, 10 month old Edward, and husband who had just returned from traveling all week. I didn’t have high hopes for the day, but I was optimistic. As excited as I was to experience the instrument petting zoo and make art with my lovely daughter, I was also beside myself in anticipation of showing Sophia the Rothko Room.

A print created by Sophia in the art-making workshop

Sophia's print

As it turned out, she was curious about the instruments but not too happy about the loud noises, unlike Edward who couldn’t get enough. The printmaking activity was fantastic for Sophia; she could have stayed there all day (and, frankly, I could have too). We didn’t let Edward anywhere near the paint–I don’t think even The Phillips Collection is ready for such a young Jackson Pollock.

After feeling a bit guilty for using so many art supplies, we moved on to what Sophia most wanted to see–Degas’s Dancers at the Barre. When she saw the large painting almost at her eye level, I could see she wanted to give it a running hug. I grabbed her (along with my heart, that fell out of my chest at the sight of her enthusiasm), and we admired the painting from afar. Needless to say Sophia returned to that painting several times.

Saving my favorite for last, we visited the Rothko Room. Sophia did not quite share my awestruck reaction; instead she asked many times, “What’s that?”

It is a spectacular day when you can share the experience of art with your children. The questions never get tiresome and never run out.

Jessica, Jazz ‘n Families Fun Days Guest and Mom

A Very Young Dancer at Family Fun Days

This is the second in a series of posts by Phillips Educator Rachel Goldberg about this year’s attendance record-breaking annual free family festival. Read the first installment here.

En route to the Degas with Sophia. Photo: James R. Brantley

En route to the Degas with Sophia. Photo: James R. Brantley

On Saturday, June 2, the first day of Jazz ‘n Families Fun Days, my two and half-year old friend (niece-by-choice) Sophia came to participate in the fun at the museum. All of a sudden and completely out of nowhere about six months ago, Sophia became fascinated with ballet. Her parents first course of action was to enroll her in classes. My first course of action was to take her to the National Gallery of Art to visit the Degas sculptures of the Little Dancer. Sophia wore her pink tutu and ballet shoes for the occasion and danced around the sculptures. She has since become obsessed (seriously, she reads it at least three times a day) with this book, so I wasn’t at all surprised when I asked her what she wanted to do at the museum and she replied, “I want to see the Degas.” Two Degas paintings are currently hanging on the second floor of the Goh Annex, and Sophia dragged me up the stairs and oooohhed and ahhhed at both of them. She even asked me to pick her up (quite unusual for this very independent child) so she could see them more closely.

Rachel Goldberg, Manager of School, Outreach, and Family Programs